Clive Robert Porter was a small man, with a small garden. He liked his world tidy, well-kept, and peaceful. He had lived uneventfully but contentedly all of his fifty-plus years. When his wife went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up again, he didn’t weep. He continued to tend his pink and cream miniature garden, enjoying the gentle beauty. Smallness was sufficient.
Then Sofia moved in next door. She was a retired opera singer whose entire world was drama. When she wasn’t singing passionately, she was lambasting or admiring, all in fortissimo Italian. The six-foot hedge between their yards hid their respective gardens, but he could just imagine the disarray and wildness of her back yard. She probably didn’t grow things in straight rows or complementary hues. Once he peeked through a hole in the hedge and, sure enough, saw a chaos of colors and shapes. Worst of all, her flowers were all tall! Her hot yellow sunflowers towered above the hedge, wreaking havoc with his soft pink theme.
He got a little rest in the winter. Her arias were barely audible behind closed windows, her flowers calmed down and went dormant. But seasons change, and warm weather returned right on schedule. Clive peered again through the hedge to see waterfalls and moss and colorful garden art filling her back yard. “There’s only one thing to do,” he thought, retreating behind his door.
That summer, Clive disappeared. Untended roses rambunctiously littered his manicured paths. Wildflowers sprang up in sunny corners, and a golden riot of sunflowers, spilling over from next door, hurtled toward the sky. Where was Clive?
Finally, in early autumn, the front door of his cottage opened and out stepped a new man. He hummed Puccini and stroked his lush moustache as he strolled up Sofia’s front path. When she opened the door to the handsome stranger with a flamboyant red cravat, he swept an imaginary hat to his knees. “Buongiorno, bellissima! Your neighbor Roberto at your service.”
Later, they sang of sunflowers, and their boisterous duet kept the village awake half the night.