"You can cut grass," the estate agent told her mother. "I can cut grass," said her father. He was always looking for opportunities to prove he was a man because people said he wasn't. Tessa pictured her father pushing one of those new mowing machines. She would help him, emptying the box where the grass collected when it was full. They would shout to each other above the engine noise. Caught up in her dream, for a moment, Tessa forgot she didn't want the grass to be cut.
A doctor lived next-door. The estate agent couldn't have realised how big a selling point this would be for Tessa's mother. The doctor came out of the house carrying his brief case, trotted down the steps, and the house was virtually sold. "You could always build a patio if you don't like grass," the estate agent said. Tessa hated patios. At the back of the house there was more grass. There was almost a field of it, and at the bottom of that almost field, was a real field, with a pony. Tessa's Mum got her patio and Tessa got her grass. Her Dad got to mix concrete and look like a man. He made friends with the doctor next door, and
Tessa's Mum was happy. She didn't mind when her husband stayed drinking in the doctor's back yard. Tessa watched them, in a glow of tungsten light, from behind her bedroom curtains. One afternoon she went down to the field to feed the pony. Peering through the long grass, she watched her father and the doctor lying in each other's arms.
Tessa's Mum's stiletto heels left small, round marks in the soft plaster wall, the day after the farmer found the two men in his field. Tessa watched her father leave. The doctor stayed. He was the only doctor in town and people needed him. Tessa heard the neighbours call him queer behind his back, but they never said it to his face. When the farmer broke a leg, driving his brand new Nuffield tractor too fast at harvest time, Tessa saw the doctor put the leg in plaster. When a leading member of the town council had a heart attack, in bed with his twenty year old secretary, Tessa didn't see, but she knew it was the doctor who saved him, and his reputation. Tessa's Dad made secret visits to see her when her Mum was out at bingo. Afterwards, he made secret visits next door. Tessa watched from her bedroom window. Now, the men stayed inside.
Kate Brown is a British film-maker and writer, living in Berlin. Recent short stories are published by Cinnamon Press and in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 2010.