A friend of mine, Tyadza, told me a story yesterday. The story is about his next door neighbours back in Zimbabwe, Wendy and Tom, and their friendship with his mother. I thought it was worth re-telling.

Tyadza’s mother, Tatenda, was a very quiet, gentle woman who loved her garden very much. She particularly loved indoor plants. Those tropical brightly coloured ones, mainly. Tatenda’s next door neighbours, Wendy and Tom, shared her passion.

A day came when Tom accepted a new job in Botswana, this meant that Tom and Wendy were to move house and re-settle there. To save carrying all their things so far, a garage sale was decided upon as the best way of getting rid of their things.

Tatenda came to their garage sale, and noticed that Wendy had put her indoor plants up for sale. Tatenda expressed surprise that Wendy was leaving them behind. They were so beautiful and had been kept so lovingly. Wendy explained that she wouldn’t have time to care for them anymore, and suggested that Tatenda buy them. Wendy knew how much Tatenda loved indoor plants. Tatenda was flattered that Wendy thought highly enough of her to take care of her beloved plants. She happily paid her money, and agreed that the plants would be dropped over to her house on the last day that Wendy and Tom were in town.

When Wendy came over to deliver the plants, Tatenda again praised her again for their beauty and condition. She asked Wendy if she used any special kind of fertiliser.

 ‘You’ll never believe me. It’s an odd ingredient, but it works a charm!’ said Wendy with a little smile. Tatenda, so keen to keep the plants as healthy and beautiful as Wendy had, implored her to go on. She admired Wendy’s garden so much.

Methylated Spirits. A small amount, perhaps a quarter of a cup, diluted in one litre of water.  I use it as a fertiliser about once a month’.

Tatenda was surprised, but it wasn’t the strangest home remedy she had heard of, so she promised to continue the fertilizing regime in the same way Wendy had. They said a warm goodbye to each other and Wendy promised to send a forwarding address.

The next night, Tatenda happily went to the grocer and bought a small bottle of Methylated Spirits.  She followed Wendy’s instructions carefully, and with excitement poured the fertilizer on all of her indoor plants.

She woke up in the morning, and was greeted by the sight of her beautiful plants, black, mangled and dead. 

This story, counter–intuitively, upset me more than other more violent stories I’ve heard. I couldn’t stop thinking about the cold, unprovoked viciousness of it. An example of the most frightening kind of agression, the smiling hatred that winks and nudges you and pretends it's just kidding.