So grateful to the fine burbia for this tale of how they moved house and found they have a new contractor. You’ll recall (of course) how in series 5 (I think) of The Sopranos the issue of who got to mow whose lawns and cut whose trees was the subject of a bitter turf war between Pauli Walnuts and a recently-released Wise Guy; curb-stomped arms (breaks them thoroughly, y’see) were involved, as was thumping people holding the rope for guys up in trees who then fell to earth.

What, you thought that was made up? Wake up to how The gardener made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, which tells of how one morning the bell was rung by

a small man, as dessicated as a piece of beef jerky and about as thin, stood on the step, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. His eyes were like stainless steel, his skin was the color of tobacco. He wore a soiled cap and blackened pigskin gloves, holding the burnished handle of a heavy rake in one hand.

Uh, yeah? What could it be?

“Mister,” he said slowly. “I’m the gardener.”

He looked up and down the quiet street. “I mow this lawn,” he said. “I mow that lawn. And the lawn across the street. Mrs. Tagliali on the corner, I mow her lawn. Mr. Schmetterer, I mowed his lawn, until he died.” I wondered what killed Mr. Schmetterer. Can coercive raking result in death?

“Uh, uh, um, what…” I replied, channelling my inner Daniel Webster. “I thought I’d, uh, do it myself, actually.”

The gardener swung the rake gently to and fro. “Do it yourself? That could be very hard work,” he said slowly. How does one recognize menacing behavior in gardeners? He continued with his pitch coldly. “I mow, and rake the leaves in the fall, and spread the fertilizer and the lime. This lawn, that lawn, across the street, up the block, everywhere around here. No do-it-yourself around here. Do-it-yourself could get you a heart attack.”

He fished into his shirt pocket and came up with another cigarette. Unfiltered. “Sometimes they try to do-it-themselves. Things happen. Lose an eye, a finger, who knows what could happen.” He gestured over to the fire-engine red mower at the garage door. “The blade can be very, very sharp.” He lit his cigarette and snuffed the match with his glove.

But read the whole thing – this isn’t the end – to get the full, look-over-your-shoulder feel.