WALTER’S SECRET A pale watery moon provided just enough light for Walter to find his way along the back lane. Lately, his eyes were quite accustomed to being used at night-time and so he had little difficulty in finding his target. Silently he scaled a back fence. Just a low one, mind. He was well past climbing a six-footer. In his younger days he could have scrambled easily over much higher structures - although, he reflected, funnily enough, when he had the ability, he didn’t have the need. But, here he was - this most unlikely looking snowdropper - in three quick, quiet strides, within reach of his first prize of the night. Back in the laneway, booty secure in his pocket, Walter tried to estimate how many backyards he needed to pass before he could score again. This laneway provided easy access. Up and over, up and over. Never quite sure of what shrubbery he might encounter. One unforgettable night he very nearly impaled his private parts on a garden stake as he dropped over the inside of a fence. Thoughts of the subsequent pain and the worry of how he would explain any such injury to a medico made him even more vigilant on his nightly raids. A short time later he was able to open a small gate. Noiselessly he admitted himself into the strangers’ premises. He chose carefully this time. The touch and special feel told him which to choose. He was never greedy. Never more than one item from each place. Have to be a bit considerate, Walter thought to himself. But the real reason (and he knew it) was that one single missing item was less likely to be noticed and reported. Walter really enjoyed these nocturnal forays. They provided him with just the right amount of excitement and satisfaction that was otherwise missing from his life. Walter accepted that he had to make his own amusements, as he called them, and was fanatical about how he carried out the accompanying duties. It would never do for anyone else to know. He was resigned to being a loner in his activities. He gave a little shudder when he thought of the day that he was almost tempted to collect an item in broad daylight. Whatever could he have been thinking? Stupid man. But it was a perfect pair, he had to admit. His favourite colour and style. Sheer and steely grey. He definitely was becoming an expert on the subject of hosiery. Well, expert in the sort of hosiery to suit his desires, anyway. Steer clear of the flesh coloured ones, he always reminded himself. He had tried them at one time. But the colour had only given him false hopes. He hated deception. So he concentrated on the black or the grey. Occasionally navy. The flimsy and the flexible. Tonight’s haul was very successful and, once home, he couldn’t resist working on them right away. Walter fetched his special sharp dressmakers’ scissors and set to work. Snip, snip. It was satisfying work, and, as he worked, he relaxed and became thoughtful. It was disappointing to him that he had never married. That would have been nice. That would have made him happy. And, perhaps then, these nightly missions would have been unnecessary, or less necessary, at the least. But, then again, he did enjoy his little jaunts; enjoyed the thrill and excitement of the action and the satisfaction of a successful operation. Snip, snip. Funny thing to do, I suppose. In his thoughts Walter wondered what people would think of him if they knew. Snip, snip. He had given thought at one time to being brave enough to actually enter a shop and buy the object of his desire. But the thought of physically asking for what he wanted just made him wince. And what was it he would ask for? How could he describe the qualities he admired? Needed. A big supermarket or department store was no use. He had once made his way along the underwear aisle of the supermarket and had carefully opened a packet. Just as he was inserting his hand to test for the right feel, another shopper appeared heading his way. He hoped she hadn’t seen what he was doing, but he couldn’t be sure. The look on her face had been hard to decipher. Terror, was it? Terror mixed with embarrassment. Maybe repulsion. A strange look, indeed. He vowed never to try that again. Snip, snip. These good scissors were certainly necessary for the tricky bits around the crotch area. Stupid word, crotch. Or was it crutch? Crotch, crotch, crutch, crutch. Scritch scratch. Snip, snip. Snip, snip. The different, thicker fabric he often found in that region annoyed him. Snip, snip. Just occasionally he felt a little nauseous as he removed the little diamond shape. Gusset, gusset, he mumbled. How had he learnt that word? He had no idea. It reminded him of gossip. Gossip, gossip, gusset, gusset, he chanted softly as he snipped. What was a gusset’s purpose? Well he certainly couldn’t ask anyone. Yes, a wife would have been a handy thing to have alright. A real convenience. A real help. Snip, snip. Tonight’s supply made it up to a goodly amount. It was nearly time. Thinking about what he was soon to do, made Walter think involuntarily about that book he bought a few years ago. The one with the whole chapter about growing bamboo. There was a funny bit about bamboo being used for torture. Surely he had read that somewhere else. What a strange thing to do. But, then, some people did strange things. Strange and horrible things. What was it they did again? Put growing bamboo tips under fingernails or something. A gentle and peaceable man like Walter couldn’t imagine wanting to do something cruel to another human being. But bamboo was useful and he certainly knew how to use it to his satisfaction. Snip, snip. He decided that one more trip might just satisfy his needs. Just one night more. Righto, Walter. Enough is enough. And, after one more night, he did feel satisfied. Snip, snip. And he was ready. That Saturday he rose early. Very early. The day seemed just right and Walter felt exhilarated as he gathered and fondled all his carefully sculptured nylon pieces. He admired a couple of especially nice and carefully cut sections. They looked good. He tested them for strength and stretchability. Perfect. Dressing himself for the occasion and arming himself with a sheaf of neatly cut and trimmed bamboo poles, Walter made his way up the back path towards his large, now leafy vegetable plot. Slowly and meticulously he began to first straighten and then tie up the burgeoning tomato plants.