Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 2

April 12. Holy Thursday 11 p.m.

“You’re never going to get anything going with those azaleas in the way,” said Phoebe. She watched from the porch, holding my little dog Juniper on her bony lap.

“Forget it, the roots go down forever,” I said.

“Sure you can,” she said. “Just chop at them and pull.”

The azaleas might have been dying, but their hold to the earth was tight as rigor mortis. By the time I hit the root ball of the first plant, Phoebe had wandered off, leaving Juniper asleep on the chair. I would have rested after dragging what felt like a corpse over to the dumpster, but knew that if I stopped, I’d never start again.

So I kept digging. The second one, not as tenacious, seemed to release itself eagerly.

And there were distractions. Neighbors I’d yet to meet greeted me with flattering interest. The graduate student who lived upstairs asked what I was doing, seemed to search his mind for an opinion, grunted and moved on, perhaps in search of one. Professor Sergeant stopped with his dog, Astible and offered to take Juniper for a walk.

Professor Sergeant lives across the hall and is in many ways a perfect neighbor. It’s unlikely we’ll ever know each other; he’s well into his forties and tenured. A different sphere, but he’s cordial and we have our dogs in common.

It doesn’t matter whether I want him to walk Juniper or not. My silly little dog loves him and follows his every command. She even likes Astible, which is unusual. Juniper is usually quarrelsome with dogs her own size.

Once the azaleas, the stones and the endless roots were dug, I knelt over the plot, which had expanded to the size of two sofa pillows and raked at the dark earth with my fingers, uncovering small treasures lost or buried. Among the inevitable handful of iron nails, I uncovered a blue bead the size of a marble and a gold link bracelet with a single charm–a baby’s head with no inscription. The bead, a Turkish “donkey” bead signifying good luck, had rolled from under a clutch of small rocks. How long it had been buried there I’ll never know. Yet how clean it was, I thought, rolling it in my palm, as if it had been suspended among the stones. The bracelet, however, had been invaded and knotted by grass roots and took some doing to untangle. Had it been lost, buried, or hidden? And by whom? I put them aside, thinking to ask Phoebe when she’d re-emerged.

Once the azaleas were up and gone, the roots cleared and when I’d dug as deep as I could, I mixed in ten pounds of manure. By now the worked-over earth was as supple as cookie dough and I was enjoying myself, no longer struggling. The plot was mine.

Veronica, walking past from the parking lot, stopped, startling me with her butter voice.

“Honey, you should get a man to do that.”

“Ma’am,” I returned, “If I had a man, I wouldn’t need a garden.”

“I’ll lend you one,” she said.

There was something about her wide wet eyes, the eager open look of hers that uneases me. I returned to my shovel with sense of panic. She departed.

When I’d done, I wiped the tools, restoring them to the storage shed. Returning to my little plot, I knelt before it, scanning the space. It is the size of two lovers lying side by side. To my left the pile of bricks I’d collected from around the complex wait for their arrangement. Now, I needed some plants.


Anonymous said...

Yes!!!! A new story. You're very talented. I very much enjoyed your "I Want To Live Here". I thought it was well written, kept me interested and coming back for more obviously. I applaud your efforts and talents. One little oddity has stuck in my brain, the line "a cloud of Shalimar-scented flight attendants". Just out of curiosity, of all the perfumes to choose, why Shalimar? The thought process behind the selection intrigues me.

Albert H.

ABG said...

thank you!
Shalimar was the perfume of choice in the early to mid-1970s. the trendy perfume. other choices could have included Charlie, L'air du Temps, Maxi. Another wave of popular fragrances hit just a year or two later but this was 1976. It was also my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the explanation. The reason I asked was that a young lady I went with back in the early 70's wore it and I loved it. To this day if someone is wearing it, the fragrance transports me back to her and those times. Is it still your favorite?

Looking forward to the next installment.


ABG said...

I have a bottle but rarely wear it, though I still like it. There are so many fragrances now to choose from. another installment today