The Plant Guy
The Word: Prod
Denise didn’t want to prod him. Tully was sensitive. He meditated on the plants. He had ideas. He had opinions. He let weeds grow because he said they were herbs, some herb they used in Guatamalan cooking, mora. Tully was not not Guatamalan, nor was Denise. But Sonya, her housekeeper, took some of it home for a soup her mother liked to make. Sonya’s mother could have made enough soup to feed the entire Guatamalan population of Los Angeles from the weeds Tull left to grow in Denise’s yard.
Now it was fall and they were shriveled and covered with black berries he said the birds liked. There weren’t enough birds in all of Los Angeles to eat those berries. She sat in her yard, trying not to think that it looked like a vacant lot. Her orange cat moved in and out from between the plants.
Tully had been meditating on what they would plant when the rains came in the fall–the planting season in Southern California. He had left her a list of native plants he felt would be happy on her hillside.
She didn’t want to be non-PC. She was an old hippie herself. She used recyclable bags. She wouldn’t spray during that horrible flea infestation this summer, because birds would eat the bugs and be poisoned. There were many things she did for the environment. But secretly, she hated native plants. To her, they always looked like weeds. They grew long and leggy and dried out. They attracted clouds of bees, though she knew we had to support bees, that bees were our friends and under threat these days, hive collapse and so on, but really, she was terrified of bees, and the merry sound of their buzzing made her feel, not happy, not joyous at the burgeoning of life around her, but terrified and reluctant to go outside.
Tully meditated on her garden. He had a gentle touch, he was intelligent and quirky and maybe a little odd, yes, but she liked hiring someone who would meditate on the plants instead of the regular mow and blow guys, the plant-killers she used to use once a year for brush clearance. She was no gardener. Tully had pruned her straggly jacaranda for the first time in its 20 years, and now it was growing beautifully, all the dead wood gone, the lopsidedness history. She liked working with him. She liked him. He reminded her of boys she knew when she was young. He was idealistic, wacky, he wore a silk flower upright in his straw hat. She sighed and looked at the native plant list again. ‘Bee’s bliss’, buckwheat.
It was hard to find a real plant guy in LA. She just wanted the plain old-fashioned plants that everybody had. Geraniums and plumbago, agapanthus and jade, lantana. Easy, green, flowering, hardy, attractive. But Tull had an artist’s soul, and if you wanted a creative person, an imaginative person, you had to take the whole package. You had to accept his philosophy, let him work with materials he believed in. If you wanted a guy to do more than kill everything, someone who would prune and nurture and meditate, you were going to end up with leggy Mexican herbs with black berries growing up around the succulents. Basta.
But how to suggest something more prosaic, how to collaborate…It was a delicate operation. The last time, when he’d overpruned something and she’d pointed it out, he’d disappeared for a month. He wasn’t just a tool, he was sensitive, he cared.
She was up on the patio when he appeared–clambering up the side of the house in his crazy hat with its Dr. Seuss flower. “Hey Denise, did you have a chance to look at that list I left?”
“I did,” she said. The but hovered on her tongue. She saw the love in his eyes, not for her, but for being understood, for being appreciated, from his mora to his straw hat and the flower stuck in it, his crazy truck with the luscious fruits painted on it. Don’t be one of them, they begged. Just another imaginationless homeowner who wants everything weedless and non-native and impersonal as a business park, tended by people who cared as little for the plantings as a kid working at a Burger King cared about the goodness of the patties. He cared so much. He loved that mora. He loved seeing things grow, flourish, surprising even him.
She smiled. “Some of them look amazing.”
He beamed, the flower trembled.
She just hoped whatever he planted would go with those weeds. Maybe she would learn how to make that soup herself. Because she knew she would always choose love over indifference. Even if there were weeds involved.
Part of a semi-weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”
Next week’s word is: (if you can believe it) WEED