By Eric Suhem
When the gardener fell out of the womb, he immediately found fault with the quality of the fluorescent lighting in the delivery room, focusing an accusatory eye at the buzzing, faulty wiring of the lighting’s circuitry. Those present at his birth could also sense that the gardener was not impressed by the quality of the fruit in the bowl next to his mother’s bedside, and was disdainful of the magazine selection on a nearby table. In his early years, the gardener would encounter poison oak, poison ivy, various thorns, a vine that nearly strangled him, and an aggressive Venus flytrap that chewed off his left thumb, all formative experiences.
Years later, the gardener seethed in his truck as it trolled the neighborhood. Forests aflame, orchids strangled, daisies tortured minutely and mercilessly with barbed tweezers. All of these images flowed through the gardener’s mind, putting a temporary smile on his face as he read the current issue of ‘Gardening Today’, his eyes half-focused on the road. The gardener was indignant about an article extolling the virtues of fertilizing and nurturing orchids. In response, he would send a missive, opining that all vegetation should be incinerated, and seeds should be dug up and crushed in special vises.
The gardener’s truck, filled with hoes, rakes, clippers, fertilizers, a mower, and other gardening tools, pulled up at the curb. The gardener disembarked quickly from the truck and began clawing feverishly at the dirt in the front yard, adjacent to the sidewalk. A woman emerged from the yard’s house, and stalked toward the burrowing gardener. She had been disciplining her home decoration team, whose recommendations she did not find harmonious. ”Put the coffee table over there! Don’t cross me, I can break you!” she screamed at the cowering furniture arranger, amidst her peacefully designed tranquil environment of chirping birds and soft wind chimes. She returned her attention to the gardener.
“Hello, can I help you?” she offered, ready to call the police.
“No, thank you,” said the gardener, momentarily stopping the digging to hold up his bleeding hands, his eyes filled with contentment.
“Let me help you,” the woman said, jumping in to help the gardener dig down further. The woman was impressed by the gardener and his industriousness. She asked the gardener for his business card, which he duly threw at her in a hostile manner, oddly much to her approval.
Weeks later, the woman looked out upon the lawn of her ranch-house, disturbed by the blood-colored weeds that were invading the grass. She found the gardener’s card and called the number. The gardener answered, and hissed that he could arrive in 15 minutes to assess the situation.
Upon arriving, the gardener’s instant diagnosis was that the lawn should be set on fire. He poured gasoline on the grass and attempted to light a match, but the matchbook was soggy, as the gardener had been previously toiling under a wayward Rain Bird sprinkler. “Hurry, light it!” urged the woman, her clammy hand grasping the gardener’s clammier wrist. After a number of attempts, he was finally able to stir a flame, throwing a match onto the lawn, incinerating a blaze. The woman and the gardener stood face to face, turned on by the dark snakes and mites in each other’s eyes, their lips soon locked as they groped together in a passionate embrace, flames leaping around them on the suburban grass. The lawn’s timer sprinkler turned on too late.
The new owner of the woman’s ranch-house planted a thriving vegetable garden where the charred remains of the gardener and the woman had been found months earlier. The owner arranged the adjacent lawn furniture in a harmonious way. He was puzzled though, by the disappearance of some of his vegetables, not noticing the withered hand periodically emerging from the garden dirt, pulling the vegetables underground.
Bio: Eric Suhem lives in California and enjoys the qualities of his vegetable juicer. He can be found in the orange hallway (www.orangehallway.com)