The Gardener



Vera stood in a sunny patch at the bottom of the hill, looking up at the tower. She could only see the tip, its two prongs, reminiscent of the tip of a Taser haloed by fog. It was an unattractive icon that had become as much a navigational landmark as, “The Washing Machine Church” or the Golden Gate Bridge or the Rainbow Flag.  Get any of these in sight and it was easy to get your bearings. Years ago she had watched go carts racing down that hill, rickety chariots hurling their drivers at precarious speeds. Today, she was waiting for Mr Bernardi to open the garage so she could collect some planters she’d found cheap on craigslist.

Bernardi proved to be an affable chap, his Brooklyn accent still intact after twenty five years of west coast living. He hurried down at his wife’s bidding, his plaid robe  tied shabbily over a plain blue tee shirt and sweatpants, a carpet of graying stubble spreading across his cheeks. Opening the garage revealed the planters, rather nice ones, heavy  ceramic pots with fancy glazes. She handed him the money and he helped her carry them to the back of the car all the while nattering about downsizing and rent control and sunshine.

She knew exactly who she was going to plant in each one and what spots each would have in her garden. They would quickly outgrow these pots and she’d need bigger ones, but that’s what scavenging on craigslist was for. As she navigated the city streets, the meandering detour  to the freeway gave her time to mull over the seeds and incantations she would use and what ingredients she would add to the soil for the desired results. Vera was meticulous about what attributes she brought to life and chose to bring to fruition which brought her great trust and loyalty from her clients.

Her house at the far edges of West Oakland was unassuming and looked much smaller than it was. The high fence of iron backed by boards and thick hedges towered over the house so that you could only see it from certain angles. Most would balk at the thought of a woman living alone in such a rough and isolated part of town but nobody messed with Vera. They gave her and her home a wide berth of respect. They also knew they could come to her for help without hesitation or fear of discovery if things were dicey. She’d staunched the rush of blood from gunshot wounds and stopped infection in its tracks. If you truly needed something, Vera could probably help you get it. So the undesirable elements of Oakland looked after Vera and watched out for her. The authorities seemed to find her invisible which is just the way she wanted it.

A few muttered words through the rolled down window of her old Chevy and the gate, recognizing Vera’s voice swung open then back to latch tightly behind her as she drove to the back of the property. The back yard was huge, several lots dotted with plants, mature  trees and a smattering of small structures. There were three houses in all on the property making it a compound of sorts. As she parked, Holly beaming with excitement, waved at her from the back porch of one of the houses. She lurched towards the stairs clinging fiercely to the railing with both hands, her feet still caked in soil!

Vera rushed toward Holly, her arms waving with concern. “Wait! Wait! Are you sure you’re ready? I don’t want you to fall and hurt yourself! Don’t bruise your pretty skin!” Obviously, Holly had decided she was ripe and ready to be plucked all by herself! Vera felt a little surge of pride for the clever girl. She had planned to leave her in for another day or two, but no, she was ready, no more time or transplantation needed! Holly teetered on the third step and went down suddenly landing on her plump fresh naked buttocks. “Ow!” she exclaimed surprised and then burst into tears! Vera rushed to her.”There, there, you’re alright!” Within minutes. Holly had ascertained that yes, she was fine indeed and her eyes were bright and smiling again! It was clear that the charms Vera had added for sunny disposition had done their job. “Let’s stand you up and make sure you haven’t any splinters in your bum! Oh that’d be rich; a dryad with splinters in her arse” she chortled!


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