The Gardeners – Part Two


Part Two

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour


Betty hadn’t slept well. She was apprehensive about this gardening thing. The fellow on the phone had sounded pleasant enough, but she was remembering how Gwen and Mildred had described the shady characters waiting in the truck.   

Safire followed Betty out to the front porch, jumping directly to the screened window, swatting at imaginary bugs in the dusty trail of the sun’s morning rays. Betty retrieved the paper, sat down at her little table, and turned to the front page. The recent robberies still played on Betty’s mind. She wondered if the police had made any progress.

POLICE ARE BAFFLED was the headline. Betty kept reading.   She set the paper down and looked thoughtfully out to the street. Safire was swishing her tail and meowing loudly at the birds on the front lawn. Betty didn’t let her outside because her previous cat, Ginger, had been hit by a car. She checked her watch––7:55. A battered red truck pulled into her driveway, and a nicely dressed young man got out. 

“Hi, Betty,” he greeted as he opened her door and stepped into the porch. “I’m John, from Unique Gardeners. We spoke last night.” He smiled––a nice smile.

“I know who you are. I’m not senile. Besides, the name is on the truck.” Betty smirked. 

John smiled, a tad artificial, this time. “Do you mind showing me where you would like your flower gardens?”

Betty got up and headed for the door. “Don’t let my cat out,” she ordered. John followed, being careful of the anxious Safire as she arched her back and hissed at him. 

As they entered the back yard, he smiled again. “Beautiful,” he commented.

“Well, if it’s so beautiful, maybe you don’t have to do anything,” the words were quick out of Betty’s mouth. What was wrong with her? She wasn’t usually this rude to people!

“Oh, I just meant that it will be a nice yard to work on,” John returned. He looked around. “Those maples look old.”

“Planted them myself, the year I moved in; but, the leaves are a pain in the fall.”

John pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and began sketching. “What are you writing there?” Betty queried suspiciously.

“Some ideas,” he smiled.

He smiles too much,” Betty thought. “Can’t trust someone who smiles all the time.”

John walked the perimeter, checking the tall wooden fence. He turned to Betty, as if he knew she was going to ask why. “Just seeing how strong it is for when we start digging,” he smiled––again.

After about 20 minutes of sketching, John put the pencil behind his ear. “I think I have enough here to get started. Let’s return to your porch and I’ll show you some pictures and ideas I have for your yard.”

Betty led the way. “Watch the cat,” she reminded John as Safire made a run for the door.

“I’ll just grab my brief case from the truck,” John called out.

Betty scrutinized him closely. There was something about him that left a creepy sensation in her bones. She observed him making a call on his cell phone, noticing his head bobbing up and down, and there was a bigger than usual smile on his face. “Maybe he’s had botox,” she whispered to Safire, “and it left him with a permanent grin.”

John shut the phone and then joined Betty in the porch.

“Important phone call? Betty queried.

“Just checking in at the office,” John replied.

Betty pointed to the table, then sat down and waited for John to begin. He opened his brief case and pulled out some catalogues. For the next half hour, he filled in his backyard sketch with diagrams of flowers and bushes.

“I am aware you need something with low maintenance,” he mentioned at one point. “And, just to let you know, our company can also offer you a regular, cost effective program so that you would barely have to lift a finger.”

Betty was wary. “You just fix my garden with the amount of the gift certificate; I don’t have money to pay your company to maintain,” she emphasized.

John’s smile appeared strained. “Whatever you like Betty,” he said, patting her hand.

She pulled her hand away and checked her watch. “It’s getting late; why don’t you call me later with the final details and I’ll let you know if I want to go ahead with it.” Betty stood up. Safire hissed, at John, from her window sill.

As John gathered his things, Betty noticed his lips were smiling, but his eyes weren’t. In fact, their blackness was tainted with anger.  Eyes were something she’d learned to read well, during her many years of classroom teaching.

“May I call you this afternoon around 2:00?” John asked.

“Make it 3:00; I nap at 2:00.” Betty watched him get in the truck and throw his brief case on the seat. She watched long enough to see him hit the steering wheel as he sped off down the road. “I’d give a penny or two for his thoughts right now,” she commented to Safire.

John was angry. These old people were getting more difficult to manipulate, but he’d find a way to get through to this one––she had the perfect backyard! 

                                    To be continued on July 25, 2012



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jane Crew
    Jul 22, 2012 @ 00:44:28

    Great work so far! Can’t wait to read more!


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