“… Under the sea, in an octopus’s garden, in the,” click. Paul McCartney’s voice ceased abruptly when Gary Moleski turned off the ignition of his car with a smile. He hadn’t heard that song in a while, and it brought back memories of his college days. He stepped out of his RX – 7 and walked across the driveway to the front door. After unlocking the several, sturdy locks, to keep the undesirables out, he thought with a chuckle, he entered his humble abode. His watch read 6:10, damn, this overtime is getting out of hand. He had been spending more time at the brokerage firm recently, because ever since George Waterby had quit, everyone had had more work.
He walked through the living room, down the hall, and into the kitchen, stopping to gaze at the West Acres Garden Club plaques on the wall. He had won the “Best flower garden in the neighborhood” award four years straight, and was bound determined to repeat this year. Several of his friends called him “Green-Thumb” Gary, and his co-workers often hassled him about his fingernails, which were almost always stained with his rich top-soil. Gary loved his garden and generally spent every free hour he had in the spring and summer working in it. He felt that it was the best sort of exercise one could get without going to one of those fag spa places. Looking down at the spare tire growing around his waist, he knew that spring was coming none too soon. He was 40 now, and that tire grew bigger and faster every winter. Before too long, he realized, he wouldn’t be able to trim it off in the warmer gardening months. Guess I won’t be taking my shirt off at the beach much any more.
After throwing a couple of Stouffer’s French Bread Pizzas into the oven, Gary stepped out the back door to gaze upon his dilapidated garden. Well, it doesn’t look as bad as it did last year. Starting tomorrow, he was going to begin the process of recultivating his prize-winning yard. It was nothing especially large or extravagant, but the thickness of the grass, the intense, blood red color of the roses, the sun-bright daffodils, and the general vividness of all the other flowers were what always won the competition. All his neighbors marveled at this wonder, and asked what his secret was, but he would just smile and reply, “Just a little tender, loving care.” Actually it was his fertilizer. He had discovered the ultimate fertilizer, and cherished the sanctity of his secret. He would never tell anyone what he used; there was too much competition.
Gary got up early on Saturday knowing he had a hard day’s work ahead of him. While fixing the same breakfast he always ate: Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch, and a fried egg, he gazed out the window onto his lovely yard. I’m gonna need even more this year. Probably about 100 pounds. In the past he had used only about 60 – 80 pounds, but he felt that he needed even more this year to keep up with the growing competition. He wiped the last drop of sweet milk off his lips, and headed out to the car. He had second thoughts for a moment about acquiring such a large quantity of his special “flower juice” as he called it, because that made for much more spreading and digging. With a chuckle, though, he convinced himself that he needed more. It was more of a challenge.
He started his car and headed out to the Northridge Municipal Park, where he had found his secret. He parked in the large parking lot next to a beat up Dodge Duster and marvelled at the heat coming off the pavement. I hope I haven’t waited too long to start my garden this year. It’s gotten so warm so early. He knew though that it made no difference, because the almost iridescent colors of his garden were way out of the league of his jealous neighbors. He headed towards the swings and smiled at the laughing children. The sight of children playing always made him happy, as it conjured thoughts of working in the Shangri-la of his yard. Nope, too small, he thought as he headed towards the basketball courts. The big kids were playing on the nine foot basket, each one trying to impress the others with his dunks, while the younger ones were playing on the regulation size baskets. Kind of ironic, he thought, realizing that the older kids wouldn’t let the others play on the more fun courts. After a few moments he recognized
Steven Lostop, his amiable paper boy. Steven was playing with the smaller kids, although he was bigger than most of him. Next year, he’ll be playing with the big boys. Gary went over and talked to Steve about how he remembered playing in the park when he was young, and about his paper bill for next month. Steve had been asking if any of his customers minded paying two weeks in advance, and Gary was willing. The kid probably needs a new bike or something. They walked back to the RX – 7 to get Gary’s checkbook, all the while chatting about people in the neighborhood. Gary was quite impressed with the kid’s composure and maturity. “Say, you’re gettin’ pretty big these days. What do you weigh now,about 90?”
“My mom weighed me last week, and I was 98.”
“Hey, you’re getting up there,” Gary chuckled as he fumbled around for his checkbook. Instead he found his monkey wrench.
On Monday afternoon, there were no papers delivered in the eastern half of West Acres. If there had been, the people would have recognized the picture of their missing paper boy right on the front page. He hadn’t been seen since early on Saturday, and there were no clues. At the Bondurant Brokerage Associates office building, employees were chiding “Green-Thumb” Gary Moleski about his dirty fingernails again.