With her Visitor’s Center completed, the President sits back and wonders what memento she should give herself to celebrate her success. She’s converted a garden into an Art Center, she’s built a café on the ground floor of the North building of which any restaurateur would be proud, and she’s transformed an old garage into a Visitor’s Center around which the Institution can evolve and grow in the new millennium. Best of all she’s converted Horticulture into one of the keenest retail garden centers in the metropolitan area. After all, she muses, gardening isn’t an art, it’s a hobby. But in spite of her success the Treasurer’s words continue to sting, undermining her happiness. She pulls out the Mission Statement and reviews it.
The former estate of King Total Power’s man is a 28-acre public garden overlooking the River Slang and The Great Wall. Our mission is to encourage each of us to pause from our hectic lives and reflect. We hope the visitors will find in the gardens the peace and beauty that will sustain them when they return to the daily grind. Our goal is to preserve our gardens and landscapes, without slavishly adhering to any particular garden fashion and to preserve the garden’s magnificent views. In this regard the garden’s educational programs encourage the students of New Draak to explore the natural and unnatural world found in our gardens and to distinguish the difference between the created world of the garden and the wilderness world of untouched habitats. We hope our students leave with an understanding that horticulture is one of the many valid pursuits that Humans use in the search for meaning.
Odd, she thinks, how I’ve interpreted this document to help reflect my understanding of the world. It’s easy for the Treasurer to write something idealistic since he’s already made his fortune. What about the rest of us? Am I to be a garden aesthetic instead of an avid consumer? It’s easy for a rich man to tell the poor man make due, we live in a sustainable society now. Besides, my idea of beauty is different from his! Sitting around a garden being eaten alive is hardly my idea of an artistic experience. I find more beauty in a dry scotch than a daffodil! I’d like to see the Treasurer give away all his wealth. I might as well wait for the ice caps to melt and raise the world’s sea level than wait for the rich to raise the standard of living for the world by giving everything they have to poor. Over the next few weeks she tinkers with the Mission Statement. Of course the Treasurer will argue that having wealth isn’t the sole purpose of life. He will say he believes offering alternative views of success is the key. He might even undercut her achievements by claiming he made his wealth in the private sector, while accusing her of using the public sector to make hers. He thinks there’s a distinction. So she’ll force her revised Mission Statement through the Board when the Treasurer is away.
With the weather still warm, the President decides to visit the far corners of the Institution, like Charlemagne in feudal times. With Development, Public Relations and Horticulture in tow she starts in the parking lot. “The parking lot is too small,” she tells her retinue, “the Institution is important now. Perhaps over there,” she points to a coppice of holly and witch hazel; “we need to get twenty or thirty more cars in here.” She takes the same walkway that had so impressed the Gardener his first time at the Garden and which she had found confusing by her own admission to the Board on the day of her interview when she laid out her plans. Without looking toward the greenhouse, she walks directly down the brick walkway toward the lawn where Captain Morning Glory’s installation had drawn so many visitors. Brightly colored signage on aluminum poles point in all directions. “We need a plaque with his name and picture highly visible here,” she tells PR, who stands beside her, tablet in hand, daydreaming of that fond time when Morning Glory’s heroes wooed her behind the big tree over there with the grey elephant-like skin.
Gardener – The purple beech, Fagus sylvatica purpurea.
Gardener – Horticulture comments on the sunlight striking the palisades. She shrugs her shoulder, “it will be the same tomorrow.” With her train behind her she walks up to the front of the Visitor’s Center. “Horticulture, can we get something more festive.” “Next year,” he promises. “I was up at the Mall the other day, window shopping with my nieces in mind and just loved what some of the retail stores had done in front of their windows, just marvelous, cutting edge, purple and pink cabbagy things. You really need to get up there and see what they’re doing.” Since she goes into the Center daily she continues down the road toward the North House, then stops by the entrance to the Public restrooms. “We need a docent here with a survey,” she says turning to PR, “I want to know why people are here, you know, are you interested in seeing the greenhouses, the Visitor’s Center or the restaurant. We’ll discuss this later,” she adds, turning on her way. In front of the restaurant they stop. The bustle of servers rattling trays, coffee cups and silver ware can be heard through the open door. She and her staff eat there everyday. “Horticulture, must your work always be so drab,” she comments, “we need color here.” They back around past the kitchen, which is no more than a prep room with a dish-washer, since all food is prepared off the premises, and continue down the road along the meadow to the nursery. “I’ve never been down here,” she admits. In the nursery many of the gardeners are finishing up the days work, turning pots of trees, shaping shrubs and trees. She nods to Horticulture, “well done.” They turn south down the gravel road and enter the woods. Even Horticulture has not been down past the nursery since he was appointed years ago. That’s not to say he’s been unaware of what’s going on down here. Like others in management, the volunteer in the room behind the broom closet keeps him up-to-date on the movements of his staff.
“What are all those lovely berries,” asks the President, stopping to admire clusters of fruit in shades of teal amid walls of yellowing leaves reaching up fifty feet at least. The berries are the color of the soup bowls she buys in Chinatown. Horticulture tells her “they’re porcelain berry.” But he is aghast. He realizes, too late, the woodlands are lost. Although in the weak light of fall they have literally caste a romantic sheathing over everything, he knows the trees beneath the vines are dead or nearly so. They continue along the path, the vines lending an exotic air to the Woodland.
It’s late, almost near closing time when they see through the yellow enveloping leaves someone moving around. They look for an entrance, but finding none, call out. The Gardener appears. “Ah,” says the President, “the Gardener, working far from his High Garden. I suppose you knew this,” she says, turning to Horticulture. Once again Horticulture is caught in the middle. Does he admit he doesn’t know and risk sounding incompetent; or does he say he knows and risk having to explain why the Gardener is working down in the woods? Why, he thinks, does the Gardener always put me at risk. He admits to the President he doesn’t know. She relishes his discomfort. “Since Horticulture doesn’t know, why don’t you tell us what you’re working on,” she asks. The Gardener tells them he’s growing plants for the High Garden. “A nursery,” she asks rhetorically. “Odd we didn’t know about this,” she says with raised brows, looking at her retinue. “No,” he says pointedly, “you wouldn’t know about this.” “And what funds have you been using,” she asks, nodding her head to the side. “My own,” he replies, smiling, “or the donations of my friends. I know what difficult times these are for the Garden.” “Did you ever think the Institution might want to use this area for something else,” she enquires as if talking to a child. “I’ve always assumed that when that day arrived, you wouldn’t hesitate but move forward with some new change. For now I assumed you have no plans for this area.” “Don’t we,” she says, swinging around to look Horticulture in the face, “don’t we have plans, aren’t we going to cut down all these trees and extend the nursery this way?” Horticulture nods his head weakly. “Of course, we’ll leave these lovely vines,” she concedes, walking on.
A week later an official decree reduces all benefits – the word used by the President is entitlements – for anyone working at the Institution twenty years or more, with one exception. The original decree had no exceptions, but Development had suggested the President exclude the Gardener from the new reductions. “What,” asked the President, shocked, “let that renegade retain all his privileges; he’s the reason we’re doing this!” “That’s true,” admitted the officer, “and there is no reason that can’t be known, still by separating him from the others, we tarnish his aurora.” The light in the President’s eyes widened with surprise. “That’s brilliant,” she remarked, “but as you know, we’ve trained personnel to avoid discussing salaries, so no one will know; on the other hand there is the possibility we’ll secure his admiration.” “Not likely,” was Development’s opinion. “Still, no one wants to lose money,” the President continued, “he’s married, isn’t he?” According to Resources, “he has two children.” “That consoles me,” the President sighed, “he is competent, so highly competent.” They stood quietly, nodding in agreement, waiting with their cups in hand as PR finishes pouring her coffee.
Following the decree, the President instructs Horticulture to approach each of the new gardeners privately and give each of them merit raises. “You need not look surprised,” she comforts Horticulture, “the Institution thinks of you as a brother.” “But I thought merit raises were not being considered,” he asks. “We found the funding after all. Finance will give you the confirmation memos – they’re already drawn up for each of your recommendations, yes, your recommendations. You will see the amount of the increase you have recommended for each of the new personnel, signed by me naturally. We’ve taken care of everything.” When the new gardeners open their sealed envelops they are shocked and elated. Management has heard their disgruntled cries. On the other hand, the older three crew members are angry and discouraged by their curtailments. Once again contrasting moods threaten to split the gardeners again. The “volunteer” in the room behind the broom closet is surprised one day to see the older gardeners standing in front of the secret camera in the Shade Border, giving him the finger. But in the potting shed basement where the new gardeners have their lockers, he jots down in his log, “new gardeners excited, elated.”
A day later the Gardener, under the guise of helping each gardener with chores, invites the gardeners to his house after work. The Gardener’s wife and kids are there to greet them. There’s wine and cheese and everyone is chatting; but after his wife and kids retire, the Gardener says, “it’s time we open up and tell each other what we’re making, what our benefits are.” Everyone hesitates.” “None of us,” he continues, “became gardeners to strike it rich; am I right?” They nod tentatively. “The experts tell us money is necessary, the lubrication greasing the wheels of commerce; we all need money; none of us questions that; but we didn’t come into this field for the love of money but for love of plants; am I right?” Again the nodding of heads. “If money’s the grease of commerce and we the wheels of production, then the grease has hardened. It’s come between us. It’s causing friction. We distrust each other. We work against each other. It’s destroying our efficiency.” They all look at each other. “This is my salary and my benefits,” and he tells them. “The managers took nothing from you,” the Pruner says, shaking his head. “They’ve taken nothing,” admits the Gardener. “So it’s easy for you to talk,” adds the Old Timer. “You know I’ve never asked Horticulture for more or for less.” “I don’t know anything,” says the Pruner. “That’s why we’re here, so we can have it out now and settle our disputes; if we can’t trust one another, there won’t be anything left to trust.” The Pruner is staring at the floor. “Think about it; we spend the majority of our waking time with each other on the job.” “How can you talk such bulshit!” the Pruner says with tension in his voice, “you’ve sacrificed nothing.” “All I wanted to do was make retirement in one piece,” adds the Old Timer. “Am I the enemy?” “I didn’t think so.” “I’ve lost nothing,” the Gardener continues, “but I’m not the reason you’ve lost everything; if we let this be, then it is so. . .” “He’s got the most to lose,” says one of the new gardeners. “What does this money really means, this currency at the heart of our way of life; is it working for us?” “Not me obviously,” says the Pruner bitterly. “Or is it working for someone else who is using it to destroy our way of life, the life of the gardeners.” The Old Timer is looking at him as if from far off, like a stranger. “When the Garden is destroyed,” he plows on, “where will we work; who will we be?” Again no one answers him. “We became gardeners because we love plants; we became gardeners because we love beauty.” The Pruner shakes his head. He exhales, as if spitting. The Gardener hears his own words and they sound hollow, like those of a con-man. He doesn’t trust himself now; so he drowns out his own doubt. “Look, we’re gardeners. In our work we can’t take anything for granted; a late frost, a storm, drought, there’s no dependable stability other than what we put into our work. And as much as plants need us, to water and weed, we need them, all of them, and all the rest of the living spectrum, to survive; we can’t force them to grow where they can’t; sure we can spray them, fertilize them, hack them back, but in the end it never works; we all depend on each other’s respect and co-operation; all of us, no matter what Domain.” “I needed work, that’s all,” counters the Pruner, “I came here on a federal work program.” “Whatever your reasons, you stayed; you became a master of your craft, you worked with the Porcelain Man.” Those that knew him and those who knew of him nod respectfully. “You wanted work but you helped create the perfect place, a paradise.” “Yes, we loved the Garden,” the Pruner admits, “but that’s over.” “I grew up here,” the Old Timer says, “I wasn’t seeking anything, it’s been my home since the beginning, it’s all I know and all I want is to make it to the end.” “Still, you worked under the Wizard; you knew the Porcelain Man,” says the Gardener; “some of you have been here only a few years, but not long ago many of us felt that we had the best of all worlds, even you, Old Timer; we were the heirs to Eden; a place of our own making; we loved our work.” The older gardeners nod. “So what’s happened to us; why, with all our talents and abilities, are we counting the minutes and the hours until quitting time; why are we happiest on Friday afternoon when we leave work; why do we dread Monday morning so deeply; is this why we are gardeners; is that why we are so concerned now with how much each of us is making?” “It’s all gone to hell,” says the Pruner. “I was the last to give up this view, remember; you told me the President and all the rest of them wanted us to fail; I didn’t want to believe you.”
“They don’t want you to fail,” the Long Border gardener tells her mentor, “they’ve taken care of you.” “I remember when you were new, an intern; I spent many hours teaching you the ropes.” “Probably that’s why they’ve taken care of me now.” “You,” the Pruner asks. She tells everyone about her raise. The Old Timer gets up to leave. The Gardener holds him. “If you leave, we’re lost.” “I’ve already lost,” he replies, “I’ve never had a raise like that and I’ve worked at the Garden longer than any of you!” The Pruner and the Tropical House gardener stand. “I’ve lost nothing,” says the Gardener, “and I’m no happier than any of you; I’ve watched my work reduced to that of salesman in a sales operation; I’m no longer a gardener, I’m a practitioner; I grow plants, but I sell commodities; we’re the heart of a sales division which produces well being for others at our expense; whose dream are we supporting?” “It’s unfair,” says the Old Timer. “Nothing’s fair,” exclaims the other new gardeners, taking out their own recommendations; “you never argued for fairness when they shortchanged us!” “Yeah,” they argue, “we work just as hard as you.” And they reveal what they’ll be making at the end of the present pay period. “We’ve been singled out,” says the Pruner. “They want us out,” the Tropical House gardener agrees. “None of us,” the Gardener argues, looking at the newer gardeners, “resents any one else’s success, unless that success is used against us; no one can expect anyone to live with a frozen wage if some else is profiting by it; in spite of what we’ve heard, the cost of living is caused by someone’s profit, not by someone’s wage.” “We were making so much less, yet we do the same work,” the Long Border gardener says. “Some of us have more experience,” says the Gardener, “so we’re worth more; and experience should be valued because it makes us more efficient in our pursuit of beauty.” “Just because someone’s worked here a long time doesn’t mean they should be subsidized while I do all the hard work,” says one the new gardeners. “No one is slacking,” argues the Pruner. “It’s only natural to work for a personal advantage,” the Gardener clarifies, “but it’s also to our personal advantage to work with each other.” “Why should I defend someone who tries getting by doing less,” asks another. “Who are you talking about,” asks the Pruner, jaws grinding. “None of us,” says the Gardener, looking from the senior gardeners to the younger gardeners, “has ever favored reduced vacations and lower starting salaries for you new people; under normal circumstance all of us who’ve worked here a long time would be happy that you’ve gotten merit raises; but you’re being merited without even having the full experience of years of work; the strategy is to divide and conquer the work force.” He asks the Pruner and the Old Timer to tell everyone how long they’ve worked here and how much they make.
“After we’re gone,” the Gardener warns, “you’ll be the old timers; hard to believe but the years will pass and you’ll be standing here like us before a group of youngsters whose salaries will be relatively lower than yours are now – if you can believe that; that’s right and you’ll find that your salaries and your benefits – not entitlements, but hard earned benefits which make up the full value of your salary, will be frozen; and you’ll discover this younger generation sitting where you are, just as skeptical of you as you are of us; that’s right, and they too will be given merit raises and told that management is looking for ambitious frisky young things to replace the lot of you; why, because you can’t work as fast as you can now?” He stops and waits. No one says anything. “No, because management will tell them that you now feel entitled, to use the word coined by the Kings’ people; it won’t be enough to just work for your fair accrued share of the Garden’s success; no, your work, like all of our work, will be seen by the Kings’ agents in government as an entitlement, or as we understand it, as an infringement on the Kings’ profits; they have us believing we are lucky to be working for them, that we should be grateful for any salary they deem our work is worth; they don’t understand that the same negotiation that happens between the butcher and the housewife, must happen between the butcher and his employees.”
It’s a bright November morning, as warm as if October, the leaves still glowing on the Maples when the first hint of trouble appears. The President gets out of the elevator on the second floor of the Administration Building in high spirits. The evening before in her commentary to the Board, she proudly stated that half of the maintenance department as well as a few of the older secretaries in education had been eliminated. These positions are now filled by one of the Kings’ Employment Agencies, “thus eliminating further entitlements,” the President boasts to the Board. Her Master Plan, conceived and pitched five years ago when the Board interviewed her for the job, is nearly complete. The once invincible Horticulture offers residual resistance, but “once the dead wood is removed,” she states jocularly to Development moments before entering her office at the end of the hall, “the rest of our tree will shape up.” She loves the Horticultural metaphor. No sooner is she in her office the phones rings. It’s the Leader of the Borough, a professional agent of the Kings’, who not only holds his elected position as Leader but is also an honorary director on the Board. He calls the President and tells her that an irate member of the gardening staff cornered him last evening at a public event. He was angry and told the Leader that as his representative he wanted an investigation into wrongdoing at the Institution. She thanks the Leader and tells him she will look into this problem. She laughs to herself, thinking who in that department thinks one of the Kings’ agents will help them! The second hint comes an hour later from the Borough Assemblyman. “Do you remember that Hispanic gardener you introduced me to one day,” he asks, “you better watch out for him.” She thanks him as well for the heads up. She is contemplating an act of retaliation when her secretary enters and places today’s mail on the desk, as she was instructed years ago, beneath the Joshua Tree paper weight from the Spiny Cactus. That’s when she notices the address of the Department of Labor on the corner of an official envelope. The envelope is addressed to her. Talk about dead wood, she mumbles to herself; that labor board has outlived it’s usefulness. Why, if anything, it’s labor policies are leading us into a depression, not out! The notice within announces that certain workers in her employment want union representation. “Why of all the nerve,” she cries. The union is the Public Employee Union of America, DC # 9, and the employees seeking representation are the gardeners. According to the notice she must comply with Federal Labor Laws. “What about them,” she shouts, “do they comply!” In fact she herself must post the notices indicating the rights of all gardeners and maintenance workers to vote as they please either for or against without fear of intimidation in their work spaces! She is floored! “Who is intimidating who,” she screams. And what’s worse, she must now inform the Board.
Aside from the Treasurer, the rest of the Board has always supported her demands. She’s always understood that one of the principles operating in every boardroom is that of tradition. While change is the operating force on the ground floor, at the top stasis is desired. No one on the board, especially the Chairman, wants to find a new manager, let alone take over the reigns of management in the event the manager leaves unexpectedly. As the chairman once told her not long after she came on board, “the Board of Directors are here in an advisory capacity. We don’t run things, we watch over them.” As long as management doesn’t rock the boat, that is, disturb the status quo at the top, then management is safe to carry out its agenda. She knew the word, Union, would strike a harsh chord among the directors. But she is surprised at the amount of anger she encounters. At the emergency meeting held that evening she feels, for the first time in her career, she’s lost control of her Board. They are all talking at once. None of them understands where this Union business has come from. “Did you know this was coming,” they ask frantically. “Where was the warning shot?” “We thought you had brought peace to the estate.” They all want to know at once how she missed the cues.
To understand their surprise, we need to look at one of the reasons the President used in the past, to explain her need for overhauling the Institution. She promised prosperity by creating a profitable non-profit to use the words she heard used at the Spiny Cactus AAPI conference years ago. Like most of us she believes prosperity brings peace. Unlike many of us she feels unfettered free enterprise brings prosperity. The only clarification we need from her and those that support her premise is prosperity to whom and at the expense of what? She told the Board that when she arrived on the grounds she found the garden under the iron-fisted policies of the Wizard and his Department of brown shirts. Under the guise of genius he had established a narrow dictatorship, pushing an aesthetic agenda that benefited only a few garden lovers. Instead of moving ahead with the rest of the country he maintained the grounds as a backward fiefdom in the public domain. In those days, the taxpayers had to support the staff, even if the taxpayers weren’t interested in gardening. During that AAPI conference she learned that jealousy was behind the present day green movements. The priest – he wore a white collar – who had told her about the Joshua trees, also told everyone at the morning prayer, about the farmer who killed the shepherd out of jealousy. We all know the story, Gardener. Before the expulsion, the first humans lived in the Garden of Eden, where food was gathered easily from all that grew there. Work wasn’t necessary. Then came the hard times. Young Cain worked hard in the fields trying to recapture the life his parents had lived. He had heard them speak of the fruits and leaves and deep roots that they had eaten. His brother Able, on the other hand, having tasted the blood of an animal, raised sheep and goats on grassy hillsides which grew without any effort on his part. And when the grass was gone and the wind blew the dust, he moved on to the next hill. One day Cain decided to thank the earth for his success. For reasons never explained, his offering of vegetables were found unacceptable. “We can imagine Cain,” said the evangelist at the podium, “piling tubers and leafy vegetables on his fire and the fire sputtering, smoking, everyone coughing. Only a fool would have tried that!” Able, on the other hand, didn’t have this problem. There he was sitting on a hill with his herd of sheep and goats while he fashioned wind instruments to wile away the time. The night wears on so instead of going out and looking for wood, he threw the fatty parts of a slaughtered sheep, which he didn’t want anyway, on the fire, and the flames leaped up, licking the sky. “It’s obvious who god favors,” said the priest. “Jealousy,” said the minister, “was the reason Cain killed Able.” According to this holy man in a white collar who opened each day at the Spiny Cactus with a prayer, jealousy was the reason the small farmer hated the giant farms. “Jealousy,” he announced to the congregation, who sat sipping coffee while waiters passed out platters piled high with scrambled eggs, toast and bacon, “was behind the organic farmer’s hatred of the corporate seed makers, who inherited Able’s inventiveness and to whom god had revealed the secrets of life. The farmers hated progress, hated change,” cried the charismatic in the white collar, raising his arms to heaven. “That’s why,” he told her, told all of them, “we’ve been pushing back against the farmers and the gardeners ever since.” Of course in all fairness, Gardener, we must represent the other side since the gardeners and the farmers say that Cain never built a pyre out of vegetables but a compost out of refuse. Cain was grateful for what the earth had taught him. He had learned that the unseen creatures who had once lived in Eden thrived in the rich material of his pile and when he turned it, the smoke from the heat inside, did, indeed, rise up. All farmers and gardeners agree that clever Able was always looking for an easier way. He didn’t like hard work, so he hated his brother for it. Some say he tried to burn the compost and laughed when the wind drove the thick smoke to the ground. But others say Able drove his sheep into Cain’s fields where the goats ate the grain to the roots. Whatever the reason, the brothers fought and Able was killed, leaving an invisible though indelible mark on Cain. The generations since have born the genes of both and have tried to understand that mark but have failed to stem the violence that created it. Great humans have appeared with holy remedies to erase the scar, but still, the differences between us continue feeding the fire of hatred. And from the embers of that first fire the raw metals of the earth were eventually fashioned into plows then later pounded into swords and now into guns. When the President first arrived on the grounds, she didn’t realize she was an instrument of a higher order pushing back against the Wizard. Only later after the priest described their mission to save humanity, did she understand how the Wizard and his plant people had lorded over the rest of us. She never told the Board about this. She herself only believed it as a convenience. She simply told them that she was healing the wounds caused by the years of abuse during the reign of the Wizard. In her world, everyone was happy now. “The Wizard doesn’t like people,” she told the Board, “he has an unnatural love of plants.”
The Treasurer asks her “why, if you are the salvation of all parties, have the new gardeners, gardeners who’ve never known the Wizard, signed the cards asking for Union representation?” All the directors nod their heads, all ask why? She looks at them with eyebrows raised. Have they forgotten all she’s done for them, the great parties she’s thrown at the fund raisers, all the new money she’s brought in from the Kings’ charities. The value of their homes in the neighborhood have risen. She is disgusted by the lot of them. They’ve obviously all made money with the Treasurer. He’s bought them all. “The older gardeners have poisoned their minds,” she claims. “But what about the merit raises,” asks one of the new directors, an investor, who unlike the Treasurer, raises money to buy and sell failing companies, telling the shareholders they’re creating jobs and wealth at the same time, “I was against that measure but all of us agree that everyone loves a raise.” “Yes,” they all agree, “everyone loves money; why would they throw all that away; yes, it’s unheard of in these times.” She can’t understand that herself, “why would they sacrifice everything to save a few lazy slobs.” “Someone told me,” says the Chairman, “the Spanish one, what’s his name. . ?” “You mean the Pruner of Yews,” she asks incredulously, wondering if the Borough Leader had called the Chairman as well. The Leader never attended meetings. But, she understands, someone must be behind all this. “Yes, that’s the one.” “What about the Old Man,” asks another director who is also a lawyer and who paints on the side and is writing a monograph on a well know contemporary artist. She helped the President by convincing the Board of the importance of Captain Morning Glory’s art installation when a few of directors were afraid of bad publicity. The President nods her head, “it’s possible the Old Timer is behind this, but with retirement near, I doubt it.” “Then it must be the Pruner,” the lawyer says, taking out her MePhone to look at her calendar. “Well, you promised peace and prosperity,” they all agree, “so you better nip this in the bud before the journalists take a bite out of all of us.”
The next morning she tells Development that members of the Board believe the Pruner is behind this. But Development shakes her head. She believes “it’s the Gardener.” “I thought we secured his love,” exclaims the President. “Well, we gambled,” replies Development, “But you know as well as I, he can’t be bought.” “None of them apparently.”
The following day Horticulture climbs the stairs to the High Garden, looking for the Gardener. The Gardener is surprised to see him. “Wow,” says Horticulture when he sees the flower buds on a giant dahlia beginning to open up.
Gardener – Dahlia imperialis, we grew that on the east path, and if it was warm enough it bloomed at Christmas, but rarely.
Writer – He finds Horticulture pruning back the old Peonies. . .
Gardener – Probably Paeonia delavayi, we grew it back there too!
Writer – Another world, Gardener, not the world of this story. Please keep that in mind. “It could bloom,” exclaims Horticulture. The Gardener, not you, agrees. Horticulture walks back and forth, stops and starts then stops and studies a label stuck into the ground behind a clump of stems already gone dormant. “The President wants to see you after lunch, at one punctual, “ he says lurching forward, his foot on the stone edging, stopping himself. “Look, I wish you would stop encouraging the gardeners,” he adds; “nothing is going to change, what’s done is done.” “I’m not doing anything,” he says looking at the ground. “The others look up to you,” says Horticulture, “you’ve got to stop encouraging them.” He is shaking his head. “She didn’t cap your salary,” he continues, “you’re making as much as the Assistant.” “Oh that’s consoling,” says the Gardener, standing up; “he should be making a lot less!” “But where is all this going to lead?” “You know as well as I do where,” the Gardener emphasizes, stepping out of the bed. “We’ll have more bureaucracy; you’ll have another boss,” says Horticulture. “Look,” says the Gardener, “I’ve never encouraged anyone; she did, by giving huge raises to the least experienced; then she threw salt on our wounds, giving nothing to the most experienced, even reducing their benefits; we’re all demoralized.” “You didn’t lose anything!” “How can I feel good about that; how can the new gardeners feel good about their raises when others get nothing; I know it’s not you,” he continues, feeling sorry for Horticulture, “you’re in the middle.” He doesn’t tell him that everyone hates him, the ineffectual boss. “I’m glad you understand that. But you should see this through our eyes.” “Oh, I do,” the Gardener assures him; “there will always be workers who don’t put out; one of them is your Assistant; but considering that’s not the case here, refusing the older gardeners a cost of living raise flies in the face of common sense.” He shakes his head, “I just never understood how arbitrary these decisions are; but from what I’ve seen, the President hasn’t been using common sense for some time.” “Please, I need you to move on,” pleads Horticulture. “I can’t.” “I should never have taken this job,” says Horticulture, walking away.
The Gardener finds her in the wood paneled office, sitting at a right angle to her massive mahogany desk, typing on her keyboard. He knocks on the open door. Through the window he can see above the wooded hillside, the great bridge over the River Slang he once crossed on his way to meet the Wizard. Without looking up the President invites him to take a seat. He takes the seat in front of the desk and waits for her to finish. Then she swings around, puts her hands on the desk and looks at him. What does she see? A medium sized man in brown work pants and a brown shirt. On the shirt pocket the Institution’s logo Change Is Good is stitched above a silver dollar backdrop on which the green razor sharp blades of grass seem to grow. He has come to her still wearing his holster with pruners. He’s been working hard. She can see his body has completely relaxed in the upholstered chair. A sturdy man, she thinks, square jaw, sandy hair, eyes that are shifting from her to her surroundings, the pictures, the bric-a-brac, her small prizes of success, the little things she has awarded herself, after each victory. She picks up the paper weight of the Joshua Tree. “ I bought this after my first AAPI conference. There was a forest of these cactus, or do you say cacti, growing in a valley near Palm Springs.” “I’ve been there,” he says, “And I’ve seen this down at the end of the hall, on Horticulture’s desk.” “Oh, yes, I forgot that I gave this to all my chiefs. And do you see that one behind me?” He sees the enormous framed poster with her logo and points to his shirt pocket. “No, below that.” He sees another smaller framed object, this one an embroidery illustrating a dust pan crossed by a small hand broom. Over this, in red stitching, are the words, Waste Not, Want Not. “Each of these mementos commemorate an achievement,” she explains; “I had that one created after the Wizard left; it seemed appropriate, don’t you think?” “It all depends, I guess.” “Gardener, we have a lot to talk about.” “I thought you weren’t interested in what I have to say,” he replied, “or any of us for that matter.” She sits there for a moment appraising him. He can’t believe he said that. “I know of only one person who speaks to me as frankly as you do and she’s down the hall. Now I’ll be frank with you. I want you to desist. I want Horticulture to succeed. There’s no one here who is irreplaceable. Even I can be replaced. The Board can replace me any time they choose.” The Gardener feels a cold chill shooting down his spine. He’s afraid she’s going to fire him and that will be the end of it. He doesn’t think of anything else but that. It’s as if all his assets, his strong points, the reasons why he might not be fired, have disappeared. He’s empty. And guilty of something, of doing wrong. Can she see this, he wonders.
“We’ve made a big mistake,” he says. “We,” she asks with raised eyebrows. “Yes,” he continues, “we’ve singled out members of our team for no raises; yet all of us have shared the difficulties of the last few years; isn’t it possible to delay this new policy until we all get our heads above water; the Visitor’s Center is complete; that gives us time to coalesce, time to get back behind Horticulture for the good of the Garden.” “The Institution,” she pronounces drily. He runs out of words. “And I will not,” she emphasizes, “treat Horticulture any differently than I treat the other departments; everyone here works hard, Gardener; Horticulture isn’t the only department; this plan to bring salaries up-to-date according to market value has been in the works for some time; I’m not going to favor some employees and not others.” “You’ve done just that,” he says impulsively. She folds her hands tightly, then unfolds them. Her fingers are shaking slightly. She moves a stack of papers from one side of her desk to the other, but she never takes her eyes off him. “I know what I am doing, Gardener, and I do it well; when I arrived here the place was a shambles; I brought it back.” An edge in her voice tells him in no uncertain terms, Don’t Rock The Boat!
Then she sits back and straightens her arms. She relaxes for a moment, still keeping her eyes on him. Then with a sigh she returns her elbows to the table and tells him of her epiphany. She’s been troubled for some time by the fact that the gardeners ignore her managers when they see them. “You’re friendly enough,” she says, “but the rest of the crew ignores my staff; who do these gardeners think they are, I’ve asked myself; what have my managers done to deserve this rude treatment?” She pauses and stares at him with indignation. “Then I received a startling insight; I realized I’m to blame; I’ve spoiled your department.” Again she pauses, looks down at her desk then back at the Gardener. “No other department treats either myself or my managers with so little respect; only Horticulture.” She stops, then asks him if he understands. He does. Now she laughs. “Every so often I have these little epiphanies; I decided I won’t put up with insolence from your department; I told Horticulture if he didn’t get the Old Timer or the Pruner in line, I’ll get rid of them, and that little Tropical House queen, too.”
The Gardener apologizes for the rudeness of the gardeners. “It won’t happen again,” she states, “the next gardener who ignores one of my managers is gone! simple as that.” “We’re eccentric,” he explains. “Well, I’m not,” she replies, “to be honest, I don’t give a damn if someone passes me without saying hello, I have a thick skin, but when they insult my managers – that I won’t tolerate.” “I have a thick skin,” he tells her. “I can see that, Gardener.” “When I walk by Development and smile and all I get in return is a scowl, I tell myself, she’s got a lot on her mind.” The President doesn’t say anything. “But it’s possible,” he continues, “some members of the staff are afraid to say hello, afraid they won’t get a response; in any case, freezing salaries only makes matters worse.”
“The Institution has to make choices,” she replies, refolding her hands tightly; “anyone whose salary has been capped are being paid what their work is worth; take the Pruner of Yews, his responsibilities were reduced, so he cannot be paid more.” “What about cost of living,” the Gardener asks. “What about it,” she counters; “the cost of living goes up for everyone because he wants more money!” “Everyone wants more money,” the Gardener replies, “why should his wants be less than anyone else’s.” “The market determines that,” she snaps; “you should see it from my point of view, Gardener; I’m here to keep the costs down; if we keep them down, the cost of living doesn’t go up and the Pruner has enough money to satisfy his wants, if he lives within his means; waste not, want not as my embroidery says!” “None of us are solely responsible for the rise in the cost of living.” “The market dictates.” “What market,” he asked abruptly, “yours?” “We all sacrifice,” she said curtly, “everyone works hard here, Gardener, not just your department.” “I never said we were the only hard workers.” “Change is the only dependable aspects in life, Gardener; we’re all replaceable.” “Well I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s as if he is watching someone else playing his part. “It is broken, Gardener, and I’ve just about fixed it and either you stay on board or you jump off.” “Well, ok,” he says, beginning to rise. “Let the past be the past, Gardener,” she interjects, “can’t you see we’re too big now to hold back the future.” “Whose future are we talking about,” he asks, sitting back down. “Hopefully all of ours,” she says quickly, standing abruptly. He thinks she ending the meeting; but she goes over to the window, telling him, “it’s hot, don’t you think?” A postcard picture of Total Power’s man is on the top of the lower window leaning against the glass pane. She tosses it on top the desk so it wouldn’t fall, then opens the window. “I wonder what he’d say,” she laughs, returning to her seat. “From what I’ve read,” says the Gardener, “he was an eccentric, too.” “I was on the internet surfing a bit the other day and saw dozens of listings of gardeners looking for work; they’d love to work here, don’t you think, it’s a beautiful place.” “It takes time,” he replies, “training someone, helping them discover their hidden assets.” “You excel there, Gardener,” she says. “A gardener’s work improves over time,” he continues, feeling encouraged, “especially when they work in one place a long time.” “I disagree,” she counters, “more often the gardener feels entitled and does less. “One of the greatest gardeners I know,” he says emphatically, “worked in the same garden from the time he was a boy until he died an old man; a love of the land comes through in the work and it becomes a work of art.” “Gardeners aren’t artists,” she says shortly. How would she know, he wants to say; you don’t understand the creative act; creativity works laterally, not according to your vertical hierarchy where the titular head prods the underlings to work in mimicry. He images her pale arms controlling a horde of white larva as they consume the needles of a pine.
Gardener – You’re thinking of the sawfly larva. They generally feed on two needle pines, like Pinus niger or P. thumbergia. I remember whenever I touched the needles as I was wiping them of the larva, they would all move together, like dancers moving in unison.
Writer – And like those sawfly larva she and her managers will consume everything good, the Gardener thinks; she’ll replace those who are eccentric and creative and insolent with her well-mannered, talentless white lines of hunger; one day visitors will come and ask, “ghee what happened here, this was once a garden of world renown.”
“You did yourselves a disservice by telling each other your salaries.” He’s shocked from his reverie. Was there a mole in the group who told Horticulture? Then he realizes her remark is coincidental. Naturally she’s knows we’ve talked to each other. By now she already knows we want Union representation. “We’re always talking to each other,” he says; “we trust each other; our single concern has always been production, and personally I see high productions a direct result of our concern for each other.” “Perhaps you should be a manager.” “I’m a gardener.” “And your gardener’s salary has been preserved.” “I’ve noticed that,” he says. “Even though you too, Gardener, have reached your limit; you can earn no more as a gardener.” Again the cold chill runs down his spine. He can’t believe he’s sitting here, what’s this all about. “I’ve been frank with you, Gardener, because you are frank with me.” She has softened her expression. It’s as if she’s read his mind. “Everyone looks up to you, Gardener, they respect you; your opinion counts; I need people like you.” She pauses and watches him. “If you want the job of Horticulture, the job’s yours.” He stares at her in disbelief. She laughs. “Not what you expected, am I right, Gardener,” she says standing up. “There already is a Horticulture,” he mutters. She laughs again. “We’ve have a nice private chat, haven’t we, an opportunity to unburden ourselves in private.” “I consider myself a bridge,” he replies. “You mean you’re going to report back to the others.” “Yes.” “Do they know you’re here?” “I’m not sure.” “They might not approve; they might wonder if you cut a deal; in any case one of us could be breaking the law.” “I’m here because you asked me.” To his surprise she comes around the desk and hugs him. His arms automatically touch her shoulders, her waist. He nods stupidly, again he sees the white larva consuming pine needles. “You have a lot to think about,” he hears her say as she ends the meeting. She is chatting to him about the weather and all that climate change nonsense as she shows him the door. He walks down the hall and then down the stairs and out onto the service road. He is stunned, shaken. He is frightened by President’s power. He has a family. Again he forgets all that he can do and sees only what he can’t. There were moments he felt he was reaching through to her, but it was an illusion. The sun is still bright, the air calm. No one is around. It’s as if he had gone into a time warp, lived a century in some parallel universe and returned to the exact point in time he had left. And yet he is different. He is changed. He is afraid. He walks back to the potting shed, loath to meet anyone. He feels tainted, as if he has betrayed everyone. He could have been more forceful, more angry. Instead he tried, like a coward, to reach across to her, bridge the differences. He would have compromised. Instead she controlled everything through his fear of losing his job. He could go to the union and complain about intimidation. But he won’t. Instead he feels as if he and the President have conspired. In the potting shed the Tropical House gardener sees him and asks him “what’s wrong, you looks to pale.” “Nothing,” he smiles with phony enthusiasm. A moment later he is grateful she didn’t pursue it.
A dispute arises between the Institution and the Union over which employees should be eligible workers for union representation. The Chairman of the Board, after consolation with his partners in the law firm of Such & Such and Such & Such and So Forth, decides to go out of the network of familiar faces and hire one of the best labor lawyers on the market. The lawyer flies in from the nation’s capital to discuss the matter. The Treasurer points out “he’s expensive; we could have spent far less money making the gardeners happy; that would have been money spent on the garden.” With the Board Chair’s consent the President signs a contract giving the new lawyer full authority now over the Institution. In the document is a list of financial obligations. “If one added up the cost of phone conversations alone, one could easily arrive at the two percent cost of living adjustment asked by those who have worked on the staff the longest,” is the acerbic appraisal of the Treasurer. The first act of the new lawyer, his silver tie shimmering under the fluorescent lights of the conference room, is to establish the rules of engagement. The client, that is the Institution, must stop all communication with those seeking Union representation. “That is why I’m here,” he announces, “to speak for the Institution.” In other words no one in management must engage in conversations of any kind with the workers, unless they’re strictly work-related. If anyone wants to pass on information to the staff they must move through a single conduit, the one designed by the lawyers, connecting the lawyer for the Institution and the lawyer for the Union. “How do I manage the gardeners activities,” asks the Assistant innocently. “Unless strictly work-related,” the lawyer repeats, closing his file, “through me.”
Because the lawyer for the Institution disagrees with the Union lawyer about which employees are eligible for union representation, the Institution on Drake’s Tongue and the Public Employee Union, DC # 9 must go to court. When the President arrives at the courthouse, she is surprised to find herself in the same elevator with the Pruner of Yews. “Pruner,” she says, as if they’re old friends, “how are you?” “Okay,” he replies with dry mouth. “Are you a witness,” she asks. He nods no. As they get out, she turns to him and says, “Pruner, I hope you understand, there’s nothing personal here.” He feels he’s flipping backward in a dizzy spin. He nods again and walks into the courtroom behind her. He says nothing throughout the proceeding, but when he is alone with the lawyers and representatives of the Union out in the hall, he argues against pulling in all the employees working in the office. The Union wants to garner more members. “Aside from two or three the majority will not vote with us, so why have their vote count. They’re not interested in us, believe me.” Back up town the President asks Resources for the Pruner of Yew’s file. In her office she laughs to herself when she realizes he doesn’t have a high school diploma. Later, however, she watches him in the courtroom, sitting over at the Union end of the table. She is surprised. The Pruner is animated. The Union reps and lawyer consult with him and it is obvious he can handle questions with an intuited skill as well as advocate forcefully for the gardeners; he also leans across to the lawyer and advises him when he is talking to the sophisticated lawyer from Washington. Who would have thought him capable, she says to herself.
After an extensive negotiations in which it is decided that the secretaries have a right to choose representation as well, both the reps from Local 9 and the President and her people are told by a representative from the Labor Board to step back and allow the eligible employees to decide for themselves. A date is chosen for a closed ballot election. At this point to her dismay, the President is require to enter the Potting Shed and post a sign from “that socialist agency” informing all staff of their rights to a fair election. When she enters the potting shed she realizes she has chosen the lunch break. She marches through the room looking neither right nor left at the gardeners, sitting in their chairs, eating. The Gardener is sitting on a bench opposite the bathroom door. Without acknowledging him either, she pushes the poster against the door, then tapes the corners with shreds of masking tape she tears off a roll with her teeth. Without looking back, she exits through the back door. As she is leaving she hears everyone cheer.
On the second floor of the house of King Total’s Power’s deceased chairman many of the secretaries working for the President and her court openly choose to remain loyal to their immediate heads. For the few secretaries who openly agree with the gardeners, subtle retributions are applied by their bosses. Hours are curtailed. Union lovers are excluded from the office banter. Those who were friends become enemies. In the North House, where Education holds court, the secretaries feud with each other over whose side should be taken. It’s a dark time for everyone, no one knowing whom to trust, but for those on the second floor of the south house, who openly favor the Union, it is the worst, a lonely affair in the heart of the anti-union sentiment. Their co-workers don’t want to be seen with the Union lovers. They are afraid of what management will do to them. The years of Kingly influence have conditioned them to see their place in the workforce as entrepreneurial. “We’re not laborers” they tell each other, “we have it good.” “Yeah, we’re not blue collar,” they affirm, “we’re white collar,” as if the color of your collar determines you’re role in the machine, as if an upper cog is superior to a lower cog. “You’re still cogs in their machine,” says one feisty secretary, unafraid to share her views. It’s evident white collar workers have developed a layer of rationalizations that support their illusion of superiority over blue collar workers. Their parents worked in factories and in the houses of the rich. They wanted their children to better themselves. We’re not wage earners, these children think, we’re capitalists. Oddly enough, they all work with their hands on keyboards and in filing systems and few have the capital to make them capitalists like the Kings’ men and their pawns.
The Gardener finds it difficult, too, though he is surrounded by a like minded workforce. On the one hand he is constantly assailed by an emotional Horticulture or an arrogant Assistant; on the other hand he is treated deferentially by the President and Development who often use him to be their envoy to the workers. “You see our lawyer told us we can’t speak with members of our staff. It’s difficult for us.” When he asks them why they can talk with him, they smile and tell him he is different. “You’re not really the Union type.” Maybe not, he thinks but every institution needs it’s checks and balances. And a union provides one of them. But then, he asks, why didn’t I say that to them!
After a protracted battle lasting through the winter and into spring, the day of voting arrives. All those eligible walk up to the North House and enter the great hall where once the resident of the manor housed his collection of medieval armor. There in a secluded corner near the north end of the hall, the eligible staff vote in privacy while a representative from the Federal Labor Board as well as representatives from the Union and the Institution sit by as monitors. When the votes are counted, it becomes apparent the eligible employees of the Institution on Drake’s Tongue have unanimously voted to be represented by the Public Employee Union of America, DC # 9. It’s obvious more secretaries voted with the gardeners than even the Pruner had foreseen. That such a small Institution needs a union to protect its workers is admission of the Institution’s failings.
They are drinking coffee on the second floor, the President and her department chiefs, in silence. Then Development says bitterly, “ I don’t know who on my staff I can trust.” The President is deep in thought. “No,” she says, “it’s over for now, a few rotten apples have swayed the rest to fall.” Finance tells them they have spent a great deal on this struggle. “We’re in the red,” she says. “And in the red we’re going to stay,” asserts a forceful President, “we’re going to spend more money, only now we’re going public. Our survey will show that most of our visitors want to visit the new Visitor’s Center, not the greenhouses. Our survey will show that most of our visitors don’t care about the gardens but do care about the retail nursery. We’ve just witnessed democracy in action. The employees we hire and pay have rejected our paternal hand. So be it.” “Let’s see how they like their new union insurance plan,” says Development. “Yeah,” mimes Resources, “ and paying Union dues!” “We must let go of all that; now we must spend money healing our family,” says the President to her surprised congregation, “don’t get me wrong; we won’t forget our enemies; but we must reach out to our public and convince them how much we love our employees, in spite of what they’ve done to us; it’s their right to reject us, to choose an outsider to care for them; it’s their right to choose another family; after all they’re not children anymore; they’re old enough to reject our love,” she says dramatically. There is no doubt what she is saying. “We’ll ask our public not only to forgive our failure as parents but to forgive our wayward employees, whose action will certainly be reflected in the entry fees and in the sales shop; yes, we not only failed our own staff but our public as well; we’ll beg their forgiveness as well as their understanding.”
But she doesn’t say this to her Board. She watches the Treasurer review the cost to the Institution, of lawyer fees and the additional cost of contributing to the Union’s medical insurance fund. Looking up he shakes his head and asks her if “your efforts to crush the garden department have failed.” “Failed,” she counters, “on the contrary, we applaud the democratic process; we’ve witnessed democracy at work; who can be against democracy; true, this is an unforeseen change, but change is good and this doesn’t hampered our efforts to reduce the costs to the taxpayer; the nursery will be fully operational next year and we’ve already seen that it is profitable; of course, costs will go up, the public will have to pay for the Union; now I’d like to give you copies of our new Mission Statement; our discussions in the past have shown that there is a great discrepancy in the opinions of this august body and so I have taken the liberty of bringing our Mission Statement up to date, giving it a currency those living today understand.” The chairman, as he takes his copy and passes the rest down the table, adds with confidence, “And as you have all read in the papers recently, the top management of DC # 9 has been indicted on corruption charges; so I believe we can work with these people,” by which he means those in Union management.
The next day gardeners are sitting at lunch eating when the President strides into the potting shed. She nods at them all with a broad smile on her face. She congratulates them on their victory. When she gets to the bathroom door where only months ago she had been forced to post the Labor Board’s Rights Of The Workers poster, she now posts a smaller but no less conspicuous sheet. As she turns to leave by the back door she smiles at the Gardener and tells him, “Gardener, this will certainly interest you.” And leaves.
Thanks to a generous donation by an agent of King Total Power, this 28-acre estate is now a public Institution overlooking the River Slang and The Great Wall. Its mission is to be a self-sustaining public enterprise thus reducing its burden on the tax payer. We encourage our patrons to reflect on the raison d’être that has made this nation great. In our Visitor’s Center you can explore the natural world through our up-to-date, interactive map with its own social media stream projected on our state of the art plasma screen. And here the patron can broaden their Institutional experience by apprehending in our exclusive gallery without walls the world of nature through the interpretive work of well known artists. In our Visitor’s Shop you can engage in one of the natural world’s greatest forces of good, that of natural selection. By comparing our prices with those of other Institutions you demonstrate your consumer freedom. In our world renown Nursery, horticultural experts are on hand to help you select the best plant material for your home. In our Food Service Court you can choose from a large selection of the finest cuisine and enjoy the best wines the industry can produce. It is easy to imagine yourself far removed to another era, sitting above the River Slang in the Gilded Age. Should you need to reserve either the North House or the Lower Lawn Tent or both for your own exclusive use, our staff is ready to assist you. We offer a full service operation to cover all your needs whether personal or business. And for the students of New Draak we offer educational programs that foster pride in the free enterprise system. Students comes away understanding that free enterprise is the most popular, singular path that Humans pursue in the search for happiness and for good reason. We hope that on leaving the Institution, all our patrons feel they never left home while they were away from home.
Disillusioned and disheartened, the gardeners begin leaving the little Garden on the Tongue of Drake. The Old Timer finally retires, the Pruner Of Yews is discharged on disability, the Tropical House gardener goes over to a nearby Botanical Garden and the Long Border gardener, the Gardener trained two years ago, goes off to work on her own. She discovers that the Garden is a valuable reference. In exchange for giving up the pleasures she had, working public land for a public good alongside the Gardener, she is earning more money working on her own. All those that leave look upon that time at the Garden when they all worked together as the garden of Eden, where they grew up in the company of all the growing things before they became aware of greed. Our Gardener works hard training new people but he feels he is no longer alive. All the struggles of the last six years have taken their toll. New faces keep replacing old ones. The President, unsure of why the Gardener remains since all the other old timers have left, instructs Horticulture to have the Gardener train someone new to replace him. “How do I tell him I want to replace him,” he asks her. “By giving him an assistant and keeping the rest of your plan to yourself.” Although lacking in experience his new assistant is ambitious. She is completely dedicated to Horticulture and the Assistant. “Now what,” Horticulture asks the President. “Give him a title and tell him he is too important to be kept in the High Garden, send him out to solve problems elsewhere; send him down to his nursery!” So he is given the title of Gardener At Large. He finds himself trouble shooting in all the areas in decline. With no one working in the Long Border, he begins working on the back road until, as he is told, someone can be found. He tries to convince his High Garden assistant to work with him in other areas. But she refuses to leave the High Garden. It’s her understanding that she work up there. Besides she finds the other areas boring. As time goes on, when she seeks guidance in her garden she goes down to Horticulture and the Assistant. The Assistant tells her that “the High Garden was created by a great gardener, who left years ago, a broken man. Some say a terrible scourge took the Porcelain Man away but we know it was the Wizard’s unrelenting micro-management that destroyed his genius. As for the Wizard, who was ousted finally when our present leader liberated the Institution, no one has heard from him since. No one knows where he is. It’s rumored,” the Assistant whispers, “that the President had him erased in the small garden of Vesonius Primus in Pompeii, where he was admiring a mural of Orpheus, who was known to have lulled the Lord of the Dead in order to bring back his true love.” “But this can’t be verified,” Horticulture adds, “no more than one can bring back the dead.” “Yes,” confirms the Assistant, “and others say he’s locked himself in a small house, shrouded in woods on the outskirts of New Drake, not far from here and refuses to come out. These people claim he spends all his time listening to Italian opera, in particular the works of Puccini and Donizetti.” “Can this be true,” she asks. “Well, no one actually knows,” admits Horticulture, “but it’s stated just the same.”
In the meantime the Gardener finds he is working in the woods more and more. For years he tried unsuccessfully to convince the other gardeners to work down there. As turnover increases he tries to convince the new people. “You can make your mark down in the Woods,” he tells them, “no one has yet created a woodland garden.” “It’s a great opportunity,” he adds, “to build something new, from scratch.” When they see the vines, the dead trees, the stands of Japanese knotweed, they back off. It’s too much work, they complain. They prefer gardening where success has already been achieved, in areas they already understand. “No one,” they confide, “want to work in Siberia.” And neither Horticulture nor the Assistant force anyone to work where they don’t want. “Somebody has to work there,” the Gardener tells Horticulture and the Assistant. “For now,” says the Assistant, “as GAL, the job is yours.” So little by little the Gardener works less and less in the High Garden and further and further out on the margins along the perimeter fences. Most days he works alone.
The Gardens Of Pompeii/Wilhelmina F. Jashemski, p72