Sweet Thyme Baby – 47

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

47

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 46 first)

 

The garden waited.

 

Somewhere south of Baja, a storm gathered itself, a hurricane of minor proportions and nothing out of the ordinary for that time of year and place, significant only later when residents of the garden learned that rain fell there and nowhere else in the county. It was as if the downpour were a curtain like the kind used to protect a patient in the emergency ward from busy bodies and their questions while doctors and nurses did what had to be done to restore health. And well-being.

 

*

 

The next day Pinkus and George entered the kitchen and found Maggie where they had left her the night before. “I’ve been up since before dawn making muffins.”

 

“On a day like this?” Pinkus looked around him at the trays of baked muffins laid out in rows like a game of solitaire. “If this keeps up, you’ll have to rent freezer space.”

 

“Maybe you could go into business,” George said.

 

Maggie said, “She didn’t call. I checked the answering machine.”

 

Pinkus handed Sweet Thyme to George. “You hold him, I’ll fix you a bite.”

 

“Did you hear what I said?”

 

“I heard.” Pinkus chose a pumpkin muffin with a high crown studded with raisins and nuts. He cut a wedge of butter and watched it slide down a slit in the warm top. He wondered what more Maggie expected him to say. He could tell her that no one had slept the night before except Sweet Thyme. At three-thirty he and George had been in the living room playing dominoes and half watching infomercials for products guaranteed to give them flawless skin.

 

“Man, was it humid last night,” George said. “Felt like it was going to pour buckets.”

 

“Still does,” Pinkus said. “Humididity, my Ma used to call it.”

 

As soon as the sky grew light, Pinkus had gone outside and dug up the leggy alyssum that bordered the annuals around their patch of lawn; and after breakfast he would go to work on the Boston lettuce behind the big house. Walking through the vegetable garden a while ago he’d made a mental note that its time was past, the heads more core than leaf. As they walked over that morning, George had said it was a good thing there was plenty in the garden to occupy them all while they waited for the next thing to happen. Pinkus had agreed then; but looking at the faces of his friends he wondered if there wasn’t some more concrete action they could take.

 

“I don’t like being a victim.” They looked at him. “I mean, I don’t like waiting for the other shoe to fall.” And kick us in the backside. He handed George the muffin and sat down beside him.

 

Maggie said. “I’ve been thinking we have to make some plans for ourselves. The last few years we’ve all depended too much on Dee or the Ryans to do our thinking.”

 

George groaned and Sweet Thyme laughed and clapped. “I cannot tell you how much I do not want to have this conversation.”

 

The kitchen chair complained as Maggie sat. “That Victor person, he said this isn’t the first time Dee’s run off.” Maggie collected a little mound of muffin crumbs with the side of her hand and brushed it off the tabletop into the palm of her other hand. She got up and dumped it into the sink. With her broad back to room, she said, “You know how Con and Carlotta said the garden was a place where people came to get healed?”

 

“Worked for me,” George said.

 

Maggie turned around. “We’ve all seen them: kids and drunks and every kind of down-and-out and Con and Carlotta always had a job for them and a few meals and a bit of money –.”

 

“Remember that old man who was trying to write a sentence for every word in the dictionary? He was crazy when he came here and do you remember the smell of him? Con took a hose to him out on the terrace.”

 

“And now he’s got a job,” Pinkus said. “He’s a book editor.”

 

“The garden’s healed everyone except Dee.”

 

“Because she never came here to heal,” George said. “She came here to hide out.”

 

Maggie and Pinkus looked at him. Why hadn’t they thought of this before.

 

“Hide out from what?” Maggie asked.

 

“If I knew that I’d tell you wouldn’t I? But I’ll bet my boodle that Victor Detroit has something to do with it.”

 

“We should make him tell us. George, you could make him talk.”

 

“Pinky, you know I gave up all that kind of stuff. I just want to stay here in the garden and –.”

 

“Pinky’s right. You should go over to the Inn and shake the truth out of him.”

 

“I’m not saying you should hurt him, honey. Just scare him a little.”

 

George rested his chin on the top of Sweet Thyme’s head and stared at his muffin. “You don’t know what you’re asking.”

 

Maggie said, “If someone doesn’t do something, we’re going to lose this garden for sure.”

 

“We have our houses.”

 

“For how long, George?” Impatience and irritation ballooned in Pinkus. He was going to explode in a minute. He lifted Sweet Thyme out of George’s arms and propped him on his hip. “You have to go over there and force that man to tell us everything he knows.”

 

There was a long silence.

 

“George? This is important.”

 

“You think I don’t know that?” George looked up from muffin he had been studying minutely. “Maggie, would you mind if me and Pinky had a few minutes in private?”

 

The chair groaned and Maggie’s slippers scufflapped across the kitchen. “I’ll be upstairs when you want me.”

 

The kitchen door swung back and forth, back and forth and neither Pinkus nor George said a word. Sweet Thyme kicked and wriggled and made happy wet sounds with his lips. George opened the cabinet next to the stove and took out a fresh package of coffee. He unsealed it and the whoosh of escaping air filled the kitchen with the fragrance of French Roast, pungent as skunk. He measured four spoonsful into the coffee maker and poured the rest of the grounds into a canister. At the sink he ran cold water into the carafe.

 

Pinkus sat down. One of the things he knew about George was that the more he finnicked over details like leveling off the measuring spoon and filling the carafe to just exactly the six cup level, the more upset he was; and there was no good in Pinkus telling him to take it easy because once George took something seriously, it was Serious until he had dealt with it.

 

Finally he sat down. Chair legs scraped the linoleum and Pinkus felt the noise in his bones. George looked at him, his squashed nose and puffy eyes and flat cheekbones all worried together in the middle of his face. He took so long examining his big battered knuckles that Pinkus wanted to scream at him to get on with it; nothing could be as bad as he made it out to be.

 

George said, “I’ve told you what it was like in prison. For a man like me.”

 

“I’m not saying you should hurt Victor. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything that would send you back to prison.”

 

“Yeah, but you can’t guarantee it won’t happen. See, Pinky, I’m not a lucky man. Back before you and me came to the garden, if something could go wrong for me, it would. When I was in school I’d study like crazy for a test and find out I’d got the chapter wrong and I’d flunk and the teacher’d give me hell for not studying. So after a while I stopped bothering. That’s why I dropped out. The pro fights I had, I hardly ever won. I trained and I tried, but I always took it hard. I had five concussions. I’m lucky I know my own name. And the last time I stuck up a convenience store, it should have been easy, only the guy at the counter was a cop on disability. I got out of jail and tried to go straight, but fighting’s a tough game and I was running numbers on the side when they picked me up. I thought I was carrying bags of cash but it was dope, lots of it.” He held up his hands, let them drop. “No luck.”

 

“George, honey, I know all this. You’ve told me plenty of times how it was. But you met me. That was good luck.”

 

“You still don’t get it. If you did, you’d never ask me… If I beat up Victor Detroit trying to get a lead on Dee, I’ll go to jail for it. With my luck, I could accidentally kill him.”

 

“Don’t be ridic—.”

 

“I’m telling you, Pinky, I can’t take the chance.”

 

“But what about our cottage? What about Sweet Thyme?”

 

“I love you, Pinky. I love our life together. And I love that baby. And the only way I know to hold it all together is to stay clear of the law.”

 

“So we’re supposed to sit here and do nothing? We can’t do that. We have to act for ourselves. If we don’t, we’ll probably be homeless this time next month. And someone’ll take away Sweet Thyme –.”

 

The screen on the front door slammed.

 

They had company.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 48 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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