Sweet Thyme Baby – 19

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

19

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 18 first)

 

That morning Dee was in the garden shop before seven answering e-mail, paying bills, and installing new inventory software. There was plenty of work to occupy her mind. Even so, Victor and the taxes were wounds that continued to bleed through their bandages; and when Pinkus came in just before eight with Sweet Thyme in a baby-carry on his back, she was grateful for distraction, glad for someone to get mad at.

 

“I don’t want that baby in here. I don’t want customers seeing him and asking questions.”

 

“Honest-to-God, Dee, you don’t look like you slept so good.”

 

She laughed a syllable.

 

“Well, me and Sweet Thyme won’t add to your troubles.”  Maternal satisfaction sloshed off Pinkus in warm milky waves. “He won’t fuss, I promise. He’s the quietest baby you ever knew. George says he’s a very old soul.”

 

Dee was not looking at Sweet Thyme, but he was impossible to ignore, chortling and cooing like a baby food ad. She felt his space-heater smile from six feet away.

 

“I don’t care if he’s the baby Buddha, he doesn’t belong here. You and George have to take him to the police.”

 

“Honest-to-God, Dee, can’t you just relax and enjoy our baby?”

 

“He belongs to someone, Pinkus.”

 

“Someone who burned his little tookus.”

 

“You don’t know that. And even if it’s true…”

 

“It’s true. Trust me, I know something about –.”

 

“How do you know? What makes you an expert on babies?”

 

Pinkus stared at his feet. Dee could almost hear him counting to himself.

 

“Never mind,” he said, and then, “You just don’t like him.”

 

“He’s a baby, for godsake. Whether I like him or not, it isn’t the point.”

 

“You won’t even look straight at him.”

 

“Of course, I will.” She did. “Satisfied?”

 

“You’re afraid of him.”

 

“I am not.”

 

“Prove it. Hold him.” Pinkus slipped his arms out from the baby carrier and set it on the counter. He put his hands under Sweet Thyme’s arms and lifted him out – legs like pink sequoias, plump hands flashing at her.

 

“I’m not going to stand here and fight with you, Pinkus. I can’t handle any more problems right now.”

 

“Listen. Con and Carlotta were not stupid, they were good judges of character. And they wouldn’t have given you the garden if they didn’t think you could manage it. You don’t give yourself credit, Dee. Me and George, we always say that.”

 

“If you insist on keeping the baby, you and George will have to leave the garden.” Dee felt it as if a wind had blown in off an iceberg. “I don’t want you to go. You guys are my family, but I have to protect the garden.”

 

“Sweet Thyme’s your family too, Dee.”

 

“Haven’t you heard a word I’ve said?”

 

“This isn’t just an ordinary baby. I think he’s a gift from God –.”

 

“Pinkus, really.”

 

“Isn’t it just a bit of a coincidence, the way he appeared just hours after we put Con and Carlotta in the ground?” He waited for her to respond. “You don’t believe in anything, Dee.”

 

That wasn’t true. She believed in the pain that lived inside her. Pinkus was right. She was afraid of Sweet Thyme. If she looked at him too long, if she held him too long, if she ever once got sucked into all that baby adorable innocent stuff, she would lose control over the pain, it would rear up and possess her.

 

“All the world’s illogical faith put in a bag and thrown at life won’t change reality. That baby has to go.”

 

*

 

Around ten, the nursery shop got crowded. Color packs of marigolds, petunias, ivy geraniums, lobelia, and pink and white alyssum – summer staples – went fast and for some reason there was also a run on “hens and chickens.” Dee was clearing the cash register, counting the small change for the second time, when Janet Wexler pushed open the shop’s Dutch door and began talking.

 

“Dee, I think you want to get on over to Greens and meet Sharon Whitby’s brother. Tall and eligible.”

 

Pinkus edged to the shadows in the far corner of the shop and became profoundly involved dusting Carlotta’s lending library of gardening books and old copies of “Pacific Horticulture.”

 

Dee planted a smile on her face. “How can I help you this morning, Mrs. Wexler?”

 

“I’ve come for advice. As usual.” Janet dropped her Dooney and Bourke sling bag on the counter and affected a great sigh. “Did you hear what I said? About Sharon’s brother?” She leaned her elbows on the counter and spoke in a dramatically lowered voice. “Losing his hair a bit. A little rough around the edges, but plenty of women like that type.”

 

Not rough, Dee thought, just plain and unpretentious. The kind of man you would not notice unless you met him in a market or a garden.

 

“It’s the joggers,” Janet said, following her own script. “They run up on my lawn and now I’ve got a path of beaten earth along the front and it’s ugly, Dee. I mean, I don’t want sidewalks in Cabrillo Point any more than anyone else, but I also don’t want people running across my lawn.”

 

“You could put in bougainvillea. The kind that spreads along the ground. It has thorns.”

 

“I don’t like cactus.”

 

“Bougainvillea isn’t cactus.”

 

“But it does have thorns. Like cactus.”

 

“Bougainvillea would definitely discourage joggers.”

 

“A cactus garden always makes me think people have given up. Succulents the same. I don’t want succulents.”

 

“What about Crown of Thorns?”

 

Have you ever had a jade plant in your garden?” Janet made a face as if she’d eaten something bitter. “They are so gross.”

 

From his dark corner Pinkus said, “Last year, a friend of mine pruned a jade plant way down and used it for a Christmas tree. He decorated it with red and gold bows for a catalog shoot. Festive.”

 

Catalog.

 

Janet glanced at him as he spoke but said nothing. She had put a label on him that read gay or queer or faggot depending on her mood and to whom she was talking.

 

Catalog

 

An idea.

 

Whiterose Gardens was the biggest of the mail order nurseries. There was nothing in the will prohibiting a lease agreement.

 

“I may as well be talking to a wall this morning.”

 

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Wexler. I’ve met Sam Green. He was here yesterday taking a look at the garden.”

 

“Why was he looking at the garden?”

 

“He’s an entomologist,” Pinkus said.

 

Janet looked at him again. “Is that a baby?”

 

“Oleander grows fast,” Dee said, thinking fast.

 

Janet walked to the back of the shop. “Isn’t he just adorable?”

 

“You might try daisies, Mrs. Wexler. Clumps of them.”  Dee moved to block Janet’s view of Pinkus and Sweet Thyme. “Lots and lots of big clumps of yellow daisies.”

 

Janet peered around Dee’s shoulder at Pinkus.  “I could just take a bite out of him!”

 

“You could call it a postmodern Christmas tree,” Pinkus said.

 

“What?”

 

“A jade plant. With ribbons and maybe lights.”

 

“Oh, I wouldn’t want it at Christmas. The Wexlers are utterly traditional. But maybe in the fall, to decorate the patio.”

 

“What about roses, Mrs. Wexler?”

 

She turned back to Dee. “Could they go in right now? This weekend? Dee, you are brilliant. Would a line of red roses be just too lurid?”

 

“We have most colors right now.”

 

“Red, I think,” Janet pulled out her wallet. “And a couple of jade plants. In nice pots. Italian, not Mexican. I like the idea of those little lights. We give our big summer party next month –.”

 

Janet made a moochy face at Sweet Thyme and clicked her tongue against her palate. “Don’t you love having a baby around, Dee? Especially with Con and Carlotta so recently gone, a baby just brightens up the place doesn’t it? And did you ever see such masculine little features? What’s his name, Pinky?”

 

“Sweet Thyme.”

 

“Sweet Time?” Janet Wexler laughed, then looked appalled. “Reminds me of Moon Zappa. Remember Moon Zappa, Dee? Oh, you wouldn’t. You’re too young. Whose baby is it anyway?”

 

“Mine,” Pinkus said.

 

For a second, this stopped her. But only for a second. Janet Wexler’s smile was coy. “I didn’t know you were married, Pinky.”

 

“What he means is that Sweet Thyme is his sister’s baby. He’s babysitting.”

 

“Is your sister married to an African American? Or did they adopt?”

 

Pinkus opened his eyes wide at her and twisted to look over his shoulder at the baby. “Well, good lord, look at that. He’s black. Did you notice that before, Dee? Did you know our boy’s a little black African angel?”

 

Dee ground her teeth and handed Janet Wexler her charge slip.

 

“Not really black,” Janet Wexler said. “More like a rosy tan. You tell your sister I said he’s just scrumptious. I’d like to nibble those little toes –.”

 

The woman sounded like a cannibal. As she headed for the parking lot Pinkus cocked his hip to the side, waved and made a gagging face.

 

“That is exactly what I was talking about,” Dee said, threatening him with a water wand from a display near the counter. “That woman may be a fool when it comes to her garden, but she’s not stupid. Plus, she’s very nosy. She thinks that being the wife of the U.S. Attorney and Chair of the Advisory Board makes everything her business and now you’ve made her curious about that baby.”

 

Pinkus pursed his lips. “Calm down. Take a deep breath.”

 

“You think she’s just a silly, straight, suburban –”

 

“Fabulous alliteration, Dee.”

 

“Damn it, don’t dismiss me, Pinkus. She’s going to tell everyone she sees that you’ve got a sister with an African-American baby.”

 

“Now you’re a racist?”

 

“Pretty soon someone’s going to remember you and George have said plenty of times how all you have in the world is each other.”

 

“It was you that told her Sweet Thyme was my sister’s. Now we’re in for it and it’s your fault.”

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

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