Sweet Thyme Baby – 33

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

33

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

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By nine a.m. the next morning Dee had transplanted most of the hens and chickens, the phone had rung several times, the UPS man had delivered four boxes of bulbs from Holland and she was working so hard at not thinking she had given herself a headache.

 

At this rate, she would keel over before her date with Sam Green.

 

Date. What a stupid word to use for two adults eating dinner together. And how stupid she had been to let herself get talked into it. But it was done now and there was no graceful way to bail.

 

So don’t be graceful, she thought. Rudeness was an option that would surprise no one in Cabrillo Point where she had a reputation for being abrupt although it wasn’t the way she had ever consciously chosen to be. But she did not want to be rude to Sam. He was a nice guy and no great pal of his brother-in-law. They would have their date. Dinner. But the conversation would stay cool and neutral. And afterwards, if he wanted to see her again or if he made a pass –.

 

Pass. Another stupid word. What do kids say now? If he hit on her.

 

Maybe he would keep his hands to himself. Maybe Sam Green would turn out to be a different sort of man, a man who didn’t think with his dick. And maybe Holland bulbs would sprout petunias.

 

Dee lugged a bag of potting soil out of the shed and into the store. She hefted it onto the bench at the back, and split it down the middle with her Swiss Army knife. The smell was as rich and reviving as the espresso last night. She dumped it into a rubber garbage can with the words “special mix” printed on its side in red paint. She added vermiculite and a heaping bucket of fresh compost from the pile at the side of the nursery, a little sand, a little fish meal, a few vitamins and then dug into the mix with a long wooden pole, turning it until it was blended.

 

Pinkus and George came through the back door with Sweet Thyme’s wicker basket held between them.

 

“Leave him outside.”

 

“You have to babysit,” George said. “Maggie’s got a cold. She can’t take care of a baby.”

 

“Where are you going?”

 

“Downtown.”

 

“You were gone all day yesterday. It’s planting season, Guys. I need you here.”

 

“This is business,” Pinkus said.

 

“It’s personal, Dee.”

 

She looked at them in their shirts and ties and pressed chinos. Their expressions screwed down tight.

 

“Put him outside the door. Under the camellias where it won’t get too sunny.”

 

“You can’t ignore him all day.”

 

“What do you mean ‘all day’? You’re going to be gone all day?”

 

George looked at Pinkus.

 

“Well?”

 

“This is baby business,” George said.

 

“You’re going to the police?”

 

George pinched his lips together. “So. Now you know.”

 

“Why don’t you take him with you?”

 

Exasperation oozed from Pinkus’s pores. “You must be kidding. You want us to take this little guy all the way downtown, schlep him around the police station –.”

 

“Think of the germs!”

 

Dee looked down at the baby in the white wicker basket. Eyes black-brown as potting soil shone back at her. A feeling kin to panic began in her stomach and spread. She jammed her hands into the pockets of her jeans and turned her back. “There’s cheese cloth in the shed. Make something to keep the bugs off him.”

 

“You’re a cold woman,” Pinkus said and George tisked his tongue.

 

“I’m not cold. I’m busy.”

 

But she was cold, why bother arguing? It was like being rude. She’d never meant to become a cold woman, it had just happened. Life had done it to her and that was that. The beautiful little girl from Lodi had grown up to be a cold and sharp-tongued woman.

 

Pinkus huffed. “Going to the police is the very last thing we want to do. So you don’t like babies. So that’s your right. But right now we’re asking you to put your personal feelings –.”

 

“Let me get this straight. Everything I’ve said about Sweet Thyme being someone’s baby, about how if anyone finds him here it means trouble for us, all that makes me super bitch. Right? And you guys are saints or martyrs or something? Is that it? Just so I’ve got it straight. Leave the baby here. Strap him to my tits if it’ll make you happy. Just lay off the sanctimonious shit, okay?” There were no tears in her eyes. She never cried.

 

George put his big clumsy hand on her shoulder. She felt his kindness and flinched. “Pinky didn’t mean what he said.”

 

“You do everything, Dee. Whether you want to or not. I know that.”

 

She bent her head and stared at the floor, her arms across her breast. She felt their hesitation, then heard them step away and go. The door closed and she waited a moment for her insides to relax. But they didn’t. She grabbed a roll of antacid tablets out of her shirt pocket and bit one into her mouth.

 

Somewhere in her bedroom closet was the old backpack she was wearing the day she came to the garden. She could have it packed and ready to go in fifteen minutes. Adios Maggie and out the door. Out of the garden and Cabrillo Point.

 

Sweet Thyme’s basket was on the counter under the back window. She walked to it and stood looking down.

 

She whispered, “Goodbye, Sweet Thyme.”

 

The boy kicked free of his blanket and grinned and gurgled. The soles of his brown feet were as silky pink as camellias.

 

She saw he had a tooth coming in.

 

Serena had been inconsolable when she was teething but every inch of Sweet Thyme squirmed with joy.

 

“What would it take to make you cry?” She leaned over the basket and pinched his thigh hard. She jerked her hand away, ashamed. Her thumb and forefinger had left an indentation; but from Sweet Thyme, no tears. He giggled and rocked from side to side. His arms reached out and his hands clenched and opened, clenched and opened.

 

Because he was alive and happy, she wanted to hit him.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

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