Watching the gardener’s gradual progress he thought how tiring it must be. How satisfying though, to be able to see instant results of your hard work. That’s always good.
On this early evening in June the sky is hanging low, shrouded in layers that prevent the sun from breaking through. It’s there though, the sun, somewhere, the dense tiers of cloud closely hiding a surprising mugginess. From the motel window, this high up, he should be able to see pretty much the whole town and beyond its straggling outskirts. The distant fields and hills though are veiled in pale monotones. He likes his room. It feels safe up here overlooking the almost empty car park. His car is there, a shy vehicle in its space on the edge next to the trees, hanging back. Like a wallflower waiting to be asked to dance. The yellow lines demarking the vacant bays stand out in their loneliness, glowing teasingly like strands of sunbeams in the absence of the reluctant sun. So, he was the only guest, was all alone here too.
Glimmering through the haze, it’s a steady movement that had made him wonder about job satisfaction. A weary looking gardener is pushing a red mower up and down and across a sloping grass verge which separates the motel car park from the main highway. Backwards and forwards the man traverses the expanse of green. There he goes again. The mesmerizing repetitive motion makes his mind wander. Wandering, he thought. Is that why I’ve ended up here? Unlike the gardener who knows his route, he has less idea of where he’s heading. But he’s all too aware of where he’s come from. Of what‘s been left behind.
He wonders how long it will take the gardener to finish the plot. Leaning out of the window he can now see how the colour of the grass changes once it has been shorn, as if a paintbrush was attached to the bottom of the machine. Short clippings are deposited along the route. He can see them flying up in the air, propelled by the force of the sharp blades. He worries slightly that they will freckle the newly painted landscape, how they will dry out and turn yellow. A forgotten day comes to him.
She had wanted eggs. He’d only got ham. He hadn’t thought she might not eat meat. The green smell of hay lingered unhurriedly in the pink evening haze. Juice from her apple had dropped onto her freckled arms and he worried about the wasps again. They had been swarming lazily around one of the bales earlier. Up they rose, hovered and dived back down, their wings battling to keep cool.
He notices the mower has stopped, taking a bit of a rest. It’s a sweaty job, there’s no doubt about that. He kind of wishes he could go out there and talk with him, take him a beer or something. He places a cold bottle that he’s been holding to his forehead before taking a swig.
She had wanted beer. He’d only got one. They shared that one bottle that evening. They shared that young summer too, toiling the land, working in the fields, heads covered to shield the sun. He hadn’t wanted the harvest to end. But by then the fields had been plucked bare and the wasps were making plans to hide away.
The sun finally wins its struggle to emerge, like a hole appearing in paper under a magnifying glass, slightly singed at the edges. Then its abrupt searching glow starts to highlight sparse raindrops which seem to have come from nowhere. Interspersed with the stray grass clippings spitting into the air, they look like shards of warm icicles. The glinting spears could be mistaken for diving fireflies. Or wasps.
She had wanted to go. He’d only wanted to stay, his ambitions as hazy as the late September. He went with her though. Followed her, a wasp attracted to her sweetness. And now here he was. Ten years later in a familiar haze. And he’d only wanted to stay.
The gardener reaches the concrete verge. One last swoop and stops. Looking up at the sultry sky, he wipes his brow again, a mixture of sweat and raindrops this time. But he is smiling. He can see that he is smiling. Job well done.