There was a mass client bailout on what promised to be one of the nicest days of the autumn, so after impressing a cardiologist with a sore shoulder (I rather like working on doctors who are open minded enough to get a massage; I can use techy talk to explain what I’m doing) I geared up the hedge clipper. I have got workmen coming in a week to install another round of replacement windows, somewhat against my better judgement. I wasn’t going to spend the money but the salesman who managed the upstairs job, which was a rare marvel of solicitous customer service (I only had to throw one tantrum) made an offer I couldn’t refuse. So I decided to give myself windows for my birthday, more or less.
This means shearing away the summer’s overgrowth so the guys can get to the outside of the house. The shrubbery is holly so this is no joke. I have already been at it with loppers and a pruning shear but some of it was a job for an electric clipper. The minute I plugged it in, David appeared by magic, wondering if he could borrow the power cord for a minute to run his electric drill.
I haven’t seen David, my voluble gardener, in days. He has gotten a lot of carpentry jobs now, a practical shift in workload since he is exactly my age but has been run a lot harder. At the cusp of fifty-seven he boasts a separated shoulder, various minor joint injuries, a host of the kind of arcane ailments that people profess when they read too many natural health magazines, and the visible sequelae of an early life spent closing bars and sleeping in dubious locations (I have no way of knowing for sure but I suspect open fields and the backs of pickup trucks).
David hired some Central American crap artist in his lawn-mowing business this summer and the lawn mower has never been the same. I knew Marco was trouble the day he applied to me for water — it was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit out there, so I brought him a quart, iced, in an oversized commuter cup, you know those things with caps and a drinking spout. I never saw the cup again. Somehow he figured out a way to fuck up a 200 dollar lawnmower so that it ramps and roars spastically in a stinking, bravura display of bad carburetion and erratic engine timing. He kept coming back, like Bartleby the Scrivener, even after David told him to go away in the name of the Baby Jesus and all twelve of the Apostles. Around August he finally sloped off somewhere but David is still trying to tighten occult bolts on the mower (he keeps it under my porch, which is his auxiliary equipment cache), a job which at last drove him to buy a bit kit so he could use his drill as a power screwdriver/wrench.
After an hour in the shrubbery I know:
— the price of avocadoes at the IGA supermarket chain
— the size of David’s emergency room bill from chest pain last month, which was probably a muscle spasm
— two of the specific exercises he was prescribed for knee pain by a physical therapist
— that coriander neutralizes toxins in your system
— the price (to the penny; $8.44) of a post cap for a treated wood railing at Home Depot
— that his colon doctor told him colon spasms could cause chest pain, ’cause, you know, he has colon trouble
— the price of the drill bit kit he bought at Home Depot
— how much David currently weighs
and many, many more edifying and enriching facts.
I finally fled to the rear of the house for leaf bags to stuff the clippings into as the sun sank to the level of the horizon. Mrs. David had been sitting at the curb idling the motor for twenty minutes but there were so many things whose prices David needed to tell me.
I would offer to help him with his shoulder, his knee, his TMJ, and whatever all else but my ears couldn’t take it. The half-crazed condition I entered after twenty minutes of his monologue seems to have served me well as an energy source, notwithstanding. The shrubbery is actually looking pretty spiffy.