The Stranger's journey has now come full circle.
Join me in the bright sunshine at When Words Go Free...

There are still stories to be told.
Read them at The Stranger Looks Back.

The Gardener

He had never really gotten involved in the affairs of the town. Like Arthur Dent, he was the sort who minded his own business, and left others to mind theirs. In this equation, the town was part of "theirs." Until the town decided how his garden should be displayed. Then it became his business.

At first, he wasn't quite sure what was going on. He thought he might have made an error somewhere, maybe checked the wrong box on a form, and the whole thing was a misunderstanding. He headed out for the repair shops, and happened upon a crowd gathering at City Hall. It seemed that he had made no mistake; a new ordnance had been issued, and a number of other gardeners were in a similar situation.

The crowd demanded that the invisible overlords repeal the ordnance. They circulated petitions. They wrote letters of protest. They demanded answers. They threatened to leave and grow their gardens elsewhere. They ranted and raged. At first, the rent-a-cops that were generally the only visible sign of authority at City Hall didn't know exactly what was going on. They had known about the ordnance, but hadn't expected it to cause some of the problems it did. It became clear that the invisible overlords had made a few mistakes in the drafting of it.

The invisible overlords sent out a couple of emissaries to circulate among the crowd and gather information about these particular problems, something almost unheard of at the time. Eventually, they amended the ordnance to remove the severest of the new restrictions, but said nothing about the rest. His own immediate problems had been resolved, but by then he was already drawn into the fray.

While others left to tend to their own affairs, he stayed with the crowd to protest what he still thought was an injustice, even though it no longer affected him directly. He explained his continued involvement with the old maxim about them having first come for the communists and there eventually being no one left to speak up. He realized that rules concerning the display of gardens was a long way off from the situation that inspired Niemöller's words, but it was a matter of principle.

The most glaring of injustices having been dealt with and the emissaries having left, the rent-a-cops took a marked turn in their dealings with the crowd. Their initial sympathy disappeared, replaced with a hard-line justification of the ordnance. They spoke of limited resources, criticized greed among the gardeners, and made it clear that the ordnance was here to stay. They implied rather than stated that this was the final decision of the invisible overlords, who remained as silent as they were invisible. The rent-a-cops openly invited those who were still upset to uproot their gardens and replant them elsewhere, and many did.

His own fervour had subsided somewhat. Early on, he had left the crowd for a brief period to take a look around the exterior of the fortress that was City Hall. He had come across what appeared to be a back door, and rang the bell. Eventually someone answered, apparently having been awakened from a deep slumber. They knew nothing about the situation or the crowd that was protesting in front of the building; in fact, they knew very little about gardens beyond the fact of their existence.

Nevertheless, they expressed polite interest in his concerns, and promised to pass them on. After another long wait, someone else appeared at the door. This person seemed to be somewhat less somnolent, but almost equally ignorant about issues relating to the display of gardens. They asked him to write a summary that they could pass on to the invisible overlords,  which he promised to do.

He returned to the crowd and began by compiling a list of the various petitions and letters of protest - he thought that surely this would impress the invisible overlords with the gravity of the situation, as well as form the basis of his summary. Having completed this list, he found that he had become weary and could use a short break before writing the requested report.

He wandered into the repair district and helped a few gardeners with some unrelated problems. He strolled through the school district, where he popped into some classes to share some of what he had learned about gardening. He found that he quite enjoyed this, and began to forget all about the ordnance; by this time he had stopped screaming about it and had started to advise other gardeners on how to live with it.

One evening after making the rounds of several classes, he felt a bit tired and thought that a strong coffee would perk him up, and maybe he would get to that report that he was supposed to have written. He headed toward the café district, where he met up with a few other souls wandering around aimlessly. It was a quiet evening during which the coffee that was being offered for consumption was not particularly full-bodied or flavourful.

He began to wonder what he was doing there, and thought that others might be asking themselves the same question. He picked a spot at which he could present this query to passersby. To his surprise, people started to drop in to chat with him. Few actually answered his question, but the conversation was engaging enough for him to stay.

He started visiting many other gardens, and became inspired to grow a second one of his own, which he has found to be quite rejuvenating, even at his age. Sometimes he imagines the flowers in his new garden to represent other gardeners he has met.

He still puts in a hand at the repair shops and wanders into a classroom from time to time, and once in a while he walks past City Hall to see what the issue of the day is. The crowd protesting the ordnance is long gone, its participants having learned to live with what is.

He hasn't been to the back door of the fortress since his initial visit, but he always carries a little map reminding him of where to find it, just in case. And of course, he never did write that report.


Miss Melicious said...

great read! It's been a while...welcome back.

Mrs Midnite said...

Interesting Legacy, I wonder if my interpretation is what you intended, I suspect not.

#1Nana said...

Hummm...a metaphor, right? I always appreciated the advice of the gardener.

kikinotdee said...

I know this story and I remember the time of the great overlord fuck up, my alter-ego was born that day :)
I love your stories legs especially when I get to read the second part of one "nudge nudge".