I backed the U-Haul down the side of Knowlton Hardware. Marcus Izzard sat in his bucket loader, waiting.
“I told you this wasn’t going to work,” I screamed to Ghoul through my speaker phone.
“Should’ve got a bigger van,” he said. “You’ll figure it out. That’s why they pay you the big bucks.”
Ghoul hung up. The bucket loader lurched forward and the engine roared. I peeked at the side mirror and noticed Marcus Izzard, the crusty yokel who owned Knowlton Hardware. I rolled down the window, stuck my head out.
“How the hell you going to fit six yards of manure in that van?” yelled Marcus over the intimidating growl of his machinery.
“I’m not,” I said. “Can you deliver?”
I know I didn’t blink. Time did not slow nor did I space-out with a mini-seizure that I knew not to have. Somehow Marcus was next to me in the passenger seat, rolling a cigarette one-handed while whistling a nefarious rendition of the Mash jingle.
“Everything has a price, Sam.”
The sensation in my head felt like a coked-up bull raging in the plate department of a big-box retailer. I turned to Marcus, slapped the leather pouch of tobacco out of his hand and yanked his shirt collar, pulling him in close.
“Look here, man,” I was inches from his face, frothing like a rabid beast. “Have you ever been roped into doing something ridiculous by someone who calls you a friend? Nope, don’t even try to answer because I am not finished–I will tell you when it is time to speak and I don’t need no crossroads-demon-shit right now. This friend of mine, the one who put the manure and flowers and stones and mulch and planters on my credit card is setting me up for failure and I will not stand for this anymore. So this is what I need, Marcus: I need all that horseshit at my house within the hour or so help me God I will come down on you with the fury of one-thousands supernovas.”
Marcus shrugged, evaporated, and then reappeared in the seat of his bucket loader once more.
“I’ll follow you over,” he hollered, then drove off.
Ghoul offered to host Knowlton’s Garden Show in our yard. He never explained why, only reassured that it would all work out in the end. I told him then that he was on his own and I wanted nothing to do with flowers in general.
“Fine, I didn’t want your help anyways,” he proclaimed.
He worked night and day, transforming our modest parcel of suburban mediocrity into a rather impressive corner of floral quasi-paradise. Then it rained. For a week straight Knowlton was saturated with relentless downpours. Ghoul paid it no mind and carried-on with his task.
I came home from work one morning–maybe a fortnight before the big day–to find Ghoul incapacitated.
“I… need some help,” he gurgled.
Ghoul was heavier than a bundle of waterlogged cardboard festering in corpse mold. I loaded him into the wheel barrel and toted him to the bulkhead. When he hit the basement floor I thought of a soaking towel smacking off concrete.
Ghoul required a few days to dry. I was forced it to complete his endeavors. Now, I will admit that he nearly finished the custom stone walkways that weaved between beds of pretentious yet vibrant annuals and perennials; the water fountain was missing a few marble cherubs along the outside rim, and I had mixed fertilizer with soil, then topped off with cedar mulch to keep the back flies and mosquitoes at bay.
All in all, I was feeling good about this. The work was meditative and I felt my stress dissipating as I tilled and planted. I awoke that Sunday morning, ready to apologize for my shortness and eager to throw the best damned garden show Knowlton has ever seen.
Ghoul, though, was spiteful, maybe even a little petty.
“You look good in white,” he said as I stared red-faced in the mirror. “I think you’re losing weight, too. I am proud of you, Sam. Good work.”
He was right: I did look good in a white tuxedo. But that wasn’t the point. There was no way in hell that I was about to play server to Knowlton’s elitist scum.
“I’ll take some more of those stuffed mushrooms and champagne,” piped a women who resembled the Monopoly guy; monocle and all.
I sighed, then said, “Coming right up, ma’am.”
The garden show brought a crowd of unsavory one-percenters to our yard. Their well-to-do-and-holier-than-everyone demeanor choked life as we knew it. Slight overcast with a hazy partial-sun showcased them as leeches disguised as humans. Ghoul was ecstatic at the attention of such a grandiose crowd. He wore his best: salmon coat tails, a cane that was actually a sword, a top hat the color of an oil slick over the Indian Ocean, and wing tips made from llama hides.
And he took all the credit. That bastard.
“Yes, why thank you. I did put my heart and soul into all of this. This was me and me alone,” he bragged, falsely.
The surrounding gaggle chuckled like brain-dead penguins. I was sick to my stomach, ready to storm off and never return. A clang of metal on glass stopped me in my tracks.
“If I may have everyone’s attention,” announced Ghoul. “I want to reveal my most prized piece of the show.”
Ghoul sauntered around an immense multi-colored rosebush, stopping just before a strange flower that had yet to blossom. The clouds parted and rays of sun pried open and the lime-green outer petals of this mysterious plant. Oohs and ahhs dribbled from agape mouths like honey, thick and sweet. The flower underneath was the color of fire–reds, oranges, yellows, and tangerines–and how they shifted and danced.
“I give you… the Sam!”
Most were stunned in awe. Some muttered that the name was close to the stupidest fucking thing ever heard; hard to disagree with that one, it was like naming your pet Jimmy.
“Now where is that waiter,” Ghoul shouted. “I think we need more of those mushrooms. Oh Garcon!”
© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.