a fiction by John K. Adams
I first saw him standing at the foot of my driveway. He wasn’t doing anything. He stood there for a long time. Then he sat on the curb. He just sat there with no place to go.
I was talking to my agent, Stu. He works at Real Grounds Coffee shop & Real Estate office. When he’s not selling houses he’s a DOB, Doctor of the Bean. Not a real doctor but he can prescribe exotic blends of coffee for me when he thinks I need them.
He serves me coffee and always says it is “Muy robusto!”
And he found my house for me.
It’s a fixer-upper in a good neighborhood. You know, location and all that. The house doesn’t need much but its large yard is over grown with weeds and trash. That’s how he got me the good price, which was still substantial, believe me, but way below market.
But now I’ve got this guy hanging out in front of my house driving my property value down.
“So what’re you going to do?”
“I don’t know. Should I call the cops on him?”
“That might not help. Then when he gets out, you’ve got an angry homeless guy hanging around.”
“How can someone just hang out like that?”
“Hire him to help you with the yard. You need the help.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Just don’t do what my client did. He bought a house and promptly cut down all the trees.”
“He said he didn’t want to deal with the fall leaves.”
“What a dope!”
“He turned his yard into a desert, man. I can’t imagine what his AC bill was every month.”
When I got home, I looked at what I had taken on with the yard. It is huge. I could build a tennis court back there and it wouldn’t even be cramped. I couldn’t do that myself. And also, I’d need to take up tennis.
Maybe, in time, a koi pond in the back corner. Parts of the yard are so over grown, I couldn’t get through without a machete. But the jungle has potential.
I came home from work a few days later and noticed the yard looked better somehow. I wandered into the back and looked for changes. There was nothing specific. It just looked better. Greener.
I ducked under some low branches and saw it. The homeless guy had an encampment hidden back where he thought I wouldn’t notice. What if he burns the place down?
He was trespassing! I strode to the front but he wasn’t around.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I knew it was him. I should have ripped his tent up and thrown it into the street. Who knows what kind of company he keeps? Vermin.
Next morning, he wasn’t around. I wasn’t about to wake him in his camp. Hate to ruin his beauty sleep. I’ll meet him on my terms.
I left work early figuring I’d catch him and demand he vacate my property. Now.
When I got home, he was sitting by my driveway like the first time I saw him. Just staring. Is he high?
But I was in for a surprise. My yard looked great. I couldn’t believe it.
I pulled into the drive and walked around back. There were Canna growing there, in a little row. Very pretty.
I walked toward them and almost fell into the koi pond! It wasn’t exactly where I envisioned it going, but hey! And it was stocked with koi!
I approached my ‘tenant’. “Let’s walk around back. We need to talk.”
He looked at me suspiciously and started for the back. He had a funny rolling walk, like he was more adept at maneuvering around a boat deck, or clambering over rocks than walking on level ground.
“I don’t need to talk. What’s your problem?”
“Are you camping in my back yard?”
“What of it?”
“Did you fix up the yard? Nice job.”
“I bent a twig or two. No big deal.”
“I owe you. What do you want?”
“I could put you on regular. Give you a weekly check. Keep you busy. Do maintenance.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You could get a place. Stop sleeping on the ground.”
“You can’t afford it.”
“What? I could help…”
“You couldn’t pay me enough, man. Just let it go.”
“But you… Wait. I couldn’t pay you enough?”
“I don’t want your money.”
“But, what about equipment? Basics of life? A home?”
“You start paying me and then you start thinking you own me.”
“I don’t need anyone dictating to me like their secretary.”
“Set your own hours.”
“Then I depend on it and then you decide you don’t need me anymore and then I’ve got a bunch of crap to drag around with me. Let’s skip that movie.”
“I thought I could…”
“It’s too many rules, man. I don’t need it.”
He walked away. I couldn’t believe it. I’m begging to pay him and he walks away. I couldn’t afford it? Who is he?
I went and sat on the grass by the koi pond. The Canna reflected in the lazy water. The fish swam, gently rippling the surface. There were lily pads!
The sunlight faded into subtle shadings and pastels over the manicured lawn.
The yard was pretty much complete. Where before was nothing but chaos, now, wherever my eye came to rest, it took in a harmonious, multi-colored vision. This arched branch led to a cascade of flowers spreading over lush dichondra. Add in the birds and it was positively symphonic!
A half dozen hummingbirds hovered around me. Maybe more.
I went in and emailed my secretary that I wouldn’t be in the next day. I said something came up.
I got up before dawn and sipped a fresh coffee blend from my friend Stu’s apothecary while waiting for my mysterious tenant. I had to understand.
He emerged from the thicket at first light and ambled toward the front of the property. I pursued him to continue our conversation.
But strangely, it was difficult to follow him. At every step, vines and flowers would sprout up out of his footprints. Things were growing so fast, I found myself leaping over low hedges just to keep up.
I finally caught him by the driveway and confronted him.
“Hey! I just wanted to help you out.”
He was adamant. “You really don’t get it. You cannot buy me. I grace you and you cannot help but make it your show.”
“It’s not that, but…”
“Listen to yourself. You’re pathetic.” He lumbered away like a bear. Our meeting was over.
I felt so strange. Was I hallucinating? What was in that coffee Stu mixed up? Muy robusto, indeed.
I don’t remember anything after that until I found myself in my room. My head was in a fog. I needed coffee.
I looked out the window and the yard looked like it had a week ago, over grown and dry. Just like before my homeless camper came to stay. Weeds grew high. There were no flowers. The grass was patchy and brown. The wilderness had returned, as if nothing had changed. How could this be? What happened to my koi pond?
Stu was the sanest person I knew. I pulled out of my driveway and headed toward Real Grounds.
I came around a bend in the road and noticed a neighbor’s yard. Canna lined the driveway. Funny I’d never noticed them there before.
How beautiful they looked.