Monday, November 23, 2009

Topiary Mash

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Topiary" in Mirror Shards:

It wasn’t that the sculptures were bad. Far from it, really. Visitors to the gardens remarked with awe and envy at the artistry of the carefully-pruned plants. Lord Trevor had had several offers for his gardener, in money, land, and… favors, to put it bluntly. He’d thus far resisted, but the plants were unnerving.

Trevor was taking a constitutional, somewhat nervously, when he came across the gardener, digging beside the topiary lion.

“Working already?” said Trevor.

“Got unruly last night,” the man grunted.

Trevor hesitated. He spotted what looked like a skull in the man’s hands. “Oh. Er. Carry on.”

"Cindy!" bellowed Lord Alexander from his offices. She swallowed and counted to ten -- he had never summoned her husband, Beauregard, this way -- before walking to Lord Alexander's office.

"Do you recall Lord Wilshire's interest in Garpax. He'd been willing to trade us his country estate outside of Cornwall for the gardener. Be so kind as to arrange it and see if you can't also get him to throw in one of his Italian paintings as part of the deal."

"Yes, sir."

"I've told you a hundred times, don't call me sir. Call me Trevor."

Sure, thought Cindy, as soon as you start treating me like you treated my husband before he went off to the trenches. "Is that all?" asked Cindy.



Cindy found Guypax amidst narrow green leaves strewn across the stone path like fur while he trimmed the bear shrub. "Guypax," said Cindy. Guypax looked up with a leaf stuck in his mustache. "We've told you before that your gardens are famed across London."

"Yes." Cindy could see Guypax swallow.

"Lord Wilshire has made an offer that Lord Alexander couldn't resist. Lord Wilshire wants you to start immediately."

"But --"

"You should feel proud," said Cindy, "Lord Wilshire traded you for a well-esteemed estate."

"But, my hedges here --"

"Will stay here of course. I'm sure Lord Wilshire would like you to create something new. Your lions, tigers, and bears can stay here. We'll find another gardener -- of course, someone less skilled than you -- to maintain your creations. In fact, I may be able to convince Lord Alexander to pay you a retainer for advice in the future."

"But, you don't understand. The lions, tigers, and bears --"

"I do understand," said Cindy. "They will stay here."

"But, they need my steady hand to cool their unruliness and besides, I can't go somewhere else. It's the magic of the land here that makes these plants so special. I can't re-create this garden. And you don't want it to live without me."

He was trying to scare her. It was so despicable, sure she was a woman but she could run a household. "It is final. You will collect your things and be ready for Lord Wilshire's chauffeur to pick you up this afternoon." Cindy clicked her heels and turned away. It was going to take all afternoon to find a replacement gardener.

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