Planting the Seed
“Got a minute?” he asked.
I’d seen him around the area for the past few days. He was busy, landscaping mostly, installing water features, planting trees. He was a hard worker and so old that I couldn’t even guess at his age. It didn’t seem to affect him. He labored like a young man, full of energy, vital. He stretched his back out and walked over.
“If you’re not busy, I have a job for you,” he continued, wincing a bit as he worked out some kinks. “It won’t be very difficult. I just need a little help to get some things started around here, and I think you’d be perfect. Once you get the ball rolling, it’ll be more of a supervisory position. Mostly just consultations.”
His eyes seemed to look through me. Lying to this guy would be damned near impossible. I squirmed a little when he looked right at me, but his face was so kind it took the sting out of his gaze. And his voice was so warm it felt sorta like a blanket, ya know? I glanced around.
“Great job you’ve done to this place,” I said. “Really beautiful.”
“Hey, thanks,” he grinned. “This garden is the showplace of the whole project. It turned out even better than the sketches. There’s a lot more that you can’t see from here, miles and miles, but this is the highpoint.”
“You do great work,” I said and smiled. “Seems like a lot of effort, though, for a man your age.”
He chuckled. “I’ve been around a while, no doubt about that. I think it’s important to stay busy if you wanna stay young. Every now and then I get this creative urge and the years just slip away. Next thing you know, I’m back at it, working my tail off. I don’t know. I need it, I guess.”
We sat in silence for a while. I could hear water rushing in the distance and the call of a Killdeer. A bumblebee droned by.
“Well, how ‘bout it?” he asked, putting his hands on his knees and levering himself to his feet. “The job, I mean.”
“Why not?” I replied. “This is wonderful. I’d love to be a part of it.”
“Great!” he grinned. He had very white teeth. “But I’ve gotta be completely honest with you. Even though you will be vital to this project, history will judge you harshly, I’m afraid. Over the years you will be much maligned. They’ll probably even forget your real identity. Can you handle that?”
I didn’t hesitate. “As long as you and I know the truth, who cares?”
“Wonderful!” he beamed. “I’ve just got a couple of more things to attend to,” he went on, walking off toward the sound of the water. “I noticed some great clay on the riverbank. This won’t take very long at all. Thanks in advance for all your help. You and I won’t be seeing each other again.”
“Hang on a minute,” I said. “What’s gonna happen?”
“Oh, yeah,” he chuckled, reining in his enthusiasm a little. “I guess you’d like to know that. There’ll be a couple of people along shortly. I need you to spend some time with them.”
“Okay, but where will you be?”
A wistful look came into his eyes. “I’ll be around,” he replied a little sadly. “I just won’t be around.”
As he headed off down the slope, I shouted. “Yeah, but what am I supposed to do with these people?”
His yell carried up through the trees.
“Just offer them choices!”
The ground was a little damp, so I climbed up into a tree to wait. The old man was right. In almost no time at all, a young couple came walking up the trail. I drew back into the branches so they couldn’t see me and watched them for a while. Great kids. Innocent, loving, fearless, happy, not a care in the world. I gotta confess, I was really tempted to just go on my way and leave them to hell alone, but I’d promised the old guy and, as they say, a promise is a promise. Pretty soon the young man wandered off. When the young woman passed under my tree, I eased out onto a branch where she could see me and rattled some leaves. She looked up.
“How ya doin’?” I said.
“Oh, hi!” she replied. “I haven’t seen you before.”
“That’s because I was hiding.”
“Why would you hide?” she asked.
The bumblebee returned and settled on her shoulder. She gently caressed its wings as it waddled around.
“I didn’t want to make you self-conscious by openly watching you,” I said. “You’re not wearing any clothes.”
“That’s okay,” she smiled. “I’m not cold.” The bee lifted off and bumbled away on the breeze.
“Do you like the garden?” I asked.
“A lot!” she gushed. “It’s very beautiful.”
“It is, isn’t it?” I said. “That old guy did a great job.”
“I love it here,” she said, turning in a circle and stretching, her skin dappled by sunshine through the trees.
“What about outside the garden?” I asked.
“Sure. There’s a whole world outside this garden. It’s huge. Much bigger than here. Maybe there’s a nicer place than this out there somewhere.”
“How could there be?” she asked, looking a little pensive.
“You never know,” I smiled.
“No, I’m almost sure there isn’t,” she replied, biting her lip a little and glancing around. “This place is fine.”
A butterfly jittered by, circled her, and landed on her left breast.
“Where’s your friend?” I asked.
“Uh, I don’t know. He walked off somewhere, I guess.”
“He left you? Wow.”
“No, he didn’t leave me. He’s just not here right now.”
“It’s probably for the best,” I assured her. “It gives us time for a little chat.” I smiled down at the girl. “After all, he doesn’t have to know everything you do. You’re entitled to a little privacy.”
Her brow furrowed. “I guess,” she said, brushing the butterfly off her breast and swatting at it.
“Maybe he’s off chatting with somebody else,” I went on. “Maybe he’s learning a lot of stuff you don’t know. I mean, he left you, didn’t he? He went off by himself, didn’t he?”
“He’ll be back,” she said, peering into the trees.
“Of course he will,” I smiled. “I can only speak for myself, but if I had someone as lovely as you are waiting for me, I’d certainly return.” I let my eyes briefly roam over her body.
“Thank you,” she blushed. “Maybe if I put some flowers in my hair I’d be prettier, and he’d like me more.”
“Now you’re catching on,” I said. I shook the branch on which I lay and a piece of fruit fell to the ground. “Why not have a snack before he gets back, and we’ll talk a while and get to know each other.”
“Is it ripe?”
“Oh, Darlin’, more than you know,” I replied.
A few moments later, when she noticed me watching juice from the fruit as it dribbled across her chest, she covered herself with an arm and turned partially sideways.
“This is really good,” she said. “It’s so sweet.”
I gave her my best smile. “Yes, you are,” I said.
“Thank you,” she giggled, and turned again to face me.
“You’ll have to share the fruit with your friend when he comes back.”
“Sure,” she said, “but before he does, we’re going to have that chat, right?”
“And,” she continued, “maybe you could help choose some flowers for my hair.”
I nodded. “That’s what it’s all about, Sweetheart. Choices.”
It didn’t take long. Those kids were candy. Soon they were keeping secrets, doubting themselves and each other, struggling for power, helping one another be wrong, trying to find happiness in useless things. Hell, you know what I mean. You know exactly what I mean. It’s the same kind of nonsense you go through every day. I’m not particularly proud of it, but I did my job very well. And I’m still doing it. I have amazing job security.
Oh, by the way, I never did introduce myself. It’s very nice to meet you.
My name is Ego.