January 22, 2010

A break in the weather sent Audrey outside to deadhead the hydrangeas. In six months they would fill the garden with blue, but now they were papery brown echoes. She was careful to cut each stem down to a pair of fat buds, not into the old wood.

“Don’t be precious,” came a voice. An old man’s voice.

Photo by Pam Wells ©2010

Audrey looked up. She couldn’t see anyone.

“You’ll be there all day,” the voice said.


“Or maybe that’s what you want.”

Audrey turned toward the arborvitae hedge between her house and the next door neighbor’s. “Hello?” she said.

A white-haired man walked through a gap in the hedge. One of the shrubs had died last year and Evan had volunteered to remove it with a chain saw, along with a perfectly good one next to it.

“Nice patch of macrophyllas,” he said, and tucked a pair of red-handled pruners into his jacket pocket.

“Thank you,” she said, extending her gloved hand. “Um, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Audrey.”

“Audrey,” he repeated. “No, I travel quite a bit, and—oh—” He fumbled for the phone ringing in his pocket. “Oh, boy, I have to get this, I mean I really have to get this.” Answering, he waved and stepped back through the gap in the hedge.

“Nice to meet you,” Audrey said.

• • • • •

Audrey turned off the blow dryer when Carl came into the bedroom. “I met one of the neighbors,” she said. “The brown house.”

“Yeah?” Carl said, kicking off his shoes.

“His name is Felder. One of his daughters is a pilot.”

“That’s spectacular. You want a beer?” Carl was putting on his sweatpants.

Audrey shook her head. “He offered me some tickets for tonight.”

“Oh, Aud—”

“They’re free. He can’t use them because he has to go to PDX to meet his daughter.”

“The pilot.”

“Yeah, she has a layover for a few hours. You know they fly these pilots halfway across the country just to get to work—”

Carl was halfway across the kitchen just to get his beer when Audrey told him the tickets were for the Winterhawks. He went back upstairs, put on his pants and took his son to the hockey game.

Audrey spent a quiet evening reading up on dormant pruning.

©2010 Pam Wells


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