March 22, 2010

Photo by Pam Wells ©2010

Joe and Evan waited near the barberries, in no hurry at all to move out of the sun. Audrey and Felder studied the specimens.

“They were so cute when they were little,” she said. “But now—”

“Couple of stunners, all right,” he said.

“Aren’t they? That purple on chartreuse.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t mess with ‘em,” Joe said. He rested his bare arm across the handle of the shovel.

“Me neither,” Evan said.

“We have to do something,” Audrey said. “The purple one’s gonna eat the gold one alive by the end of the summer.”

“Maybe somebody planted them too close together,” Evan said.

Audrey took no offense. “Oh, and life is always planned, is it?”

“Hmmm…” Felder said. It was unclear if he would finish the thought as he walked around the back of the dark Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea. Its graceful, fountain-like symmetry, seven feet high and wide, dwarfed its golden cultivar, B.t. ‘Aurea’. “You might shear it,” he said. “Barberries make nice hedges.”

“Oh, no,” Audrey said.

“Hey, Steve McQueen saved civilization from The Blob,” Joe said. “This is its spawn.”

“I’ll get the chain saw,” Evan said.

“We’re transplanting, not exterminating,” Audrey said. “You guys might want to put on long sleeves.”

“Why? It’s seventy degrees out here,” Evan said.

Audrey picked up a shovel. “Or wrap the blob in a tarp so you can get in there without impaling yourselves on the thorns.” The boys looked at her as if she were speaking Latin. She gave up trying to advise them but insisted they leave plenty of dirt on the small barberry’s rootball. She carried her shovel across the yard where the plants fell into a common range of mid-greens. A garden bench was the sole point of interest. Felder, looking flushed and damp, trailed behind.

“They’re good kids,” he said. “Got minds of their own. Now, gold-leafed plants, they… they like a little afternoon shade.”

Something in his voice made Audrey look at him. “Are you okay?”

“S’pose I could use a little afternoon shade, too.” As he sat on the bench, Evan’s yell tore across the yard— “Ow-w-w-w-w! Sonuva—!”

Joe inspected the bloody scratches across his brother’s arm.

“I wasn’t very good at taking advice, either,” Felder said.

“From your mother?”

“Especially my mother. Sara, too. Sara loved to give advice. ‘Felder, don’t eat hamburgers. Felder, don’t smoke cigars. Felder, tell ‘em to take my name off the heart list because I don’t need it anymore; you do.’ Ha! That was Sara.”

• • • • •

Audrey firmed the soil around the relocated plant, which indeed added a little chartreuse drama to that side of the yard. Evan’s scratches were less dramatic and much more temporary.

©2010 Pam Wells


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