Monday, January 14, 2008
Somewhere, in a dark cobblestone alley...
Neuros leaned leisurely against the wall beside the back entrance of a worn down bowling alley, the fog from his freezing breath and the puffs of cigarette smoke mingling together in the brisk winter air. He was dressed for the cold, but not so much that he couldn't pass for a worker out on a smoking break. Which, by the way if you were to ask him, he was.
Not that the topic would come up. After all, this alley, at this hour, was not exactly a hub of society. At least, not most society. Neuros only planned on talking to one man that night. That man had just turned a corner and was walking up the alley, as slowly and casually as any stranger would walk towards another. His gate betrayed no knowledge of the man taking a smoking break until they were within feet of each other. By then, the stranger had spotted the smoker's face out of the corner of his eye. He greeted him.
"Hello, Neuros. I didn't take you for the type that smoked."
"You haven't talked to me in so long, I don't expect you to be able to take me for anything." Neuros said, dropping the butt to the ground. It landed in a dusting of snow and went out with a sizzle before he could grind it with his heel. "I don't, really. Its mostly for cover." he said, smirking as he looked up at his old accomplis.
"I appreciate you meeting with me. I heard you had retired."
"Oh, you know my type...we rarely really retire. " His voice became a bit softer- "At least... not with people like you, Wanderer. "
Wanderer looked away and coughed for a second, then seemed to pause before talking again. "Thanks."
"I haven't seen you since, what... 20? You look a bit different now, you know. Your wearing black." he added, half jokingly.
Wanderer looked at his coat briefly as he produced a small vile from it. "I'm wearing something." he said distantly as he popped the cap off, letting steam rise from the top. He noticed Neuros's inquisitive look. "Nothing from a paper bag, Neuros. Just coffee."
"I must say-" he said in a pleasantly surprised tone, "You've done better then I thought you would have. Your discharge, was it...?"
"It was a discharge, okay?" Wanderer snapped back, "but...I don't think its permanent. "
"Sorry....So, whats the occasion?"
Wanderer put the lid on the vile and slipped it back into his coat as he cleared his throat. "I have a...gardening dilemma, so to speak."
Neuros expression barely changed, but his eyes betrayed a smiling understanding. "Botany; of course. Do tell."
"There is a garden I've been watching back in the country- a very special garden. Its fruits will be prized, its promise is unmatched. I've spent a lot of time walking through its rows, smelling its air. It is a beautiful garden. I've thought about it, and I've decided I want to cultivate it myself so that it can better meet its potential and so I can have the opportunity to enjoy toiling with such fortuned soil.
Neuros laughed softly. "Thats quite a speech... I've always thought you were a green thumb at heart. Whats the problem?"
"Someone else is tending it already."
Neuros furrowed his brow. "Does he own it?"
"No one owns it!" Wanderer shot back, slightly surprised at the seething tone in his own voice. "Its a wild garden."
"But- he got to it first. "
The man out on his smoking break raised his head up in thought, and let out a slow deliberate breath that filled the air above them with a fleeting fog. "Is this man dying?"
"Is this gardener a very wicked man?"
"No... I wish he was. He's a very nice man, actually. I almost like him. But I know I could do better- and there is no other soil like this. The fortuned soil suffers from my inaction, in a way. "
"Do you plan on taking it?" Neuros asked calmly.
"Perhaps. " Wanderer turned his head to meet the gaze he could feel being directed towards him. "Look, I know its not...ideal. But it might be an opportunity that I just can't give up. He...he doesn't appreciate the soil, anyway."
"Do you know that?"
"It doesn't matter if I know it! All I can do right now, is LOOK at it. I want to be a part of it, Neuros! I want the dirt between my fingers, I want to be invested in this land. I want to nurse it through the droughts, fend of its pests and celebrate its bounties when they come. I know I can. I know I'm right for the job..."
Neuros was silent, his expression, unreadable. After a moment, Wanderer continued.
"Some fruit- they rolled out of the plot. Several of them, actually. I tasted them. Its out of this world. I need this fruit- and Neuros, I think it needs me, too. "
"So you are going to take it?"
Wanderer relaxed a bit and took out his vile again. "I don't know... not just yet. " He took a sip. "I'll continue to watch it. I'll hold off my decision until another year or so passes by. A lot of things can happen in a year, you know? Maybe, the gardener will take sick. Perhaps he will be distracted with business afar and abandon the land. Perhaps there will be an accident. There is always the chance that he will be out of the equation. Then.... " Wanderer tapped his vile of coffee, nervously distracted in thought. "Then I wouldn't have to deal with it. "
"Your not suggesting...taking him out of the picture yourself, are you?" Neuros asked, his normally blank expression betraying a hint of anxiety.
Wanderer put the vile back and dusted off his coat. He looked at the ground and appeared as if he were about to say something, but instead he just shook his head. Finally, he looked up.
"Well, thanks. Thanks for listening, friend. "
"Thats all... we haven't talked in a while, and I'm not sure when the next time will be so.... I figured I should let you know what I might do. "
As Neuros looked at Wanderer, one could not tell if he was more angry, surprised, or proud. It didn't really matter. Wanderer went on.
"Because I know- if anything goes wrong? Any plan you could start working on right now for just that occasion will prove itself very useful. "
And with that, Wanderer turned and walked away.
TO BE CONTINUED...