Ali’s Gardener Pt 1, a short story by KiwiDreamer. Date added: 2012-05-29. Times viewed: 2168.
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- Intro: A guy whose wife runs out on him opts out of mainstream life and becomes a gardener to an industrialist and his much younger, wealthy and bored wife.
Chappie (Charlton) Scott returned to his homeland with a fair-sized cash account with his bank’s London office ready to be transferred to a bank in his new hometown when and wherever he settled.
He’d left a wife and two kids in North Africa. Chappie had gone to bed one night after a row with Bubba and when he awoke in the morning she’d gone with the two kids and his long wheelbase Land Rover and everything of value.
She’d cleaned him out, the bitch.
Chappie reported the disappearance of his family and vehicle to the police and they took details and said they would be in touch.
The row had been over her boyfriend Anthony Grosse. Gross he was and a turd. He was always hanging around, her friend, not his. On that final night with his wife, Chappie told Bubba to get rid of Gross Grosse and she kicked him and attempted to break a bottle over his skull.
Chappie had ducked. The bottle slid down the side of his head and thudded into his shoulder, making him howl in pain. It had been a full bottle.
Chappie knew he was a foreign national in a country not overly friendly with Europeans. He was European. She was part Arab, part Italian and the kids were from her first marriage. He went out for breakfast and while eating decided what he should do: Go and find Mr Grosse, dent his head with a crowbar and bring Bubba and the kids home screaming and spitting at him.
And then what?
Chappie thought of a better move. He went to the bank and withdraw all of their money, much of it hers, before she thought of doing that. He went into the vault and signed for her box, emptied her expensive jewellery she’d conned out of her previous husband plus some that had been his elderly mother’s treasures, and then caught the first available flight to London. He’d been working only five weeks for Bengal Oil and had been paid his first month’s salary on Friday so didn’t bother to resign. It was goodbye Bubba, goodbye Bengal Oil, goodbye Algiers and hello again England.
Every day for two weeks he called that police station in Algiers about his missing family and vehicle and each time was told investigations were continuing but no progress had been made.
Chappie was sick of working in the oil industry and anyway this city he was settling in for a while had no oil industry. He was forty-six, a geologist, and this city he was thinking about settling in was where his late mom had grown up and she used to enthral him when he was a boy telling him fabulous stories about the place and its people.
Alas the city had an economy based on commerce, not mining, so geology was out except perhaps for a teaching post at one of the two universities but to hell with that.
Drinking at a bar, Chappie remembered one of his favourite stories his mother used to tell him about their gardener. Her family lived in an imposing house on a hill overlooking the big chemical plant that her father and his brother had owned. The gardener was an old man called Mr Bates and he taught his mom, then in her mid-teens, one hundred poems. Yes one hundred. His mom had told him to stop interrupting when he asked was she sure it hadn’t been a lot fewer than one hundred.
When at college Chappie had worked for almost four years during breaks at a nursery so he learned a lot about bulbs, trees and shrubs and ended up being able to identify hundreds of them and for a while was almost tempted to switch studies and become a botanist.
This nostalgic thinking ended and he left the bar and walked two blocks to the offices of The Midlands Star.
Chappie inserted an advertisement for next morning’s newspaper offering his services as a professional gardener at £20/hr. He thought that charge ought to scare away mean-minded moaners who wanted everything done on the cheap and would stand over him criticizing. He had a mind to try landscaping as well.
Yes a bit of gardening would calm him by resting his mind until he decided on a permanent career direction.
Mrs Riley who operated Riley’s Rooming House looked at Chapman in that special way women do when engrossed in carnal speculation. Yes the old bat looked as if she fancied him, well for one poke to see if he were better at it than Mr Riley. She was fat and approaching sixty and wore dirty clothes. Not a chance of that happening thank you Mrs Riley. Er unless he became desperate.
For three days Chappie’s cell phone remained silent. He rued buying the damn thing that obviously was surplus to his status of anonymity. He didn’t know anyone who’d call him. His parents were dead as were his two uncles and he didn’t like his two widowed aunts and they knew that, so they wouldn’t be calling him. His sister Janice might call him if she had the phone number but she’d only want to know if he could baby sit and lend her money, complaining her husband didn’t earn enough to allow her much discretionary spending. God why do women want to keep on spending money?
On the fourth morning after placing his failed advertisement in the Star his phone went.
“Are you the gardener?”
Chappie almost goofed and then remember his effort to start a temporary vocation. “Yes, a landscape gardener ma’am.”
“So you don’t do weeds?”
“I only attend to them if they get in the way of my horticultural creativity ma’am. My name is Charlton Scott.”
“That’s pretty highfaluting for a dirt turner.”
He was about to say mischievously that Scott was a fairly common name but discretion triumphed and said, “Then call me Chappie ma’am.”
She laughed, musically. Yes musically.
“Oh very well done. Perhaps I ought to interview you. Please come for lunch.”
“Do you know where to come?” she asked curiously.
“There’s no need. You’ll come for me.”
There was a pause. “Well I will send the maid in my car for you. Where are you?”
Chappie gave the address and Mrs Highfaluting sniffed and said her cook might be too afraid to venture into that part of the city.
“Tell her to keep the windows up, doors looked and have a butcher’s knife beside her.”
“Oh that’s a great idea. Thank you Chappie.”
The woman who sounded rather vivacious and that suggested she was pretty, took his address and said twelve and cut the call.
What cook would arrive in twelve days’ time? Chappie decided the woman had meant noon today so shaved on put on a clean shirt.
“Are you the cook?” called Chappie to the nervous-looking woman in the black Mercedes.
She opened the window a bit and said, “Yes I’m Mrs Cooke. Get in.” She removed a huge knife off the seat and placed it by her feet.
“Well unlock the door.”
She did that and said welcome and he said thank you Mrs Cooke.
“What do you do for the lady of the house?’ he asked, thinking that was a better opener and beginning a dispute about the weather or the state of the dollar or the international price of oil.
“I’m Mr and Mrs Maitland’s cook.”
“Oh very nice.” At that point the name of his potential employer meant nothing to him.
They drove up to an imposing house and Chappie felt it looked a little familiar but was certain he’d not seen it before.
As they walked from the garage Mrs Cooke pointed to a big chemical plant a mile away and said in obvious disapproval, “That’s where Mr Maitland spends far too much of his time.”
Chappie blinked and breathed out in astonishment. His late mom had been a Miss Maitland. This mansion looked familiar because when he was a kid he’d been shown photos of it dozens of times. Mr Maitland, if old enough, was his mom’s surviving brother or if younger he was his mom’s nephew and his cousin.
Chappie thought quickly and decided to remain anonymous. It was unlikely he could claim a pile of loot simply by being family, so why waste his time?
A pretty woman of about forty with long black hair and looking athletic stood on the front steps waiting for them. She didn’t wave.
“That’s Mrs Maitland the 3rd. They get younger all the time. She’s not forty yet. Himself collects women like trophies.”
“How interesting,” Chappie smiled, thinking he liked his uncle already.
Mrs Cooke shot him a withering look and said she hoped he wasn’t hired.
Chappie groaned to himself he must stop thinking that word every time a woman did something not to his approval. Apparently women hated the word and yet most of them used it when referring adversely about other women. It didn’t add up.
As Chappie drew close to Mrs Maitland his dick twitched. God she looked like an ex-stripper and the modest, beautifully shaped twin projections were breath-taking.
“Good afternoon,” he said almost breathlessly.
“Mrs Maitland this is Mr Scott,” said her cook.
“How do you do Chappie?”
“The glory of this dwelling and its location has quite taken my breath away,” he replied, eyeing the breast line.
“Oh I thought walking from the car and up these steps had overtaxed you.”
“Mrs Maitland, I run half-marathons,” Chappie said indignantly.
His mouth hung open when she gurgled, “And so do I.”
Chappie grinned as Mrs Cooke beside him murmured, “Omigod, he’s hired.”
“You’re hired,” Mrs Maitland said, but spoilt that by giggling and saying, “Only joking.”
“Thank you Lord,” the cook whispered.
“Come in Chappie. Betty please serve lunch in twenty minutes while I interview our candidate.”
They went into an elegant room she called the drawing room but confided it was used as her private lounge.
Chappie looked around hoping to avoid giving the impression he was assessing what to steal. Well he was of late from Algiers. There appeared to be heaps of things worth stealing.
“What was your last position Chappie and you don’t appear to be carrying references?”
She asked about his education and then asked what his vocation was.
Demoting himself to avoid sounding arrogant, Chappie said he’d work for a British oil exploration company working as a chainman for the geologist’s chief surveyor.
“On the crew mapping locations worthy of further in-depth studies?”
“Yes, he said in surprise.
“My father is a geologist. Where were you working?”
“Omigod on the African Continent, land of beauty, jungles, glorious wild animals, a paradise for tourists.”
“Yeah but you left out murder, mayhem, corruption, brutal beatings, robbery, unjustified arrests, starvation, deprivation…”
“Oh please Chappie, don’t spoil my dream.”
“So you dream of Africa?”
“Oh Chappie, have you read Kuki Gillmann’s autobiography?”
“No but her name is Gallmann. I saw the film and have been to Kenya.”
“Oh I stand corrected. Are you sure you are a gardener?”
“A landscape gardener Mrs Maitland.”
She smiled and said to call her Alison.
“Thank you Ali.”
“No Alison. Ali is my intimate name.”
“Ali is fine by me Mrs Maitland.”
“Ah stubborn, direct and tough and probably argumentative and don’t like being pushed around.”
Chappie smiled and said probably good reasons for her not hiring him.
She smiled and said she were sure he’d been dubbed with many more uncomplimentary titles.
He grinned. “I think you are very likeable Ali. I’m confident I’d be happy working with you. I won’t do everything exactly to your specifications in instance where I believe I know best.”
“But you’ll debate issues.”
“Yes of course. I have experience in negotiation to form collective agreements and then complying…” Chappie halted, inwardly cursing.
“As I thought, you’re very definitely not a gardener although posing as one. So far one thing in your favour is our cook doesn’t like you. She doesn’t like me either and grovels around my husband so at least that’s a big plus for you.”
“I’d take your husband’s side in the unlikely event of being in that position as a gardener if I thought you were wrong and he was right.”
“Oh I’d expect you to be true to yourself Chappie. Actually I’m quite taken to you sexually… Omigod, please excuse me, I meant athletically.”
“Perhaps the two terms are closely associated?”
Face burning Ali said, “And your ability to converse with a woman, although somewhat overloaded with male arrogance, appeals to me greatly.”
“Are you lonely up here on the hill Ali?”
“Omigod. What don’t you know? My husband is a bully and is approaching seventy.”
Chappie looked away and she sighed and took him through to lunch, served outside, alfresco-style.
Mrs Cooke said to him, “I have placed only a fork but will bring you a knife if you wish.”
“No a folk is fine thank you Mrs Cooke. I can see it is a shredded chicken salad and being alfresco it is couth for me to pick up the unstoned Nicoise olives. I see you are serving sliced mango. Would you be so kind to fetch me a half slice of lemon.”
“Yes certainly,” Mrs Cooke said looking at Chappie curiously.
“And I’ll have the other half of lemon Mrs Cooke.”
“Certainly Mrs Maitland.”
When the cook had gone Ali handed the white wine for Chappie to pour and said, “You appear to have now impressed our Mrs Cooke.”
“We’ll she needs loosening up. Why don’t you invite her to call you Alison except when you are formerly entertaining?”
“You think that could thaw her attitude to me slightly?”
“Perhaps. I think it’s worth a try. It appears she has you on the back foot.”
“God just who are you Mr Scott?”
“Perhaps I’ll confide in you when I know I can trust you.”
“Oh Mr Scott.”
“You have great breasts.”
Both of them watched Ali’s glass shaking but she managed not to spill any wine and that wasn’t difficult because Chappie had correctly poured it half full.
“You are hired Chappie,” Ali said, staring at him impassively. “Er subject to my husband’s approval. He’s due home soon.”
“For early afternoon nookie?”
Alison gave the impressed she hadn’t heard that.
A red-faced heavy-jowl guy, looking little like the boyhood photos Chappie faintly remembered, shot a look at Chappie and turned to look at him a little more closely and then said, “Why are you entertaining hired help in style like this?”
“What oh yes, hi Alison.
Daniel strode over and kissed her cheek. Then standing behind her, hands on her shoulders, he said to Chappie, well?”
“Hi Mr Maitland.”
“Get to your feet man.”
“Chappie has been working as a mercenary in Africa darling. I don’t think he knows how to jump to commands of civilians.”
“Well he better be if he is to work here.”
“I don’t think so darling. I don’t wish him changed; I feel safer with him in his present mode. I hadn’t expected my gardener to arrive and look like a bodyguard but there you go. I have yet to brief him but look at his impassive face at learning of his dual role.”
“Christ no reaction at all. Well he won’t please you. You only like my friends who are emotionally inclined.”
“Oh yes, and polite. Are you polite Scott?”
“Yes sir, most of the time. Please call me Chappie.”
“What kind of name is that?”
“My name sir.”
“Jesus I didn’t come home early to engage in crap like this. What do you know about oak trees?”
“About the same as everyone else I would think. The term oak can be used as part of the common name of any of about 400 species of oak trees and shrubs in the genus Quercus. The oaks on both sides of your driveway at pin oaks.”
“Hmmm. Our garden looks like a desolate crap yard in winter. I want berries. What do you recommend?”
Nandina has red sprays of berries and another good one is pyracantha and of course holly.
“What do you suggest as a bulb for mass planting?”
“Top of my list would be daffodil.”
Daniel rubbed his chin. “Those are among the recommendations of a consultant we approached. Do you steal?”
“Not from the poor.”
Daniel look at the prospective gardener closely and then said, “Oh very droll. If we place you on salary and accommodate you in the attic bedroom, would my wife be safe with you around?”
“I’d be paid to look after her sir and, to harm her, any intruder would have to get passed me. At least that’s the theory. For complete protection I’d have to be by her side all day and to sleep with her at night but I could withdraw discretely for the periods of your visitations.”
“Well on that note we’ve had had a threat made against her be two dissatisfied fired workers and we have had the occasional intruder set out the house alarms.”
“I’d never touch her intimately unless she indicated she sought that attention.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I suggest you discuss it with Ali to seek clarification. I can only state my position. In any event she’d be safe.”
“You just called her Ali?”
“Yes well I opened up being friendly from the outset to try to win this position and she eventually suggested I call her Alison and that became an issue when I indicated my preference for Ali.”
“The issue remains unresolved sir. I think she’s twitchy about your reaction.”
“Daniel if you agreed to Chappie being hired he should call me Ali.”
“Christ this is like hiring a replacement vice-president. All right Chappie and I guess stands for Chapman, you’re hired and you are welcome to call me Daniel and Alison Ali.”
“Thank you Daniel.”
“I’m off to do real work. Settle the salary and work conditions Ali.”
After Daniel left the terrace Chappie, keeping his voice down, said, “Christ he didn’t say goodbye to you or even kiss you.”
“Shut up Chappie. That’s none of your business,” Ali hissed. “And stop treating me like your equal.”
“Have some more wine,” Chappie grinned. “You’re uptight.”
“You are no more of a gardener than my butt is large,” Ali snivelled. “At least not the gardeners I know. They are mostly unworldly and use words of no more than three syllables in their words.”
“Well my mom came from a good family and made sure I was well-educated.”
“Aha, and so you were the surveyor and not the chainman?”
Chappie stroked his glass, drawing Ali’s eyes to that movement and her gaze remained fixed for a couple of seconds. She would have seen long, gentle strokes that could only be properly called caresses. Of a glass? Well it was open for her interpretation.
“Now why would I falsely claim to be a surveyor?”
“God you are the most infuriating man I’ve ever met.”
“Want me to fetch my big butcher’s knife Mrs Maitland?”
“No Mrs Cooke. Please call me Alison. Mr Scott is coming to work here with my husband’s endorsement. He’ll be guardian and will be also paid to protect us from intruders. Please make up the bedroom in the loft and have the bathroom readied for a male.”
“Exactly what does that mean?”
Chappie interjected, “It means removing the sanitary pads.”
The two women looked at Chappie and then burst out laughing.
“I think perhaps I’ll change my mind about you Mr Scott.”
“All right, Chappie and Alison please consider calling me Agnes. I think some other things will change around here.”
Ali looked thoughtful and asked, “Like what?”
“Ask him. More wine?”
“No thank you Agnes. Two glasses is enough for me and we have no wish to turn Chappie into an alcoholic. He’ll come to you when he is ready to be driven home.”
“No just call a cab to arrive in half an hour Agnes. I have no wish to subject you to a neighbourhood in which you feel fearful but it appears tranquil and as safe as houses to me after living where I did in Algiers.”
“Where is Algiers?”
Ali said it was the capital of Algeria in North Africa, fronting the Mediterranean Sea.
“You mean opposite France?”
“Yes,” Chappie smiled.
“Good gracious, you get around for a gardener.
“Not only me Agnes. In our team of seven we were of five nationalities. Our cook was from Rio Gallegos, in Patagonia, Southern Argentina. He’d run away from his wife.
“Sensible man,” laughed Agnes, showing bad teeth.
* * *
Chappie arrived by cab at 8:30, the time Ali had suggested. She said Daniel had left for work only minutes earlier and Monday was Agnes’ day off and she’d left last night to stay with her sister and family and she did that most weeks.
Ali was wearing a halter and baggy shorts.
“You have lovely legs.”
Ali coloured and said the housemaid would arrive at 10:00.
“So we are alone till then?”
She coloured again and picked up two of his bags and said she’d show him through the house.
The master suite was on the ground floor, guest rooms were on the next floor and Chappie’s suite and Ali’s art studio occupied half the attic and the remainder was used for storage.
In the bathroom of the master suite Chappie touched a blue bra drying over the bath. “What size are you.”
“Ah the classic size of near perfect women.”
She smiled and said she guessed she’d get used to him talking to her like that.
She whispered, “Like a new lover.”
“God you don’t half fancy yourself,” he said without turning to catch her shocked expression. “What did you tell your husband about not having sex with me?”
She didn’t answer and he turned to her and said, “Come on, out with the truth.”
“If you must know there was no talk of you having sex with you. He asked me would I be comfortable at having you around me when no one else was around and I said yes and he asked would I welcome intimacy from you and I said to Daniel if he provided the attention I desire there’d not be no need for me to look at any other man.”
Chappie remained silent and she said in frustration, “Well?”
“It’s not for me to comment because it’s none of my business.”
“Let’s proceed,” she said he followed, wondering if she were thinking of throttling him. Unless he kept up the sexual tension between them it was unlikely he’d get the pants off her. This appeared to be a very promising sojourn. He’d often thought long and hard about landscaping a property and here it was, all laid out for him, and a lovely lady to fuck if that’s what she wanted.
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