Our relationship with Francisco, our Disney World-trained gardener, started off with a bang.
Michael and I were lounging in bed one morning drinking iced coffee and watching an old movie…
…when we heard a deafening crash from the general vicinity of our driveway, followed by a volley of colorful-sounding Spanish curse words.
Throwing on t-shirts and shorts we dashed to the balcony where we were greeted by the sight of an enormous white mega-truck cozying its dented nose up to our prized mango tree. Tiny puffs of smoke seeped from under the truck’s hood and curled upward around the tree’s lush foliage.
Beside the truck teetered a portly middle-aged man in a faded red wife-beater and voluminous cut-off shorts that reached down almost to the tops of his bright white socks.
Spitting out yet another choice profanity, he removed his baseball cap and flung it to the ground.
A damp silence followed.
“Hola?” I hazarded. The man looked up at me in bemused wonder.
“Your tree, it hit my car.”
“Uh huh,” I murmured, awestruck by the speed and efficiency with which he had removed himself from the blame equation in his little mishap.
I could clearly learn a thing or two from this guy.
“I’m sorry,” I said, apologizing for our tree.
Michael gave me a Look.
“No problem,” Francisco replied with a shrug, tossing his fender into the back of the truck.
Five minutes later we were face to face.
Seriously. Face. To. Face.
I’ve driven past distilleries that smelled less like beer than our new gardener. His breath was sour almost to the point of sweetness; his body smelled like small animals had burrowed into his armpits and expired.
“Mucho gusto!” he beamed, grabbing our hands in his big sticky paw. “Your garden, I will make it like a paradise.”
This sounded promising. I nodded enthusiastically, reflecting that maybe he didn’t smell so unpleasant after all.
“Come,” he urged, swinging open the monolithic door of his truck. “I show you my work.”
The truck’s cab was crammed so full of empty beer cans we could barely excavate a place to sit. It was also occupied by two fairly large dogs who didn’t seem completely delighted to share their space with us.
Noticing my concerned expression, Francisco declared the dogs “crazy friendly.” Which would have been a lot more convincing if one of them hadn’t begun to growl ominously every time my leg got within an inch of his drooling snout.
Whistling merrily, Francisco gunned the truck into life and before you could say “gag reflex” we were on our way, bouncing along to god knew where.
Our destination, it turned out, was a small house in a ravine whose garden Francisco had apparently designed.
I must say it was pretty impressive. Everything looked healthy, orderly, logically-placed.
In brief, it looked like a massively-upgraded version of our own garden.
And soon after we arrived back home we struck a deal. Francisco promised, for what seemed like an inordinately hefty sum, to transform our garden in stages over the next year or two, starting with the small beds skirting the driveway.
During the quick walk-through that followed Michael and I pointed out the plants we wanted Francisco to replace—and, very emphatically, the ones we wanted him to keep.
“Don’t you want to take a few notes?” I couldn’t help asking, knowing how little I trust my own faulty memory nowadays.
“No need,” he replied. “It’s all in here!” And with that he tapped his bald, sweaty pate.
“Make it beautiful,” I said, drawing as close to his face as I dared.
He smiled blissfully. “You won’t recognize, I promise.” (This forecast proved sadly true.)
And then Francisco enveloped us in moist, rancid hugs and climbed back into his truck, which he proceeded to wrangle to and fro in our driveway until at least half our gravel had been relocated.
Happily our tree chose not to leap into his path this time around–and with a cheery wave he was gone.