As I pulled up the bumpy side-road around 7.18 pm, I could see him looking up and down the road nervously. He waved enthusiastically and hurried up to me after I pulled up, shovel in his gloved right hand.
“Well hi!” he greeted happily. He hurriedly took off his glove to shake my hand after he opened the door to let me out. “I’ve been working hard… real hard. I’m done with banana plants forever. I’ve had it. It’s good to see you.” He smiled.
We meandered to his amazing back yard, stopping and bending to smell this, reaching up to touch that – an inebriating feast for my senses.
“You were the first one I offered them to and I wanted to make sure you were the first one to get them.” He had tens upon tens of them. I nodded and smiled. I only wanted 4 but it would have to be this way. Order, order, order.
“I offered them to lots of people. But you were the first.” He bent over to pick a weed. His clematis were stunning. Purples of all shades bursting and spilling over.
The banana starts were surrounded by dead, ugly, bulbous growths. He started to load them into the pots I’d brought. Immediately, I realized they wouldn’t fit unless the dead parts were cut off. I was making strange altering shapes with my lips, the way I am told I do when I’m musing. Should I say something or just watch? He tried to wrestle the whole mass into the pot.
I ventured cautiously, scratching my head then stroking my face unnecessarily. “What do you say we cut the dead part off? Looks like the start has lots of its own roots.”
He stopped what he was doing, leaned in, and locked empathetic eyes with me. “What you don’t know is that this dead bulb feeds the start. It’s the original mother and after it died, it now feeds the starts. If we cut it off, the start will die. Now, technically it’s your plant, so you can do whatever you want with it, but that mother needs to feed the start,” he explained patiently, really needing me to understand this.
That was all very good but all I wanted was to get it into the pot. I stroked my face again and walked away to admire other plants and give the man his dignity.
A brutal breeze was whipping around. After an eternity of finagling, the kind that comes with much sweating, contorting, grunting, and mumbling, he said, “You know, we will probably have to cut into this mother to get it into the pot.”
“That’s a great idea,” I assented casually from across the yard. I really need to stop touching my face so much.
I eventually strolled back to him. He had loaded four pots and one was more full than the others. He’d placed two starts and their dead mothers, God rest their souls, in it. An empty pot sat beside it. He was struggling to load it onto the wheelbarrow.
“Josh, let’s take one of these out and put it in the empty pot.” I suggested, trying to help him get the pot off the ground.
“It needs to stay with its mother, ” he explained.
“I know that now, but it looks like we have two sets in this pot. I was thinking we could put this top one in this empty pot.”
“It’s your plant now, so you really can do with it as you please. At your house. I told you I am so done with the darned banana plants.” His voice was strained as he heaved the incredibly heavy pot onto the wheelbarrow. “Done with them, that what I am!”
I could see why. They were killing him. Literally.