Article: 179040 of talk.bizarre
From: nj@birch.CS.Berkeley.EDU (posting for morrisas)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Pansy
Date: 02 Dec 1994 05:50:53 GMT
Organization: Word Wranglers, a division of General Antics GmbH
Lines: 377
Message-ID: <NJ.94Dec1215053@birch.CS.Berkeley.EDU>
Reply-To: MorrisaS@Autodesk.COM (Morrisa Stanfield Sherman)
Keywords: fail, to, suck
Status: O

                      By Morrisa Sherman
 The night air in the Santa Cruz mountains feels warm against the brow
 and smells of eucalyptus and redwood.  Down a snaking, one-lane, 
 private road is a modern house with a panoramic view of the rugged
 coastal cliffs and the moonlit pacific.  Poles placed at intervals
 around the perimeter of the property support a string of festive,
 Chinese paper lanterns, which bathe the yard in a warm, colored glow.
 It is not a mansion.  Like many of the other houses in the area, it
 is of modest size, and has wide, fashionable, bay windows, a 
 reinforced foundation to protect its denizens from earthquakes, 
 and some nice deckwork.  But the garden is a wonder.  It is walled 
 with low, carefully sculpted hedges that hug the curves of the 
 property's terraces.  Pitted and twisted Chinese rocks transported at 
 great expense from the phantasmagorical landscapes of Guilin frame 
 alcoves where fruit trees hang heavy with plums, cherries, and peaches.
 Between the trees, bushes of fragrant gardenias and white roses
 flourish.  Here and there stalky tulips, daffodils, birds of paradise,
 and irises punctuate the expanses of white blossoms with exclamation
 points of color.
 On the south side of the yard, a lacy gazebo festooned with a dense
 canopy of jasmine shades a few hardwood lawn chairs and chaises.  The
 gazebo is bordered with voluptuous clumps of purple, yellow, and white
 pansies.  The pansies also frame the path to the center of the yard
 and its showcase, a spectacular greenhouse.  The greenhouse is a 
 gardener's lavish dream.  Polished, dark, walnut wood supports vault 
 two stories high, framing the walls of huge beveled glass panes.  
 The glass roof is asymmetrically peaked, angling sharply down on the
 west side to catch every last beam of light as the sun descends over
 the ocean.
 It is eleven thirty at night, and Terrence is still working in his
 greenhouse tending a wisteria vine.  Its tendrils are branching out
 wild in their blind search for supportive structure.   Terrence 
 patiently strokes the fine curliqueues open with his gentle fingertips,
 then winds them around a string that rises to the ceiling.  He clips
 a couple of wilted leaves from the vine and murmurs, "now, now, I 
 won't hurt you." 
 The flowers around him bloom in a heady cacophony of color and scent;
  the hibiscus, bromeliads, orchids, passion flowers, and the ferns and 
 aralias make a verdant jungle within the steamy glass walls.  Each
 flower will receive Terrence's care in turn; each one will be nourished
 and groomed like a beloved child.
 Inside the house, Terrence's lover Brent sits bathed in the glow
 of three computer monitors.  Brent is a brash contract programmer with 
 a wide-planted, aggressive stance and a hurried New York rhythm to his
 speech.  He sports a carefully trimmed goatee, and he wears his 
 blond hair in a mane that spills halfway down his back.  The sides
 of his head are fashionably shaved.  He favors black clothes that 
 make him look like a jaded gumshoe: a well-worn trench-coat, scuffed 
 steel-toed boots, pleated peg-cuffed trousers, silk shirts, and a 
 dramatic wide-brimmed fedora straight out of a Cagny film.
 His hard drives are huge; his memory is fast; and his code is 
 elegant.  Brent always gets his contract.  He earns sizable fees, 
 and spends his money with playful extravagance.   Framed posters of 
 artwork by Kandinsky, Francis Bacon, and Bill Sienkiewicz hang on the 
 walls.  He collects rare comic books and imported CDs.  He loves toys.
 He isn't playing tonight, though.  Brent is wired on coffee, and he
 is hacking like a bat outta hell.  His fingers fly across the keyboard
 and he curses his screen periodically.  Beside his Bernoulli drive,
 his Micky Mouse telephone rings.  Brent manoevers his hand through a 
 cheerful clutter of Transformer robots and leggy rubber creatures and 
 picks up the handset with short but friendly "yeah?"
 His casual tone hardens to one of ire as he listens, and he breaks
 in with "Bite me, Darryl.  I am not changing the demo site to the San
 Rafael office.  Asking me not to sleep to meet your fantasy deadline
 is one thing, but asking me to cut off programming time by three
 hours just to fight traffic is another."
 He picks up a wooden puzzle in the shape of a hexoctohedron from the 
 top of his computer, pulls the key piece, and rapidly reassembles the
 jumble of geometric pieces as he listens, then replies "The CIO?  
 I don't give a shit if the request came from the CIA, man."
 He pauses for a moment and then rushes on  "No, you listen. If I'm
 gonna save their aerobicized, pink, Marin butts from falling off a
 cliff in Q3, they can jolly well come over here, as planned.  Besides,
 you don't want me on the road after 45 hours of straight hacking.  
 Trust me on this.  The DMV will thank you for your consideration."
 He listens again and says in a mock consoling tone "Don't worry 
 about them.  It will get done.  The suits will cream in their silk
 boxers when they check out this build, and you will get your money,
 you weasel."
 The tense line of his mouth breaks into a grin. "Arrogant?
 Me?  Oh Darryl, you wound me.  A touch!  I do fear I breathe my last!"
 The smile abruptly disappears.  "Look.  Just don't do this again.
 Do not call me at 11:30 the night before a build presentation and expect
 me to play politics mixed doubles with you, because I will cram your
 racket down your skinny throat."
 He slams the handset back onto Mickey's gloved fist and returns
 moodily to his work, but now he can't concentrate.
 He wanders aimlessly around the room, his eyes flitting from one toy to the 
 next, looking for just the right diversion. The jukebox? No. The player 
 piano?  No.  The mellotron?  No.  He strides over to the pinball machine, 
 drops in a quarter, and shoots a ball into the bumpers.  His veined 
 hands are clawed with tension as he pumps the flippers.  His teeth grind 
 in an animal grin as his ball spins and pings against bumper after bumper, 
 and the numbers spin higher. 
 The game doesn't help his mood much, though.  Brent sits back down
 at the terminal and looks at the screen with a lost expression.  He 
 stretches his cramped fingers, looks out of the window, and strains 
 to see Terrence's figure through the fogged glass walls of the 
 greenhouse.  At last he smiles and his temples smooth when he 
 catches a glimpse of movement inside.  
 Terrence, the only one that Brent has ever loved, is happy in his 
 greenhouse.  "He ought to be, the thing might as well be made of gold," 
 he chuckles to himself.  Brent watches the shadowy figure pausing for a
 time at each plant and then moving to the next one.  Brent imagines 
 Terrence's soft voice whispering some taste of affection to each deaf, 
 little flower, and finds himself sighing aloud as he thinks of 
 Terrence's long, slim fingers busy at his nurturing labor.  Brent shakes 
 off his reverie and returns his attention to the screen.
 Inside the greenhouse, Terrence looks up and stretches at last.
 His stripy marmalade cat Barrymore peeks out from among the ferns, 
 poised and sagacious.  Terrence looks at him and recites:
 	Did he smile his work to see?
 	Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
 Barrymore gazes at Terrence coolly, crouches, springs to another
 table, rolls over on his back, and bats at the fuschia blossoms
 which are now tickling his orange tummy.
 "Or perhaps you're just a crazy tyger kitten, burning bright!"
 laughs Terrence.  
 He puts his tools, watering can, and spray-bottle in an orderly row on 
 a small table by the door and walks out into the colored glow of the 
 garden.  Barrymore scrambles after Terrence before he shuts the door.
 Terrence crouches down to the pansies beside the path.  One of the
 fragile blooms lies victim of a careless foot, squashed and
 broken on the path. He carefully lifts the velvety petals off of
 the pavement and strokes its bruised little face with his fingertip.
 The markings are still exquisite, suggesting a little face with fringey 
 eyelashes looking back at Terrence with candor and innocence despite
 its crushed body.  A complicated cloud of pain and love passes across 
 Terrence's face.  He pulls a small notebook from his breast pocket
 and carefully presses the flower between the pages.  "Poor little one,"
 he says.  He glances toward the house, and through the window he can 
 see three computer screens glowing in the dark.  He is reassured.  
 "Life is sweet," he thinks.  He stands and walks toward the house.
 Eight years ago in the same room where Brent is working, Darryl, an 
 arrogant, heavy lidded young man who had Brent ass over tea-kettle in
 deep blue infatuation was lounging on the couch wearing a towel and
 a dewy pout.  Disappointed that the room had no mirrors, he turned his
 attention to the windows.  He looked into the yard and commented on
 the dry lawn, the collapsed gazebo, and the weed-choked flowerbeds.
 "This is a great place, but man, you need a gardener.  As it is, all you
 need is a rusty 67 Chevy up on blocks, and you could have the yard of
 a gen-you-wine alcoholic redneck," said Darryl.
 The very next day Brent went through the services-offered column of
 'The Sentinel' and found an ad that read "Hello! I am Terrence Chu, 
 your new gardener.  Very experienced.  Reasonable cost.  Fast results."
 Brent placed a call and made an appointment with Terrence for that
 afternoon.  Terrence showed up on the doorstep with a bag of compost
 under his arm, a Chinese, long-bladed sickle in his hand, a neatly
 bound garden hose looped around his neck like the yoke of a dray-horse,
 and a rickety hand mower behind him.  His khaki pants and simple cotton
 Oxford shirt were stained with grass and earth, and his haircut was
 bristly and uneven.  His pockets were stuffed with seeds, and when he
 shifted his weight from one foot to the other, a few of them slipped
 out of his pocket and onto the porch.  He smiled so warmly that his
 narrow eyes crinkled almost shut, and asked "Where would you like for
 me to begin?"
 Terrence stayed until nightfall.  He pulled every last weed, chopped
 them into the compost he had brought with him, reseeded and watered 
 the parched lawn, cultivated the compost into the flowerbeds with his
 sickle, and planted flower seeds everywhere.  He asked Brent for 35
 dollars.  Brent gave him fifty, and asked him to come back the next 
 week, elated that his garden would soon be a pleasing sight, fit for
 Darryl's discerning fancy.
 The next week Terrence returned, and planted, watered, and weeded 
 with as much enthusiasm as he had on his first visit.  He staked the
 new shoots, trimmed the fresh grass, and secured the loose planks and
 lattice work of the gazebo.  Brent came out and surveyed the garden's
 progress, but only to see if it was looking good.  He was impatient 
 with Terrence's gardening natter, and his attention wandered when 
 Terrence tried to teach him the names of the flowers and how to 
 recognize their shoots.  Still, he knew good work when he saw it,
 and again tipped Terrence lavishly for his efforts, and made another
 appointment for the following week.
 After a few visits, Brent began to anticipate the gardening days.
 Terrence always greeted him with such a frank and cheerful smile, 
 and his greetings changed from simple "Hellos" to effusive expressions
 of friendship like "It is very good to see you again, Brent!"  Terrence
 put in hard, honest labor, and he took such joy in the task, even
 singing refrains from pop-songs un-self-consciously as he weeded and
 dug and mulched.  Brent was charmed to discover that Terrence talked 
 to the new flowers he had planted as he tended them.  Brent began to 
 buy better tools and supplies for Terrence, who crowed with effusive
 delight like a child at Christmas as he tried his sharp, new clippers, 
 or his new adjustable, automatic spray-bottle.
 On his sixth visit, Brent led him to a mysterious object covered in
 a sheet, and unveiled it with a theatrical "Ta da!"  At the sight of
 the shiny, new power mowor, Terrence gave Brent an exuberant hug, and
 babbled his gratitude several times over the course of the
 afternoon.  After that, Brent began to invite Terrence in for a tea 
 break each afternoon.
 As the weeks past, their tea-visits grew more relaxed and animated. 
 Brent helped Terrence with his accent, and listened raptly to his
 stories of his boyhood in China: "I learned to garden from my 
 grandfather who was head gardener for Sun Yat Sen's Tomb in 
 Nanjing.  In Spring, all ze rows of small plum trees zat he cared
 for would bloom all at once, like tree fireworks.  Ze people would
 come every day to see ze monument and climb ze stairs all ze way
 up high to view ze tomb, but in Spring, ze monument was so crowded
 it could not hold all ze visitors. Outside of ze gates, people would
 crowd in long lines just to catch a look at all his beautiful trees
 blooming, all exclaiming at ze sight. I sink he was happiest in 
 "You think he was happiest in Spring, think," Brent corrected.
 "Ah so.  I thlphthink," repeated Terrence, wetly.
 In three months time the lawn was thick and green; the paths were
 neat and raked smooth, the flower beds were merry with daffodils
 and jonquils, and a narrow line of pansies bordered the paths and edged 
 the gazebo which Terrence had just painted last week.
 Darryl had invited a few cafe' vampires over to the house for 
 mai-tais, and everyone was sipping the sweet drinks carefully 
 through their lipstick, and commenting on how nicely the garden
 was coming along.  Fiona, a twig-thin model with a startlingly
 large hairdo, took another sip of her drink, yawned delicately, 
 and said, "It looks wonderful, Brent dear, but I think your gardener 
 is editorializing."
 "How so?" asked Brent.
 "Well, Luvvie, just look at all the pansies!" said Fiona with a
 Brent laughed with the others, for among this crowd of effete and
 jaded intellectuals, it was dreadfully bad form to lack a proper sense
 of humor about oneself, but behind his laugh he was livid.  That 
 little chink-pup Terrence was mocking him right under his nose, and
 doing it in fucking flowers!  Brent's hands were clenched into fists
 for three days until Terrence arrived for his weekly job.
 The doorchimes sounded.  Brent strode purposefully to the entry hall,
 flung the door open, grabbed Terrence by the lapels, half lifted, half
 dragged him inside, slammed the slight man up against the wall and 
 bellowed, "Why pansies, huh?  You think that's funny?  You trying to
 say something?  If you are, you say it to my face, Terrence, and when
 you do, you better have a gun in that tool belt or I will kill you!  I 
 have spent too long fighting for respect to let a goddamned gardener 
 take it away from me!"  
 "I meant no offense to you!  Pansies are just for me.  Pansies stand
 for me!  I plant zem everywhere.  Zey are my, my signature.  I meant
 no harm to you.  If you feel your garden is dishonored, allow me to pull
 all of zem out.  You are a good customer; you are a good friend; I trust
 you.  I would never hurt you, never!"
 Brent saw with astonishment that Terrence was weeping.  He loosened his 
 grip, but still clutched softly at Terrence's Oxford and asked "Why 

 "Because maybe I love you," whispered Terrence hoarsely.
 Brent planted an awkward, apologetic kiss on Terrence's cheek, led him
 inside to the couch, and sat down with him.  He held Terrence close,
 and rocked him comfortingly.  He made a promise to himself that he would
 never raise an angry hand to Terrence again, and he kept his promise.
 "What did you mean when you said that pansies are your signature?" asked
 "My family moved to San Francisco because we had relatives living zere.
 I had known I was gay since I was a boy of twelve, but I was careful
 not to show it at school.  I knew I would be persecuted by my 
 classmates, even in San Francisco.  One day, however, I was not careful
 enough.  Some boys from school saw me chatting with friends I had made
 in ze Castro, and one of zem was wearing make-up on his eyes.
 "Ze boys followed me for a long time, until I was alone, and noone was
 occupying ze street.  Zey attacked me.  Zey stole my clothes, bound me
 wit' cord, and raped me wit' a beer bottle neck.  I guess it would be 
 bad to rape me wit' zeir own bodies.  Hey, who wants to be a faggot, 
 Brent nodded grimly, angered beyond his strength for his friend, but 
 he sat still and continued to listen.
 "Zey laughed at me as I screamed.  Zey said 'Yeah, he likes it!  Look
 at him squirm!  You like it, right? Right, Fairy?'  Zey called me faggot, 
 cocksucker, queer, pansy, pansy, pansy!  Zey left me all tied up and naked 
 in an alley, wit' ze bottle still in me. Zey did ze rape on pavement, 
 and my back had large scrapes all over it.  I hurt so much, and I was
 very cold, and ashamed. A kind man found me, freed me, covered me, and drove 
 me home.  I was bleeding very bad.  I had to go to ze hospital.  I had to 
 tell my parents why it had happened, for I was terrified to go back to 
 school.  My parents took me out of zat school. I broke zeir hearts.
 "Zat night I went out into our garden where my ma had a few pansies
 growing, and I looked at zem for a very long time.  I touched zere
 petals, and it was like softest silk in all of ze world.  Zey were 
 such lovely, delicate flowers, and zeir colors were so creative and
 bright.  Each one had a different face, like perfect little people. I
 decided I like zem very much, and zat whoever is afraid of such flowers
 is wrong."
 "I agree with you," said Brent, "hating such a flower is very wrong."
 At 1:00 a.m., Brent still has a long, dull night ahead of him, squashing
 system bugs before his presentation at 10:00 a.m.  Terrence pads 
 in quietly with Barrymore at his heels.  He walks up behind Brent's 
 chair, wraps his arms around Brent, softly pets his cheek, and says: 
 "Brent, I sink I should like to try and grow some grapes.  I have been 
 doing some reading, and it cannot be as hard to do as vintners claim.
 What do you sink?"
 "Think, Ter, what do you think?" corrects Brent idly.
 "I sink you are just gorgeous," says Terrence with a grin, "but what
 about ze grapes?" 
 "I'll get you anything you need," laughs Brent.
 Terrence nuzzles Brent's neck and says "you are such a sweet man, so
 good to me."
 "Yup.  That's me.  Sweet.  Just don't let it get around.  Sweet is bad
 for business."

nj, posting for MorrisaS@Autodesk.COM (Morrisa Stanfield Sherman).
	    God does not play dice with the universe; he plays go.
Narciso Jaramillo ... nj@cs.Berkeley.EDU ...