The Gardener and the Stranger

The gardener snips off a few wayward branches, smoothing the lines of the topiary bush. Sweat slowly glides through every wrinkle on his face and pools into the reservoir beneath his chin, turning patches of his overalls into a darker shade of blue.

Today marks the seventy-fifth day since the garden’s owner returned from his business trip, and the gardener still doesn’t know what the owner looks like.

The gardener hasn’t stopped working ever since the owner hired him years ago, so he already knows the names and faces of all the other workers, but he has yet to meet the owner himself. All hirings, including his own, are conducted through the butler, and since he’s the gardener, he hasn’t even seen the inside of the main house (he doesn’t count the butler’s office as part of the house, because that room is steeped in the butler’s belongings).

He’s been working here for years, but he only has keys to the shed.

He sighs, but continues to prune.

Some time later, the gardener moves on to water the sycamore tree, weaving rainbows with the hose, when he spots a stranger watching him from the other side of the bushes. There is quite some distance between them, but their eyes meet.

The gardener dips his head, and smiles.

The stranger nods back, even though his eyes remain silent. But he’s still watching the gardener with those eyes, and the gardener wonders if he’s expecting something to happen. If they’re both expecting something to happen, like a sprout bursting out from underneath the ground.

The water continues its gentle arc towards the tree, heedless of the stranger’s attention, and heedless of the gardener’s sudden desire to drop everything and embrace the stranger with the silent eyes.

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