Willow reached down through the loose dirt and coffee grounds lifted out a bulb, which she dropped on the table. She stepped between potted palm trees and shrubs, wiping her hands on her apron and paused by the cash register.
Even on the worst days at the Bru Baby Nursery, Willow would say that she loved her job. She came in early, riding the bus to work, and dirtied her hands trying to figure out how to make their plants best survive the drought. Their area never got enough rain in her opinion, but it had gotten worse in recent months, and many of their most popular fruits and flowers were dying in their buckets.
Well, they had been dying in their buckets.
Willow stopped beside a baby pomegranate tree, watering it with a special solution she had been developing. Just as she rose, a young woman burst into the nursery, her arms full of bags.
“I have the coffee grounds from next door,” shouted Ginger, Willow’s boss. “How are the orchids doing?”
Willow glanced at the orchids. They were silly flowers; she didn’t understand why people made such a fuss over them. “The orchids are fine.”
“Splendid!” Ginger bustled over and dumped the coffee grounds on their large, wooden table. “Everything looks great. You really have a green touch.”
Willow shrugged, but looked pleased. “How was your vacation?”
“Charles got food poisoning halfway through our cruise.”
“Ah,” said Willow.
“We got a refund,” Ginger stated, ruffling her woolly, red hair. “But I’ll never get those hours of my life back. Never, ever, eat—“
“I saved three pomegranate trees,” said Willow, pointing.
“Wonderful! I’ll give you a bonus.”
Willow had become used to Ginger’s quick mood and conversation switches. If Ginger were not so benign, she thought her boss might require medication, but she was a good person, so it was okay. “You don’t have to do that,” Willow said, offering her token resistance.
Ginger offered her token attack, knocking over Willow’s token resistance. “Oh, I want to, so I am.”
“Okay,” said Willow.
“Okay,” Ginger said, swiping down on her phone. “Done. Let’s line these date palms up for delivery. How was your weekend?”
“Some wacko tried to break into my house the other night.”
“But you’re okay, yeah? The Martinez’s want these suckers in their front yard. It’ll look hideous, but who am I to tell the mighty Martinez - ”
“They ought to take the pomegranate trees,” mused Willow. “They’ll take advantage of that soil better…”
The women went and moved the pots on the carts to the yard outside. By the third plant, Willow was sweating and ready to flee back inside the greenhouse or their little store. The Martinez brothers pulled up in their shiny green truck, and two of their gardeners climbed out.
“Good afternoon!” shouted John Martinez from the driver’s seat. Little Jorges Martinez—he was twenty-five now—sulked in the seat beside his older brother.
“Good afternoon!” shouted Ginger. “Why the hell are you buying my date palms? I have three pomegranate trees and I’m ordering more!”
John Martinez checked the loading progress in his rearview mirror before leaning over his indignant little brother to talk through the shotgun window. Jorges shoved at him, and John punched him in the shoulder. “Be quiet, you spoiled banana. Basically,” he said to Ginger, “I’m re-doing the whole plan. The Khannas are selling their land, next door.”
“But the Khannas own that whole valley,” said Ginger. “Why on earth are they selling now?”
“Their old man Rohit died. He was keeping it empty for the atmosphere, wildlife… But his kids don’t care. They’re moving up to Silicon Valley, basically. Grüger Corp. is buying the land and putting up a packaging plant. I’m going to be buying a lot of plants from you guys to buffer the property, and then I’m getting the hell out of the valley.”
“What do you mean, ‘building a packaging plant?’” shouted Ginger.
“Just that,” shouted John. “It’s not rocket science.”
“You’re too loud,” shouted Jorges. “Jesus, both of you buy hearing aids.”