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Green Thumb

by Chloe A Hill 5 months ago in Fable
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Short Story

Green Thumb
Photo by john foust on Unsplash

All of his life, Merv had wanted to know what was going on.

He rubbed his stubby freckled hand on a dirty glass pane of the glasshouse window as ferns coiled around him, glowing green in the hot sun. 'Benson's Gardeners' gathered outside on the posh mansions’ circular driveway. Dark as ogres they seemed, through the plant kingdom window as they waited for his presence. He took a deep breath, put his trowel and gloves down and stepped through the plants.

Clouds loomed in the sky, bulging and turgid.

Out in the verdant landscape, Merv saw Benson's men scattered across the property with wheel barrows and spades, green garden hats squeezed on their heads and tanned legs striding forth. Heat simmered over the gardens green horizons. Behind him, Mt. Strange loomed. The sun blared down. The cicadas pulsed.

Merv headed for the company Ute and heaved out the first gigantic sack of bulbs. The Ute bounced as he lifted the burden and the drivers’ door fell open. He trudged past as the glove box popped and stuff burst out. Ah shit, he thought. It’ll be me that gets it later if I don’t fix it, he thought. He parked the tulip sack and reached in to shut it. The glove box popped back out again and tumbled out its’ innards. First was a torch that had gone flat… A bag of lollies… Some left over KFC packets…

…And a mysterious book.

On the cover a man smiled, the smile of white toothed victory. He had a grey mullet and the title read 'Enlightenment Emanations- Daniel Pike'. Merv felt he held in his hands some weighty magical moment. There on the blurb on the back of the book, '…just what exactly on earth is going on?’ Merv ducked his head below the dashboard and opened it…

"Dear Julie, All my love and light, Daniel xox". Next to it… a ticket… ‘Sunshine Coast Stadium. Daniel Pike Live. 2022'…today. Merv thought.

“Merv!” shouted Sall from the bed of petunias, “break time” she said, arms akimbo with her olive green hat fixed tight on her head. Sal stood in the dark soil fields, surveying the giant spiral yet to be bulbed. A phone trilled in her back pocket. She pulled it out and smeared her gritty thumb across the screen.

Bent over with his botanical burden, Merv plodded across the soil bed and handed Sal a rollie. She mouthed it and lit it with a lighter from her back pocket. As she answered her phone Merv saw the tulips beneath the soil, tussle with the dirt… Were they giggling a little? His eyes shifted under his cap, furtive. He moved in front of Sal with his sack, so her vision was broken off and began to drop a bulb in the dirt.

“Mum I’m in the middle of a five acre tulip bulb drop,” Sall said as she turned her back on Merv. In the distance the Benson boys, Gavin and Trevor trundled across the lawn with a giant hose and a bucket, looking a bit bendy and shifty.

“That’s it Darling, I’m leaving your father for Daniel. He’s a total figwit,” said the voice on the phone.

“Who? Daniel or Dad?” Sall said.

“You father, for figging figs’ sake.”

Merv looked down at a tulip bulb beneath his feet, uncoiling and waving its tiny bud at him. He waved his hand back.

“Not now”, he whispered, “The boss is watching”

A bulb flew out of the soil and smacked Sall in the back of her gardeners’ hat. She turned around to glare at Mervs’ innocent face- her rosy nose turning brown in the sun. What the Fig was that? Her face said. Merv searched the sky for answers.

“Bird shit” He said, totally certain. He dropped another bulb into the earth.

“Oh and darling- You’ve left the Super-Gro on the porch” said the voice.

“Merv!” thundered Sall.

Merv's face shriveled into a dried prune of shame. The Super-Gro. Ah fig.

“Get up the mountain and bloody get it!” Sall ordered.

Merv blasted the Ute through the posh gardens’ driveways and back across the pineapple fields to Mt. Strange. Weaving and rattling his way to the residential business of Bensons' Landscape Gardeners, a house that crumbled into the mountain. With barely time to wonder - who this mysterious Daniel Pike was and what he thought was going on - he pulled up sharp next to Julies' Ute. Up on the sun deck he saw her in a swirl of multi colored sarongs and gumboots. As usual, swear words tumbled from her mouth like a fountain. The main gist of it was she was leaving Terry for Daniel. She’d had enough, he was a total figwit and she was taking the Ute.

House doors slammed.

Merv crunched over the drive in his work boots, seeking the Super-Gro. He oddballed around the yard. Everywhere the signs of a landscape gardening business on the slide were evident. Barrels, sacks and abandoned shrub pots cluttered the grass. Buckets stamped with the company logo, a smiling man with curly dark hair and gardeners’ hat, sat upturned.

Merv saw an empty chook pen with a chaos of feathers splattered on the wire. Mr. Terry Benson himself emerged from the chook pen in his flip flops with a tumbler of wine and a self rolled ciggie in his mouth.

"‘Ay Mr. Benson " said Merv.

Mr. Benson turned to him, bleary eyed and forlorn.

"I left the Super-Gro behind” Merv said, swinging it over his shoulder.

"Listen… listen to me Merv...” Mr Benson said, " there was a big bloody snake... so big if it sat on your lap, it’d cut off your circulation…" He let out a roll of marbled gangster cackles. Merv cackled too, to be a good sport.

"What moron left the chook pen open?" shouted Julie from the house.

"What you gunna do? Divorce me? Don’t be ridiculous," Mr Benson shouted.

Merv thought this might be the time to ask.

"Mr.Benson? You ever heard of a bloke called Daniel Pike?"

"Julie buys all his DVDs " he muttered, taking a long straight puff of homemade tobacco.

"Apparently, he knows what’s going on" said Merv.

"He’s a poof " said Mr. Benson as he flip - flopped away.


"Sal, your Dad says there was a big bloody snake" said Merv as Sal hopped in the cherry picker and Gavin fired up the engine.

"Not Dad's big bloody snake?" She said, rollie in mouth, as she jiggered up into the air heading for a tree top.

"Nah, he says this time he’s for real. There's a big trail of flattened grass in the yard. Looks huge." Merv called, craning his neck up at the sky.

As Sal reached the tree top heights, Merv followed the spiral of planted tulips and laid his hands on them, watching the bulbs pop through the soil and bloom into cups of color. It was one of the reasons Sal had hired him, despite his confusion.

He saw Sal reach an innocent branch with her giant secateurs and lop it off.


The sun blared down. The cicadas pulsed.

In the posh fernery, Merv checked on Shrubaria Exotica. The green leaves expanded in his stubby hands and glowed with emerald light. These goons needed bags of Super-Gro to make the grade. All Merv needed was himself and little less confusion.

"If I only knew…" he said to the plant…"what's really goin’ on...I think, Shrubaria Exotica, that I may have found the answer. But I'm gunna have to steal Julies' ticket. If she finds out, well fig, I’ll probably lose me job"

Could Merv strike out by himself? With only his stubby shrub growing hands and sunburnt ruddy face into a self made gardening business? He didn’t know. He had always been unsure. He had always been unsure as to why he was unsure. Grandma said he was born confused and getting sunburnt all the time hadn’t helped his lot in life much either. But a little stirring of delight began as he imagined a new path threading through the jungle of his life. Perhaps this Daniel Pike guy would have the answers to the confusion that dogged him… That was it. He was gunna go.

But first Merv had to lug another mammoth sack of bulbs from the Ute. He folded the ticket in his top pocket and went to the parked truck. He lobbed a sack on his shoulder and wobbled from side to side under the weight of so many baby tulips. Some tumbled from the bag and rolled like onions behind him. He felt their sprigs curl and unfold in his presence.

He crossed the soil and he heaved sacks and he planted bulbs. He wiped the sweat from his brow. The sun blared down. The cicadas pulsed. He crossed the soil and he heaved the sacks and he planted bulbs. He lifted his head, and sniffed the air…

A waft of burnt grass- like smoke float from the glass house. Through the windows, the indistinct and shadowy figures of Gavin and Trevor plucked leaves from what could only be Shrubaria Exotica. Blood began to boil in his freckled face as he charged towards the fernery. He pushed open the doors to see Trevor with a lighter, while Gavin held a glass pipe in his mouth full of melting white crystals. Little bits of Shrubaria Exotica poked out of it. Their faces were caught in the rush of glee Merv knew so well when he saw them zoom off on the ride-on mower or fly up and down in the cherry picker for no obvious reason. It was the rush of ‘gardeners brew’. A heady cocktail of crack and whatever they could find in the posh flora and fauna landscape.

“It’s just a bit of crack” said Trevor.

“That’s not crack you idiots” Said Merv, “That’s Super-Gro. You’r smokin’ me Super- Gro”.

They both screwed their faces in incomprehension.

Merv was a patient man. But this was his best friend they were smoking. He ran towards them and swooped his plant out of Gavins’ arms and knocked the pipe from his mouth.

“Do some work and stop smoking me plants.” Shouted Merv as he turned and stomped out the glass house doors…

“You irritating…little…garden gnome” shouted Gavin.

“Merv just ruined morning tea” said Trevor.

They chased after him and reached for his plant. It flew out of his hands and rolled down the driveway towards the gates. They tumbled over him and dragged him by his khaki dacks back towards the glasshouse. Merv screamed with indignity as he saw Shrubaria Exotica tumble-weed away. God only knew what they planned to do next. Sall protested from her cherry picker and they ignored her. Tears spurted from Mervs’ eyes.

“Why is this happening to me?” He wailed. “Someone stop them. Someone help me” he wailed. “Someone HELP ME!”

At first only Merv saw it in the corner of his eyes. The trees rustled, the green beings in the glasshouse shook and waved and smacked the French glass doors. Flowers shimmyed in their pots on the portico. All at once he felt the brothers’ hands release his limbs as Trevor and Gavin were entangled in the corner of his eye by many green leafed tentacles.

Sall whimpered from her cherry picker.

He saw their faces turn frantic from side to side, garden hats flying off as the plants dragged them to the hothouse and the glass doors closed around a gallery of red mouthed flytraps.

Merv picked himself up and swiped the red fringe from his forehead. He put his mossy hat back on. He looked up at Sall. She hovered in the cherry picker basket in the treetops. She pressed smoke to mouth and rested her other arm on her hips, shifting her legs. Her swear words popped the air from a lofty distance.

“Merv? Get me down,” her voice teetered, “Dad is on the edge, Merv?”

The glasshouse doors banged open again from the other end. Trevor and Gavin hurtled out, arms and legs in motion. They screamed but nothing could stop them transform into large green plants and take root in the posh garden landscape. Their tanned faces poked out from the vines, turning slightly olive.

“Get us out Merv.” Trevor said.

“Yeah this isn’t funny Merv.” Gavin said.

“Ya shouldna’ smoked the Super-Gro should ya?” shouted Merv.

Something clicked in Mervs' skull. They had attacked nice trees with shears, ripped leaves from Shubaria Exotica for their crack pipes and they had taken his Super-Gro formula and put their own business name on it. All of those months of toil in the hot house to create the formula. Taken, by the Bensons' All because he had been so unsure.

“I need answers!" shouted Merv.

He took the Ute. He wheelied it proper on the rotundas’ gravel and stopped only to pick up Shrubaria Exotica and put her in the passenger seat. Down the drive towards the gates of the posh mansion he drove, past the lurksome tropical vines and security cameras. Fast down the road to the end of the street- where the Ute stopped- no petrol left- ah fig. He got out, took Shubaria Exotica out of the seatbelt and jogged down the road to the bus stop.


About the author

Chloe A Hill

I have a love of the genre of magic realism and historical fantasy and any tale that has the ability to transport the reader to an immersive alternative world. Currently, I'm working on my debut historical fantasy novel.

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