74 • pearls around the neck
have and never will have access to the great American dream but who picked up the fragment of this
dream turned nightmare in spite of the misfortunes hitting them, in spite of the various ordeals that
they resignedly drowned in alcohol, or escaped in drugs, crystals and fornication; the kids that they
spawned and neglected.
This Cadillac was spreading the nauseating smell of American dumps and ditches.
And yet. I called Bob back the very same evening to ask him to start his great works the next day.
Was it a charitable gesture? An impulse of altruism.
No, it wasn’t.
It was because I was the one who had come to a standstill.
There had been, in Barbra’s eyes and Bob’s gestures, more humanity than I had seen in the past ten
years in all the well-oiled charity work organized in my frigging well-groomed neighborhood and well-
I waited all morning long. But no Cadillac.
Around noon, Bob showed up.
He was alone, in a good mood, freshly shaven. Almost clean.
“Brought all maaa tools,” he sang out joyfully.
All I could see was a shovel, an old wheelbarrow and black vinyl tarp.
Bob started working, a wide smile splitting his sun-tanned face. I left, because it felt like the proper
thing to do, I guess. I had some errands to run. “The garden is all yours. I trust you,” I said as I left. I
was lying a little.
When I came back, two hours later, Bob had uprooted 3 shrubs and an azalea, he had felled two
small trees and moved a pile of river stones (rather rare in the county). “Found ‘em rocks all over yer
backyard!” He had worked hard and decided to “crack a beer open”. Which he did right away, right
there, sitting in his wheelbarrow, perched on his stack of stones.
A lump in my throat and what seemed like a pound of cement on my tongue, I watched the slaughter
of my garden. How was I going to tell my husband that I had the splendid idea – not to get him a pond
for his birthday, this was still a splendid idea – to hire Bob By the Pond to carry out the idea…which
was stupid? And yet, I felt that I would like to sit next to him to sip a beer with him, without a word.
Why was this impossible?
The next day, here we went again!
Bob showed up around noon.
He was alone, in a good mood, freshly shaven and almost clean.
His equipment was right in the middle of the lawn, and he brought a twelve pack that he proceeded to
place in a cooler.
Out of embarrassment, but even more out of hypocrisy, I left. I had more errands to run.
I came back at around five and Bob was still there, or at least his car was, as well as his shovel, planted in
a mound of dirt, his wheelbarrow, turned over on the lawn and a few beer cans in the bushes.
But no Bob in sight.
Ah, but yes, Bob was there, perched at the top of a maple tree, on the other side of the garden…
“Hey, Catherine, come on up he’e, ya’ll get a better idea, a better perspective of yer pond!”
Oh, no, he was going to fall down, tumble down from his perch, break his back: the man was stinking