76 • pearls around the neck
“It’s wonderful!” I said enthusiastically. I did feel enthusiastic.
“I know!” Bob replied. “That’s maaa job, Catherine.”
He didn’t move, and his son didn’t bat an eyelash. They both gently fell asleep.
When nightfall came, they woke up and went home, I supposed.
I had been mistaken.
Three days later, Bob knocked on my door at 7:30 am.
He visibly hadn’t slept since his last nap on my lawn. He was shaking and asked me for a down
payment on the work – in cash.
I didn’t ask any questions. I gave him the money, asking only for one favor in return: that he finishes
the pond before the weekend. My husband was coming back from a long business trip and I wanted to
surprise him. Above all, I wanted him to never discover, much less imagine, the very presence of Bob
and his son, his daughter or his muse Barbra, here, on his property. You see, my husband was seriously
territorial, somewhat like a male stickleback during the mating season.
“W’ll do…” He let out, exhausted, spent, at the end of his rope.
And then I heard myself offer him some coffee: “I know you like my coffee, Bob. Have a seat.” He
complied and, once again, a regenerating silence swallowed us, the type of silence that would be found
around a convalescing person and, unbeknownst to me, I too was healing along with him.
Bob came back that evening, all perked up. The man simply knew how to recover… and surprise me.
To thank me, he had brought Japanese koi carps, aquatic plants and papyrus – he knew they were my
favorite – and placed all the makeshift aquariums on the terrace. He was going to finish the pond the
next morning, and bring the final touches to the banks: “T’morrow, ya’ll see what a stone really is. I’ll
teach ya, Catherine.”
He kept his promise.
This phase could be named: Bob the physicist, specialized in hydraulic pressure, in potential differences
and in the connected vessels principle. Everything seemed to work, more or less. Water was circulating
from one pool to the other and the waterfall was an absolute delight.
The next phase could be named: Bob the poet. It lasted 48 hours and knew neither night nor day, nor
mealtime, nor time to wash up or time to show others some respect.
Bob took root for 48 hours. With seemingly endless supplies of cigarettes and beer cans, Bob the
haunted artist scrutinized each stone he had placed, absorbed in reflection. I saw him sit for one hour
and thirty-seven minutes in front of the same rock, tilting his head, thinking with great intensity until
he sprung up and headed towards the rock in question to move it a few eighth of an inch to the left or
to the right!
One morning, while I was enjoying my coffee, I saw a shadow in the ferns.
It was Bob.
He was squatting in a position that would be a challenge for Iyengar or any other renowned yogi. He
saw me and called me softly.
“Catherine, do ya see that stone the’e? Not that one. Kneel under theses bushes, twist yer neck, the’e ya
go, ya see na-ow?” I pretended I did because I found this annoying. I felt it was a bit early in the day for
“Yes, I see.” I said sullenly.