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Alice's Men


Harry Buschman

"There's something wrong with my Acacia," Alice said.

She stood in the doorway facing me, her arms folded on her chest, her weight on one leg. I know when she does that she means business. Things go along smoothly for a while until suddenly she decides something must be done about something and it usually means I have a job ahead of me.

Don't get me wrong, Alice is really easy to get along with ... but you have to know the ropes. We've been married twenty-five years and I frankly admit she got a worse deal than I did. I'm not much good around the house, blind to most of the things I should keep a close watch on. I leave things out in the rain, sometimes a bill doesn't get paid ... and there was the night I barely had enough gas in the car to get home and she couldn't get to the hairdresser in the morning. Yes, I can see why she often gets upset ... but I really didn't know what an Acacia was.

"Looks okay to me. What's an Acacia?"

"That hanging plant on the shelf by the window."

It has long trailing tendrils, like a dark green waterfall. It's been there so long I've come to accept it, not as a living thing, but as an heirloom that you don't look at any more. I have an old German beer stein like that. Strangely enough it, too, is on the same shelf as the Acacia. I don't know how we came to acquire either of them.

"I guess I haven't been paying as much attention as I should ..."

"I'm going to bring it over to see Mariano. You'll have to carry it out to the car and put it on the back seat."

"It would fit better in the trunk," I ventured ... I should have kept my mouth shut.

"It's a living thing. Would you put a child in a trunk?"

"Like you say, Alice ... on the back seat."

Alice learned many years ago that men were to be treated as subjects, to be manipulated. It's a quality all women have to some degree, but Alice has mastered it. The Cleopatra Syndrome I call it ... a man for every job. She has been as faithful to her hairdresser, Rosario, as she has been to me. Rosario moves from hair salon to hair salon and back again ... Alice and many of her friends follow Rosario, wherever he might happen to be. Buck, down at the spa is another. Alice wouldn't think of anyone massaging her other than Buck, she always calls beforehand to make sure he's on duty.

... and there is Mariano.

I'd call Mariano a gardner by trade but he has transformed himself. He's confined himself to the nursery and he wears a hospital gown – tight fitting. He also wears highly polished cowboy boots – and sunglasses – and an earring. His little corner of "Gro-well" garden center is a magnet for women whose house plants need special care. I suspect that he's ready to give special care to the women as well, but that's just my masculine jealousy at work.

He has a private greenhouse at "Gro-well." It is kept a steady 85 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity way up there in the Amazon jungle range. He keeps multi-colored birds in there too, and I-tune music plays from morning 'til night ... music you might hear in old Dorothy Lamour movies. I can easily see why Alice wants to go there, all her friends do and I suspect Alice had a hand in her Acacia's poor physical condition to make it all possible.

"Drive around to the back." Alice ordered. "It's that glass building behind the store."

"Yes, I know. I've driven you there before,"

"Did you? I don't remember you being with me."

"We had an aspidistra in the back seat."

"Oh yes, the aspidistra. Mariano saved its life, it's out on the patio now. Remind me to have you bring it indoors for the winter."

I parked as close to the greenhouse as I could, got out and opened the rear door. I got a good grip on the acacia and planted my feet solidly in the soft gravel parking lot ... I didn't want to throw my back out like I did with her damn aspidistra. Alice closed the door behind me and let the way to Mariano's tropical paradise.

Through the branching acacia I saw Mariano open the door of the greenhouse. He smiled warmly at Alice, and at the same moment I reminded myself of a great philosophical truth. I remembered Sir Thomas Moore in a "A Man For All Seasons." Principled. Unyielding. Incorruptible. Men are not like that, I thought. They are as windblown and unpredictable and their course is as unpredictable as dandelion seeds in the wind. Mariano doesn't give a damn for Alice's acacia, or for Alice either, I thought. He's created a world for himself – a rain forest of his own ego – he wants people to grovel at the door of his fantasy-land and consider themselves blessed to enter his personal jungle.

I staggered into the greenhouse with the acacia, Alice prodded me along ... "Make it snappy, Fred, Mariano is holding the door open. You know he doesn't want to let the outside air in." I put the acacia on a worktable in the corner, two gaudy parakeets reluctantly moved aside.

Yes, I considered, and Rosario the hair dresser has a private jungle of his own. He's done six-month contracts with every beauty shop in town, his faithful. (including Alice) follow him wherever he goes, like the pied piper. And Buck the masseuse! Alice wouldn't let me get near her pectorals, but Buck has the green light.

I walked back to the car to wait for her to grieve with Mariano over the acacia, and came to the conclusion that there are men in Alices's life – a man for every season, and short and bald as I may be, I should be content to be her man for all seasons.

©Harry Buschman

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