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"The Gardens at Weatherbury"


Prologue
The Gardens at Weatherbury

By Y. M. Roger

It’s my job to 'keep the grounds'. The gardens, lawns, and the multitude of flowering plants around the main house and outbuildings are mine. According to my job description, 'every living thing that grows' here is within my purview. That includes making sure the trees and hedges keep their ‘ethereal look’ – yes, those words are in the description – that makes folks slow their vehicles to get a better look.
 
In short, I am The Groundskeeper.
 
I am seventeen years old, and I am quite busy all day in the summer months and after dark most days during the school year. I work weekends, too, unless I request the occasional day off. I’ve worked on Weatherbury Estate since I was fourteen, and I have been promised the permanent position if I want it after graduation this coming year. There is no question as to my intention as I cannot imagine any other life. Besides, there are too many here that depend upon my expertise and knowledge.
 
Funny thing, when crotchety Mr. Thrasher had been fired that summer years ago, I’m pretty sure Sir Philippe had offered this job to me as a joke. I’d been helping Mom in the estate kitchen – she’s in charge of estate events and staffing – and he’d walked in, exasperated.
 

“Ms. Dennison, I will need a severance package for George Thrasher by the end of the day.”
 
“Yes, Sir Phil–”
 
I looked up from my task and laughed. He had turned that beady-eyed, gargoyle look on me, but I couldn’t stop. Even Mom’s warning eyes couldn’t stop my chortles. I laughed so hard I dropped some grapes I had been washing.
 
“And what, pray tell young master, is so entertaining about a severance package for Mr. Den–”
 
“Are you really gonna have mom cut off his package, Sir?”
 
My mom’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle her own giggles, and I would swear to this day that, even though his face did not flinch in the least, Sir Philippe’s eyes laughed at me as well.
 
“No,” he said with a little more pep than his usual drollness, “just his job. Do you think you could do better than him, young Nicholas?”
 
I threw the remaining grapes in the sink and dried my hands on my pants, offering the towering Sir Philippe my right one.
 
“Helll-lo, yeah, Sir.” I kept shaking his hand the whole time I spoke. “And I’d be lots happier about it, too. What garden do I start on?”

 
Looking back, I think Sir Philippe knew what I was in for, and, perhaps, he thought I’d quit. But these gardens – all of the flora and the fauna and those that are a little of both – are my charge now. Don't worry, I'm sure you’ll find them as interesting and even as exasperating as I do!
 
I believe we’ll start with Constantine – the little gnome I discovered that first evening. Actually, it might be more appropriate to say that he discovered me…

 

Author Notes 499 words according to MSWord. :)

Thank you so much, Jack Silver, for creating this contest - such a cool idea!! My plan is to release one chapter per month of this exact length (475-500 words) so that everyone can have a little taste of the Gardens at Weatherbury and all the magic they hold! So, contest or no, put the 14th on your monthly calendar and expect a unique smile on or around that date!

Thank you for reading me!


Image of 'Skylands Manor at the New Jersey Botanitical Garden' by Maja Britton from New Jersey Monthly Magazine [njmonthly.com/articles]


Chapter 1
C1 - Meeting the Management

By Y. M. Roger

We stood in front of the garden shed to which Sir Phillipe was handing me the key.
 
“Mr. Thrasher cannot answer questions.” He seemed to study me as he spoke. “You must figure things out for yourself.” I think those eyes laughed at me. Again. “Previous Groundskeepers have left notes in the shed’s small cabinet inside - perhaps they will help you.” He raised an eyebrow at my eagerness to accept the key. “You have one month to prove yourself, young Nicholas. Good luck.”
 
“I’ve got this, Sir Phillipe.” I grinned, because, seriously, how hard could it be to water plants?  “No worries!” I hollered at his back as he walked away.
 
I turned to unlock the door.
 
But the door was gone. There were only long branches of a flowering bush where the shed had been. I checked around in either direction but still saw no shed. I walked around the bush. But the farther I went, the more I just kept walking, following the bush – never making it back around.
 
Hmmm.
 
Like any good outdoorsman, I turned and retraced my path. Within but three or four steps – way too few, I think – I was back to where I had started. I took stock of my surroundings. Yes, this was where the shed should be. I peeked inside the thorny, flower-covered branches. There, just out of reach, was the door!
 
I shook my head and readied the key as I stepped through the branches.
 
Although they appeared small, those thorns found purchase on every inch of my clothing, rendering me motionless within seconds. I began trying to escape which, of course, compounded my captivity. I was about to holler for help when…
 
“Seems ya didn’t use the password.”
 
It was a man’s voice but it was…smaller.
 
“What?” I froze, responding to the voice.
 
“The password.” I heard rustling behind me that continued past me along with the voice. “Tis Rosalind’s job to protect the doorway, lad.”
 
A man no taller than, perhaps, my thigh stopped in front of me – hands on hips, white beard braided in three, and yellow stocking cap angled to expose a mostly bald head. Those piercing green eyes pinned me with a gimlet stare as he continued.
 
“So, what’s the password?”
 
“But I don’t ha–”
 
“Didn’t G-Trash give it to ye?”
 
“G-Trash?” I thought hard. Then, grinning, I managed a hand wiggle. “I have Sir Phillipe’s key.”
 
“Rosa? Lad’s got the key.”
 
The whole bush shook but didn’t let go.
 
“Where’s George-the-Trasher?”
 
Realization dawned.  “Uhmm…he got a severed package?”
 
His eyes narrowed. Then, he tossed his hat in the air, hollering, “He’s gone! Everybody, G-Trash is gone!”
 
A cacophony of laughter, music, song, and very odd noises erupted around us. The thorns disappeared, and I stood, unscathed, facing a now-dancing gnome.
 
Suddenly, he stopped, retrieved his hat, and placed it on his head, offering his hand up to me.
 
“My name’s Constantine.” He shook with a surprisingly firm grip. “What's your name, Groundskeeper?”
 

To be continued…
 

Author Notes 'The Gardens at Weatherbury' is a collection of 500-word chapters about young Nicholas' continuing adventures as Groundskeeper to the unique gardens at the fantastical Weatherbury Estate. You can find the Prologue - begun in a Chapter Contest in June - in my portfolio (it, too, is only 500 words, folks!). ;)

CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Nicholas (narrator) - young boy (current age 17), telling of adventures since accepting Weatherbury's Groundskeeper job at age 14.

Sir Phillipe - owner of Weatherbury Estate

George Thrasher - former Groundskeeper, employment terminated by Sir Phillipe in Prologue

Thank you so much for reading me! ;)


Image of 'Secret Garden Door' from Pinterest [www.pinterest.ca]


Chapter 2
C2 - Realization

By Y. M. Roger

After introductions, including myself to Rosalind by way of my ‘petting’ some of her branches and her bestowing a ‘lucky rose’ for my t-shirt pocket, I was finally able to unlock the shed. As I pushed the door open, Constantine scooted by me and disappeared into the darkness.
 
Cool, damp air rushed out across my face.  I strained to see into the blackness but was startled when I heard a ‘crash’. Constantine began spouting some exclamations in an unfamiliar language.
 
“Constantine? You okay?”
 
Before he could answer, I felt two of Rosa’s larger branches brush across my back and push me, hard. I stumbled forward across the threshold.
 
“Hey!” I shouted at her, trying to regain my balance when, suddenly, a faint glow filled the entire space. I could see!
 
As my eyes adjusted to the much-dimmer-than-sunlight ambience, Constantine emerged from a jumbled pile of flower pots. He was sputtering more of those indistinguishable words under his breath.
 
“Bout time!” He pinned me with one of his piercing glares as he continued to brush himself off and snuffle. “Climbing on these here containers is dangerous! Been asking G-Trash for years to make that pull-cord long enough for me to reach.” He clambered onto the ornate, two-drawer filing cabinet, straightened his hat, and emphatically placed his hands on his hips. On his newly-acquired pedestal, he was almost my height. “And I’ll be thanking ye if you would do just that, Groundskeeper Nicholas.”
 
I had begun looking all around when he mentioned the light cord, but I was unable to visually locate one. In fact, I didn’t see any light source.
 
There was the big mess of pots and containers Constantine had knocked over and, of course, the cabinet on which he stood. There was a desk against another wall complete with some sort of eerily luminescent vine growing out of the top drawer. The vine had crept along most of the wall there. Here and there, were small, disorganized piles of equipment, bags, and other assorted junk. Intriguingly, I couldn’t see the back wall because the light faded before that…
 
“What cord?” As a last resort, I looked up, but the only thing there was a huge collection of cobwebs. I looked back at him, put my hands on my hips, and frowned. “For what light?”
 
Constantine’s entire countenance changed. He dropped his hands, arms hanging loosely, as he looked up and around as I had just done. When his bright green eyes met mine again, a huge grin split that time-worn face.
 
“Weeeellll, well! Would you look at that!”
 
I looked all around once again.
 
“At what?”
 
“The shed, Nicholas. She lit for ya, son!”
 
I cocked my head, not really understanding. Constantine removed his hat and gave me a quick bow of his head. Then he started some funny dance, arms swinging as he wiggled in a circle and sang.
 
“You’re real, Nicholas!”
 
I frowned. “Well, yeah, Cons–”
 
“And our Gardens are gonna shine again!”
 
 

To be continued…
 

Author Notes 'The Gardens at Weatherbury' is a collection of 500-word chapters about young Nicholas' continuing adventures as Groundskeeper to the unique gardens at the fantastical Weatherbury Estate. You can find the Prologue and Chapter One in my portfolio (they, too, are only 500 words, folks!). ;)

CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Nicholas (narrator) - young boy (current age 17), telling of adventures since accepting Weatherbury's Groundskeeper job at age 14.

Constantine - garden gnome and self-appointed on-site manager of the Gardens

Rosalind - (aka Rosa) sentient climbing rosebush whose job it is to guard the Garden Shed

Sir Phillipe - owner of Weatherbury Estate

George Thrasher - (aka G-Trash...in the words of Constantine!) former Groundskeeper, employment terminated by Sir Phillipe in Prologue

Thank you so much for reading me! ;)


Image of 'Image of 'Secret Garden Door' from Pinterest [www.pinterest.ca]


Chapter 3
C3 - A Little Bit of a Tantrum

By Y. M. Roger

I was still unsure how my standing in the shed could make it light up. I stepped outside and then back inside, and, sure enough, it lit again.
 
Well, wasn’t that something? I wondered if the lighting would follow me deeper into the shed, but Constantine stomping his feet on the cabinet interrupted my thoughts.
 
“Hey!” He interjected excitedly, waving his hand back and forth. “What are you doin’ with the ‘in and out’ there, Keeper? We’ve got work to do!”
 
Tilting my head, I narrowed my eyes at him. I hadn’t thought the plants and shrubs were that ‘out of shape’. In fact, curiosity had been the real reason I'd opened the shed in the first place – specifically, curiosity about the cabinet Sir Phillipe had spoken of. And, of course, Constantine was standing on it.
 
Stepping closer, I saw the cabinet was scratched and dented, as though someone had tried to break it open.
 
“Did you beat this up, Constantine?”
 
The sassy gnome caught his breath and looked horrified. He opened his mouth to speak but shut it again, saying nothing. He huffed, obviously annoyed, and then went through the whole routine again until he found some words.
 
“I cannot believe you think I would do this!” He grabbed his hat and shook it at me in exasperation. “Do I look like the kind of fella that would beat up an unsuspecting cabinet?!” He spluttered some more, held his arms out, and spun around in a very ungraceful circle, presumably for me to take a look at him. Then he shoved his hat back on. “Huh, Keeper? Do I?”
 
I swallowed my laugh, remembering his stomping a few moments ago.
 
“Umm, well, you are the only other one in here…”


I let my words trail off, knowing they would probably set him off again. He didn’t disappoint.
 
“Arrrrrrrggh!” Constantine exclaimed, pitching his hat in the air. But its trajectory had a backward angle such that it disappeared behind the cabinet. He shoved one hand in his pocket and pointed at me with the other. “Now you listen to me, Keeper Nicholas! You need to know that if there’s anyone around here with a level head, it’s me!”
 
I smiled. “I can see that.”
 
“G-Trash made all the dents in this here cabinet because it quit lettin’ him in when he showed up sloshed a while back!”
 
“Okaaaay…” I smiled again. My goodness he was excited. “Constantine?”
 
“What!”
 
“Can I get your hat for you?” I asked gently, my grin uncontainable.
 
His hands immediately went to his head – he didn’t realize he’d tossed it. He grinned sheepishly, his tirade derailed.
 
“Uhhh, yeah.” He looked around. “Where’d it go?
 
I squatted down to slide the cabinet.
 
“Wait, no!” Constantine warned from above, but it was too late.
 
A pink, armored ball rolled out from a hole revealed there. Before I could react, the ball exploded into a pink armadillo in a comical ninja-like stance.
 
“Halt, you heathens!”
 
“Oh, brother,” Constantine murmured.


 
To be continued…
 

Author Notes 'The Gardens at Weatherbury' is a collection of 500-word chapters about young Nicholas' continuing adventures as Groundskeeper to the unique gardens at the fantastical Weatherbury Estate.

SPECIAL NOTE: This is only Chapter 3 --- Be sure to pop over to my Portfolio and catch up on past chapters. :) Gardens at Weatherbury is right there on top! Don't miss out on this fun adventure! And, yes, each chapter is only 500 words, folks! ;)

CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Nicholas (narrator) - young boy (current age 17), telling of adventures since accepting Weatherbury's Groundskeeper job at age 14.

Constantine - garden gnome and self-appointed on-site manager of the Gardens

Rosalind - (aka Rosa) sentient climbing rosebush whose job it is to guard the Garden Shed

Sir Phillipe - owner of Weatherbury Estate

George Thrasher - (aka G-Trash, according to Constantine) former Groundskeeper, employment terminated by Sir Phillipe in Prologue

Thank you so much for reading me! ;)


Chapter 4
C4 - A New Cohort*

By Y. M. Roger

[SPECIAL NOTE:  For the duration of this promotion, you can also earn points and bucks for EVERY CHAPTER of the book up to this one. Just pop over to my Portfolio and it’s right there on top! Don’t miss out on this fun adventure! And, yes, each one is only 500 words, folks! ;)]

I threw my hand over my mouth quickly to keep from laughing at the oh-so-serious and, yes, oh-so-very-pink critter.
 
“Ye be trespassing, the both of ye,” he warned, angling a clawed hand at each of us.
 
Hopping down from the cabinet, Constantine appeared beside him. Startled, the armadillo stiffened into ninja stance again. But Constantine just shook his head, reached out to lay a flattened palm on those pink claws, and pushed them down slowly. I still could not contain my grin.
 
“He’s the real Groundskeeper, Archie,” Constantine said, indicating me with his head.
 
Still in my squatting position, I offered my hand in greeting.
 
“Good to meet you, Archie.”
 
He eyed me suspiciously as he stared for a few silent moments. The mouth on his little snout opened slightly and a long, pointed tongue snaked slowly out and back in. He reached down with his short arms and scratched his nearly-bare belly, releasing a comfortable nearly musical snort as his tongue disappeared.
 
Constantine huffed, rolling his eyes, and elbowed Archie, knocking him a bit off-balance.
 
“I sa-a-a-a-aid” – Constantine’s voice became a bit more insistent – “he’s the real Groundskeeper. Haven’t  you been payin–”
 
Archie cut off Constantine’s words as he straightened himself as much as possible.

“Sir Archibald of the Shed.” He then stood on tip-toe and bowed so low I was tempted to reach out and keep him from collapsing into a ball again. “I am your humble servant, Groundskeeper.”
 
As he completed his regal flourish, Constantine elbowed him again and whispered, “Just shake his hand, ya gimp.”
 
Archibald stepped forward, his gait more of a wobble, and extended a clawed hand as much as possible with his short arms. I enclosed his hand in mine, realizing at that moment just how sharp those claws really were.
 
“Is it okay if I call you Archie, Sir Archibald?”
 
Archie ducked his head, although I couldn’t decide if it was a show of respect or shyness on his part or something else.
 
That tongue slid out and in again as he chanced a glance up at me and then quickly away again.
 
“Of course, if that is your wish, Groundskeeper.” His snort that followed sounded less melodic, like the lower note of a saxophone.
 
But there was something off, like his lively spark was missing. I thought back over his appearance and noble self-introduction, and Constantine’s comment. I realized why that spark was gone.
 
I smiled at them both and winked at Constantine, tugging on Archibald’s hand just a bit to get him to look at me.
 
“No, I think not.” I squeezed his hand and let it go, although I kept our eyes locked. “A knight should wear his title, Sir Archibald.”
 
“Sir Archie, will do, Groundskeeper.” He raised his head proudly again and stood as tall as his armor would allow.
 
I nodded, reaching behind them to get Constantine’s hat. Handing it to the grinning gnome, I stood and brushed off my pants.
 
“Now, to get into this cabinet…”

 

 
to be continued…
 
 
 
**The Gardens at Weatherbury' is a collection of 500-word chapters about young Nicholas' continuing adventures as Groundskeeper to the unique gardens at the fantastical Weatherbury Estate.
 
SPECIAL NOTE:  For the duration of this promotion, you can also earn points and bucks for EVERY CHAPTER of the book up to this one. Just pop over to my Portfolio and it’s right there on top! Don’t miss out on this fun adventure! And, yes, each one is only 500 words, folks! ;)

CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Nicholas (narrator) - young boy (current age 17), telling of adventures since accepting Weatherbury's Groundskeeper job at age 14.
 
Constantine – garden gnome and self-appointed on-site manager of the Gardens
 
Rosalind – (aka Rosa) sentient climbing rosebush whose job it is to guard the Garden Shed
 
Sir Archibald – (aka Archie) eccentric pink armadillo tasked with organization and upkeep of the Garden Shed

Sir Phillipe - owner of Weatherbury Estate

George Thrasher – (aka G-Trash according to Constantine) former Groundskeeper, employment terminated by Sir Phillipe in Prologue

 

Author Notes Sorry about the delay -- I'm climbing out of my 'serious writing deficit' this week.... Let the FUN Begin!! ;) :) Thank you so much for your support and for reading me! ;)


Image of Image of 'Secret Garden Door' from Pinterest [www.pinterest.ca]


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