Teaser Park: The Underground Empire of Joseph Wunderkind (Part 7)

Today’s a short intro to the teaser.  I’m in deep in new writing since I spent over half of last week away from home focusing on playwriting in Jackson, Mississippi, for the Alfred Uhry Playwriting Workshop (trademark of the Eudora Welty Foundation).

So the intro.  Well, the novel is entering its final descent (why I think of the climax of a novel as a descent rather than a rise, I don’t know) and various threads are coming together.  In this bit, Joseph, Cindy, and Michiko have finally reached the lighthouse again in order to deliver the chorus’ message to The Lantern but they find an unexpected welcome.

Welcome to that welcome.

They must have approached the lighthouse through a different section of the garden.  The trees around him looked familiar, but only because they seemed to be palm trees on steroids, their bodies as thick around as a linebacker was wide.  They were tall, too, nearly reaching the baby blue ceiling.  When they folded back from around them, revealing the center of the garden and the lighthouse, the lighthouse wasn’t the first thing that Joseph noticed.

Instead, it was the veritable carnival of gardeners camped before the lighthouse.  Dozens of them stood in circles or sat resting on the sturdy bumper grass, as Cindy called it, and though the only gardeners he’d seen so far were white, this gathering was a veritable melting pot.  Gardeners of all different colors and shapes mixed together freely, as comfortable with each other as if they were all just different kinds of fruit thrown together into a single basket.  Interspersed among the gardeners were circular tents, their flaps tightly shut, and small fire pits.  Over the fires rested pots that were the source of a smell that was as delicious as it was unrecognizable.  The brick lighthouse stood sturdily behind them like a protective guardian though its door, too, was firmly closed.  As they approached, Joseph noticed gardeners at the edge of the gathering that his eyes had slipped over before.  They stood stiffly and their gazes were frank and questioning.  They held scythes and hoes and pruning knives in their hands.  Cindy headed straight for the lighthouse door and only stopped when one of the armed gardeners stood in her way.  This gardener was shorter than Cindy, but stouter.  His chocolate-hued skin was pulled taught over his muscles, which were many and prominent.

“Where have you been?”  His voice was an oboe.  “And who are you?  Name your garden?”

Cindy stopped short.  She paused, but it was like the silence between lightning and thunder.  “What right do you have to ask?”

The gardener grinned.  “Every right.  You come strolling in with that, you have to expect some fertilizer.”

At first, Joseph thought the gardener was talking about him.  As far as he knew, he looked just like the gardeners from the front. Was it his different clothing?  His look of confusion and wonder?

But then he noticed that all the other gardeners were looking at a point just to his side.  They were staring at Michiko and their faces were full of suspicion.  The gardeners with weapons slowly crept closer, trying to be casual about their movements.  Not only were they afraid of Michiko, they believe she was a threat to all of them, treating her with the wariness one might give a black belt.

“What are you…” began Cindy, then she followed the gardener’s nod.  “Are you talking about Michiko?”

The gardener scrunched his eyes.  “Michiko?  It’s a picker, and it doesn’t belong here.  It’s dangerous.”

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3 Responses to Teaser Park: The Underground Empire of Joseph Wunderkind (Part 7)

  1. Ellen says:

    interesting! I’m wondering what a picker is, and why it makes the gardener gathering so nervous… this seems like a pretty unique concept to me! 🙂

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks, Ellen. 🙂

    Also, yes, I forget sometimes that context is necessary for this novel perhaps more than any other that I’ve written. Pickers are disembodied arms that have their own culture, and gardeners are human-types (with hollow bodies that are completely open from the back). Both groups play important roles in the ecology of the underground world but, as you can see here, they’ve been put at odds.

    Anyway, I hope that helps for anyone else who comes along.

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