Whenever Sara’s friend Becky is in town, they go to Disneyland and the Huntington. They always invite me. I always turn down Disneyland, because while it would be kind of cool to go again (it’s been a good ten years), “kind of” isn’t worth $50. But today I finally made it to the Huntington with them. You know how it’s always better to visit a city if you know someone who lives there? Well, Sara and Becky pretty much live at the Huntington.
They were like, “It’s 11:35. We will walk around the rose garden, which will put us just outside the café in time for our tea reservation at 12:05. Then we’ll go to the Japanese Garden and meditate and write, then to the Jungle Garden and write some more. Here, we got you a notebook.”
So while Becky worked on a novel-in-progress featuring two Sara-and-Becky-esque sisters who live at a Huntington-esque estate and get it on with hot gardeners in the treetops, I wrote the following, very rough, sadly less salacious little snippets of story/poem things:
Japanese Garden writing assignment:
I’ve only seen mini Zen gardens. This one doesn’t feel like the real thing. More like a swollen miniature that gorged on green pond water. Raked ripples in the pebbles the size of ocean waves.
I like picturing the groundskeeper with the rake, careful not to step on the stripes and ovals he’s sewn. Immersed in it, three pagodas and two parking lots between him and anything resembling a freeway. Pasadena sun planting damp moons beneath his armpits, a crick in his left shoulder. This is not easy work. He does not arrive home relaxed, with a head full of koi kisses and a belly full of creamy tea. He risks skin cancer, makes minimum wage.
But the executive with his mini-garden—a late-night mall purchase intended for the girl who left before he could give it to her—it came wrapped in cardboard. He is wrapped in glass. Rake the size of a fork paces lines in the tiny sandbox as he quotes numbers to people in other countries.
Jungle Garden writing assignment:
The duckling is barely a duckling.
Downy and big-eyed, yes
but already learning
paddling swift as a freeway commuter
through water thick with fish
the size of SUVs. They bump
beneath her, marble countertop heads
skimming small webbed feet.
She jumps and skids and continues.
Steps onto muddy land
where towering tourists point
cameras with digitized clicks
cute, cute, cute.
She shakes her proverbial tail feathers
oblivious, then glides back in
feet lifting beneath her
as the waterline hits her chest.
This duckling is a duck boat
without the ridiculous factor.
No mama duck in sight
no row of siblings.
She’s a girl on the town
she is Mary Tyler Moore
she is making it
with her first paycheck
and smart purse
and ring-less wings.