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Bill makes it hard for people to buy plants, he makes it a challenge. Officially We Do Not Sell to the Public but he makes an exception for anyone who calls or emails or drives up panicky for a Torchlight or a Maui Buttercup.

Hosta people are always crazy, I mean normal people don't drive all day to inspect a hundred identical varieties of leafy green things. They're not identical I am just sick of them. Against my will it is seeping into me, this information. Veronica Lake vs. Queen Josephine. Ask me the difference between a Patriot and a Minuteman and a Loyalist. Go on, ask. Minuteman has the darkest leaf, deep green, it counts as a "blue." Patriot is a lighter more appley green. Loyalist is a mutation of Patriot, its color falls in between the other shades. Otherwise they are identical.

Embroidery came from radiation. I'm not supposed to talk about it. Bill's friend is a dentist and a few years back they put seeds under the Xray (in a box? I wonder, or rolling around on the big vinyl chair, absorbing mutant rays?) and when the plants from those seeds matured, the leaves had a weird irregular crinkle nobody had ever seen before. We're not sure if this counts as a legitimate new variety or just an interesting tangent. Anyway the collectors traded Embroidery seeds (do they glow?) and now the plants are for sale all over and Bill does not want the credit or the blame and I am Not supposed to talk about it.

Who buys Great Expectations? Who you'd think. Librarians and high school teachers who think it would be a clever thing to have on their desks. I do not tell them it is what Bill calls a Pokey Grower which means it will stay the same spindly thing for the first five years. I do not tell them they will get bored with its lack of progress and end up throwing Great Expectations away. I do not tell them half our Great Expectations stock comes from plants sitting by people's curbsides waiting to be picked up by the garbageman or recollected by Bill. I only say Ha Ha I get it That's very clever and sometimes if I really hate whoever it is I say Aren't you the Dickens. They love that.

Precious the barncat follows me all over saying yeerow? Her tail got slammed in a door and now it is a little flagpole. Petting makes her so happy she drools all over my jeans which is gross but if it makes her that happy how can I begrudge it?

I pull off dead brown leaves. I pinch off topgrowth to make the bottoms grow in fuller. I water. Watering is tricky because if I leave extra water standing around I have only myself to blame when I get eaten by mosquitoes. Usually the only bugs we get are fat bees who are kind enough to do the crosspollination for me and butterflies so broad you think they might almost be heavy. And slugs. Twice a month it is my job to go to the nursery after dark skulking with waterguns jammed in all my pockets. Salt water. It's the best way.

Since Officially We Do Not Sell to the Public, there are very few people to put up with. Bill's 16 year old nubile rounded daughter rides her horse around the place while I work. It's a noisy horse, fidgets, paws the ground and shies from cats. Does not take direction well. It will throw her any day, preferably in a picturesque Little House on the Prairie way that I can witness, into a full pigtrough or something. The wholesalers come on Monday with their clipboards. They wear suits and suffer in the heat, every week, you'd think they'd learn. They do not like plants, or don't show it and I stay out of their way. My favorites are the people Bill lets in in his hush-hush way, "don't tell anyone I sold to you directly, don't tell them you didn't have to buy in bulk," knowing they will spread the word and he will have intrigued another segment of the insane avid internet hosta underworld.

I prefer those who came in last week, the couple who got all enthused over the new strains. They want to tell me over and over how impossible this one is to find. I tell them that's because Bill and New Jersey Mike are the only two guys in the country who are selling it. This couple had a list in a notebook. Gold Standard? Got it. Spilt Milk? Got it. Fragrant Bouquet? Yes. They are very nice but asking for all the basics, nothing unusual. Why make a list, why not just show up and say Give us all the things everyone else has in their front yard already. But then they ask for Big Papa. Big Papa is not for sale yet, no one is supposed to know about it, it is an offshoot of Big Daddy. I ask them carefully if that's what they really mean, but they are adamant and I finally get them to admit enough to support my belief that there are internet rumors for every damn thing. I check with Bill to see if we can sell them just a little one and he is so excited that they've done their homework that he says yes.

Sometimes I keep the job because it is good for me to help things keep growing. But usually I keep it for the rare occasions I get to see adult people act silly so delighted to have found the right thing. I report back to the couple and they grasp hands and say WOOO! and laugh and actually hop. Right in front of me. I feel privileged and awkwardly invisible, like a pair of leopards have calmly walked up to me and started rutting at my feet. This is what I like.

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