By: Amie Gravell
Looking at my sign, I was more than satisfied with it. It read like this.
LADY OF THE RAKE.
Teenager will do garden work for Milk and Cookies.
Special deals apply for other pastries.
~Call = Ameile = Call~
Around my neighborhood, there are a lot of Old-folks. I grew up with them, most of them baby sat me at one point or another. That is to say, my parents aren't around a lot. Most of the people on my street once had these great gardens, seriously. The lady that lives across from my house has an acre of pure greenery and flowers. Though not so many flowers, and a lot of weeds now. She broke her hip when I was thirteen, and she couldn't get out there anymore. To say the least, there is three years worth of weeds growing in her yard now, and weather or not I get paid. I mean to give these people a hand.
I guess I could tell you that this started out as a CAPP 11 project. Go out, and do something selfless for a week. It got me thinking. About my neighbors and all. So I talked with Mr. Rolend. (My CAPP teacher). I asked him if he thought I was crazy. He figured not, so I made up my signs. I can't put them up juuuust yet. Because we have to bring in our idea. The only thing Mr. Rolend said was that if I planned on going through with this, I had better not quit after the week is up. I might add that one of his aunt's lives on my street, and I could have bonus marks if I did it all summer, but to be quiet about that part.
Walking into the class, I saw a lot of the people there had a few signs, but I really doubted that anyone had a great idea like mine. I was really proud of myself. Something selfless. And heck! I'd be getting cookies out of this, so it was a winner all around! Mr. Rolend called on us in alphabetical order. My last name is Salisbury. So I was one of the last people he called. I felt like banging my head on the table.
He called on Joe, in the front. He was going to cook for his mom. Alice was going to not beat up her little brother. (That one got minimal marks) Kenny didn't have anything. Tomm thought that handing in his homework was a prime example of selflessness. Rachel decided that offering to be the school Valet was a good idea. Until Mr. Rolend asked her if she had her license yet. "No. But I'll get it if I can do that!" The teacher shook his head. He did this again when Carly answered that she would go without makeup for the week. "Not even Cover up!" She swore with the scout hand sign. And then he came to me.
"I'm going to do yard work for seniors for free." I said rather self consciously. As it appeared. I was the only one who took this seriously. "Finally! This, is a selfless act!" Though at the time, I wondered if it was the unending labor I was about to go through, or the rest of my classmates snickering at me for the rest of the year that was going to be the selfless act. I'm quite sure that the other kids decided that I was a teachers pet. I thought as I sank into my seat.
I probably shouldn't have chosen something like that. But I was the Lady of the Rake now, and I couldn't get rid of the title. It was called out in the halls, before class, and on the way home.
Probably my selfless act was not for the seniors, but Mr. Rolend himself.. I muttered softly to myself as I walked home, posting my signs on the telephone pillars.
I got four calls that Saturday. And true to my word. I showed up at Mrs. Grahm's house at nine o'clock in the morning. "No how much will I be paying you Amiele?" She asked me. I shook my head. "I shall take my pay in the form of Cookies or other baked goods." . And this was how it went. As it appeared thus far, the people on my street knew my name, called me, and expected to pay me. I told them my choice of pay, and the oddest looks ensued. Mr. And Mrs. Richards looked at each other, and then Mrs. Richards asked if Oatmeal cookies and Soy milk would do? Mrs. Grahm offered crumpets and juice. Mr. Collem gave me some of the finest chocolate chip cookies his sister could bake. But the lady across the street never called. Her name was Mrs. Landen, and she never really came out of her house. After about three weeks of doing all the gardening work for most of my street, I was growing to have a fond relationship with the plants that didn't poke me.. I still hated weeds though. Mrs. Landen had the most beautiful roses.
I actually wanted to take on another yard. Only one. The yard of Mrs. Landen. I knocked on her door one day, after Mrs. Grahm's house, and before Mr. Collem's. I knocked once. And then again. And even a third time.
Mrs. Landen answered the door in a stately house robe. She looked me up and down, and then moved to shut the door. "I don't want Girl guide cookies." "I'm not a Girl guide!" I said hurriedly as I stopped the door from closing. "Who are you then?" She asked hoarsely. I could guess that she didn't talk much. "I am the Lady of the Rake, and I do yard work for free." She narrowed her eyes at me.
It was unnerving that she stared so. "No one does something for free. What are you charging?" She asked suspiciously. "I. Er. I work for Cookies?" "Cookies." "Yes Cookies!" I said cheerily. "I don't bake." She said as she moved to close the door. "I work for free too!" "You just said you charge Cookies. I do not bake. Therefore I cannot pay you. And now you say you work for free." I swallowed. "That's right. And I'll work for free." She narrowed her eyes at me again. "The tools are in the back shed. It's unlocked." Was her reply as she shut the door in my face.
I found the tool shed. Encased in weeds. I'm sure that she expected me to just stop coming. But I didn't. I got about half way through her LARGE front flower bed, and then went to Mr. Collem's. I was back at her house after school the next day. And the next day, and the next day. It took me a full week to finish the front bed, and then I began to work on freeing the tool shed. As soon as I did that, her lawn got the chopper. Then I began with the roses.
Roses deserve a certain respect. They don't seem to realize that if you're weeding them that you're helping them. I guess that roses just don't care. My hands looked like they went through a paper shredder after that week, but it was worth it. After I got her entire front lawn done, I watered it. Then I went to work on her back yard.
It was all weeds. I couldn't believe the weeds in this woman's yard. There were weeds that I swear could have come from the Amazon! They were HUGE! There were weeds with thorns, there were weeds that had the most massive root to plant ratio I had ever seen. Though, once I got down past the weeds, I found flowers, flowers that I could have sworn hadn't seen the sunlight in years. And with my now scarred hands, and the summer sun, Mrs. Landen's yard came back to life. I could remember when it had colour. And it wasn't just Mrs. Landen's yard. My entire street came back. There were flowers of every kind.
Yet. Something was bothering me. Mrs. Landen had every kind of tool imaginable, and she didn't seem to care about her yard. Though she did keep an eye on me in her yard. I waved every time I caught her looking at me. And she always disappeared for the rest of the day after that. She didn't talk to me, she didn't come out. But I didn't need her thanks. Her flowers thanked me with the most beautiful blooms I'd seen in the neighborhood.
It was the end of summer when I finally met up with Mr. Rolend. He was walking down the street. I guess to visit his aunt. When he caught up with me coming out of Mrs. Richard's yard, and I was on my way to Mrs. Landen's house.
"I see you kept your word. Good for you!" I had nothing to complain about I got the highest mark in that class, and it boosted my entire grade average up a letter grade. "Yeah. Going to see your aunt?" "Yup. Going home?" My teacher looked at the sun. It was kind of late in the day, about 2:00 PM. "Nahh. I have one more house to go." We both turned into Mrs. Landen's house at the same time, and we looked at each other.
"You're Mrs. Landen's nephew?" I asked in astonishment.. For the way the world works, I wasn't too surprised, but I had never figured her to be the type to have a visiting relative. It was.. Odd. Especially because Mr. Roland was one of my favorite teachers. He went inside, and I went to work. After my initial war on weeds, it was easy work. I mowed the lawn, I scanned for weeds. Did some raking, and went off to Mr. Collem's house. Life on Cedar street was good.
Until I woke up one day. I was ready to work, it was late in the summer, and some of the leaves were already turning red. But, there was something wrong. I walked out of my house to see an ambulance across the street. Mrs. Landen had died in the night. Mr. Rolend had phoned her, and there was no answer, so he went to check on her. She'd died. I ran over to the medical personnel, and watched as they wheeled the stretcher out of her house. It just didn't seem right. She was wheeled out, brusquely, with a simple black cotton sheet over her. It just wasn't the way that such a dignified, and strong woman should go.. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and it was Mr. Rolend. He smiled at me, and opened his mouth to speak.
"It's all right Amiele. My aunt was very old. It was her time. I wanted to thank you. You know, it had a profound effect on her to see the yard looking so nice." He said as he handed me a teddy panda bear. "It was my uncle that did the gardening. And, after he died, she did it." "Until she broke her hip." "Why yes. But, she told me one day that it made her feel as if her husband was back. I really wanted to thank you."
After that, Life carried on in the Cedar street district. I went back to school, but I found I couldn't leave all my hard work, so I juggled my neighbor's yards, with school, and now, instead of charging cookies, I asked if I could pick a flower from their gardens in the spring. And I gathered a bouquet of every colour on Cedar street once a week, and put it in Mrs. Landen's front yard. I hated the For Sale sign that popped up, but I guess it had to be done. A lovely young couple moved in, and I kept up their yard work for them.
I even got into the paper as the Lady of the Rake. There was an article on me in the People section, something along the lines of,
Lady of the Rake helps seniors for cookies and milk.
I kind of liked the recognition I got for my work, and I got smiles too. Seniors across town began to offer me work, and I took them on to my schedule. It was after school. I graduated with near perfect marks. But university was looming over my head.
I was going to go off to University soon, and there would be no Lady of the Rake. In my mind, it was a serious problem. Indeed. I also couldn't keep doing this for free. Or I'd have to quit and get a real job.
I took the Saturday off one week to go Job hunting. After which I was blown. It was hard work to go and deliver sixty one resumes. I sighed and went to get the door as I heard the door bell. There was a man in a suit there, and Mr. Rolend.
"Are you one Miss Amiele Salisbury?" "Yes." I answered slowly as I looked at Mr. Rolend. "Did I somehow not graduate?" I asked suspiciously to my former teacher, but the man in the Armani suit went on. "And you did work for my client. Mrs. Eloise Landen?" "Yes. What's all of this about?" Mr. Rolend winked at me, and I was ever more disturbed. The Lawyer opened a file folder that held what looked like her will..
"I Mrs. Eloise Landen, hear by state in my will, that my next of Kin, Mr. Rolend will pay for my Gardener's full University Education. Any University of her choice."
He read slowly. My eyes went bugged, and I choked out two words. "F- Free Uni-University?!" But Mr. Rolend corrected me. "Not free. You worked for it. I told you that you had a profound effect on my aunt."