Ben was walking past the little garden at the corner of Fifth and Camden, looking at a row of tall purple flowers that looked like mouths, when someone popped up from behind them.
“Beardsmouth!” he said. He was a tan, wiry guy with dirty clothes.
Ben must have looked confused.
“It’s drought-resistant,” the man said. “A hardy plant.”
“Did you plant it?”
The man waved his hand to show the entire garden. “I planted all these.” It was a tiny garden, living-room-sized, the kind that filled up a bit of unused space between the buildings and the street. There was an apartment building behind it, old with small, unused balconies.
“Do you live here?” Ben asked.
The man shook his head. “No, I just do these gardens. I have them all over the city.”
“That’s nice,” Ben said. “Thanks for doing that.”
Ben felt good about thanking the guy. It was a pretty garden for its size, and it was good to be appreciative of people who made pretty things and shared them for free.
“Do you want a tour?” the guy said.
“Of the garden?” It was pretty small for a tour. Ten steps and it would be over.
“Of all the gardens,” the guy said. “There’s fifteen of them.”
Ben started to say thank you, but no, I don’t have time to go look at fifteen gardens. But then he remembered that he actually did have time. He had nothing left to do today but walk and sit.
The fifteen gardens were only in three different neighborhoods, so it didn’t take much longer than Ben’s normal walk to see them all. The guy, who was named Sammy, told him about all the plants. There were lavender bushes and cacti and low-growing succulents. Ben especially liked the shaggy, flowerless grasses and the sage with the small purple blossoms.
“If you come tomorrow,” Sammy said, “you can help with the watering.”
Helping with the watering sounded like something, like something with a goal, an activity. Ben was trying not to have activities. But it wasn’t too much more of an activity than walking, and anyway it was good to help plants grow.
“Okay, I’ll probably come,” Ben said.