Espaliered tree

Better Judgement

             “Think of the garden you’ll be able to have,” his brother wrote.  Ric scanned the documents, looked at the photographs, read the description:  Twenty acres, partially wooded, small stream, barn serviceable, house a handyman’s dream.  And now Bob’s dream, Ric thought.  Or would it be a nightmare?
            One of the photographs showed a long sunny drive leading to a house set back among trees.  “Your garden,” his brother had scrawled on the foreground of the picture, where unmown grass on either side of the drive greeted the sun.  Bob had also included two packets of seeds, one for corn, another for beans.  “I’m ready to make the deal.  Trust me,” Bob’s note concluded.
            Bob lived in Minneapolis, Ric in Chicago.  The property was in Wisconsin.  Neither would have to drive for more than a couple of hours.
            They had always wanted a place for their families.  A weekend getaway for husbands and wives.  A summer vacation spot, almost like a camp, where the kids could pitch tents, build fires, learn the constellations.  A place where they could let the dogs run, where they could drink beer by a small pond while the kids caught fireflies.  And a place to garden.  Bob had mentioned fruit trees—apples, cherries, pears—planted by previous owners.  Ric was tempted.
            Of course, he remembered the car Bob bought for them to share during graduate school.  He’d gotten a great deal on a Volkswagon Beetle, still painted in psychedelic colors from its days as a Flower Power vehicle.  “Totally reliable,” Bob had said.  “Indescructable.”  But when Ric lifted the floor mat, the road whizzed by underneath.  The alternator went out, then the valves, then the brakes, then the clutch.  Bob had paid a thousand dollars.  The car was junked for a hundred.
            Ric remembered the good deal on the cruise.  “New line, new ships.  They’re practically paying people to sign up.  You know, to start the buzz.”  Bob was taking Ann for their 10th wedding anniversary, and Ric and Julia could come along on a two-for-one special.  Nothing went right.  The flight to Miami was delayed, the ship couldn’t pick them up on time so they’d spent three nights in a run-down hotel where Julia had been bitten by bugs.  Their route was changed because of the threat of hurricane.  Ann ate some bad fish and spent most of the cruise over the toilet in their cabin.  Ric had to take another three days of vacation to recover from his vacation.
            Ric did not even want to think about the hedge fund Bob recommended.  Luckily, neither of them had invested much:  losing all of a little was better than losing a lot of a lot.
            Ric went through the papers again, the photographs, the documents to sign.  He shook his head.  His whole life he’d gone along with his older brother.  They’d married around the same time, had their kids around the same time.  They’d vacationed together.  Gone together through the deaths of their father, and then their mother.  Ric picked up the seed packets.  They were for the growing season three years before.
            He called Bob.  “I’m in,” he said.









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