I pushed down hard on the shovel, digging into the hard packed soil and turned over the spade. The packed clod fell to the ground. It did not break. I looked at my watch and cursed at my procrastination. The kids would be here in an hour, eager to plant the seedlings, interested in the stories about the garden, and all I had was a small plot of packed dirt. What had I been thinking?
I never planned on being an urban farmer, let alone the urban farmer for a large inner city garden. Degrees in English and art history don't prepare you for a career as a caretaker of the soil (they don't prepare you for real jobs in the world, either, and that's how I came to be an urban gardener). I ditched the shovel and grabbed one of the hoes and started chopping the dirt hard and fast, breaking the soil into a loose top layer, and working my way down the length of the plot.
The day was cool, but manageable in the bright March afternoon. After a few minutes of chopping at the earth, I opened my jacket and the cool air brushed against me, causing goose bumps to form on my skin where the air hit the moisture on my shirt. I bent over again, using my shoulder and back to break the dirt and soon I was warm and damp from perspiration.
The kids were late arriving after school. There were three girls and four boys, all from the neighborhood and the local grade school. They were bright and eager and soon all were on their knees looking at the ground that I had chopped.
There were supposed to be twenty five kids, I didn't know where the others were, but I went to the small office to get the folders that I had prepared for them. I had gotten a small grant from a city foundation to develop an outreach program for at risk kids. I knew even less about teaching than I did about farming, but thank Al Gore for the internet and my friend Jean, who is a teacher, for helping me develop a set of lesson plans and hand outs for the kids.
I heard the scream as I was picking up the folders and I ran out of the office and toward the noise. The youngest girl, Tika, was running across the yard, followed by Darnell, holding a worm at arm's length and trying to close the gap. Tika streaked past me and I stepped into the path, Darnell barely stopped, almost slamming into me, holding the worm between his fingers, trying not to drop it. Tika screamed again as she ran back to the other girls. The boys laughed hard, slapping each other on the back. Darnell looked up into my face.
I had a moment to decide what the best course of action would be. Boys had been tormenting girls with worms and snakes and frogs since there were little boys and girls. The kids had quickly fallen into the stereotypical gender roles. They were outside, running and playing, and so far, no one was harmed.
"What were you going to do when you caught Tika," I asked, looking down into Darnell's sweet, round face.
"I don't know."
"Surely you had a plan."
"Well, we're here to have fun. And build a garden. And grow plants. And take the vegetables home to our families. But we're all friends. And friends don't chase after friends with worms. Do you hear me?"
Darnell looked down, dejected, the worm wiggling in his outstretched hand.
I put my arms around his shoulders and walked with him to the rest of the group. "Apologize for what you did."
He looked down and scuffed the ground. "I'm sorry."
"Tika, accept his apology." After a nervous giggle, she did. "Okay, Darnell, what is your worm's name?"
He looked at me like I was crazy.
"Let's give him a name."
He smiled at me. Shy at first, then a bigger smile.
"Joe the worm."
"Yep," he said nodding his head.
We put the worm back on the ground, and all eyes were on him as he burrowed into the soft earth. We spent the next half an hour talking about worms, and the earth, and gardens. And them, the kids. Where they were from, why they were at the garden.
The spring light was fading and I sent the kids home. Darnell came to me and hugged my waist, then ran off to catch up with his friends. I put up the tools, straightened the lesson plans and folders that I never used and drove home.
The next morning I was again working the soil of the largest raised bed. I was listening to my iPod and didn't hear the man walk up to me. After several minutes of trying to get my attention, he finally reached out and touched my shoulder. I nearly screamed as loudly as Tika.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry," he said, waving his hands, jumping back.
"Don't do that," I yelled, my head pounded and my face was flushed.
"Sneak up on people."
"I was here waving and talking for nearly five minutes," he stammered,
"You were not," I said, shaking my head. He stared back at me and nodded his head up and down. "Then yell or say something."
"I did." He smiled with the last statement, a warm smile, working hard to convince me that he was telling the truth, or at least his version of the truth.
His name was Mike, and he had been assigned to the garden by the court for community service. He was tall, thin, with dark brown hair that was long and thinning. His jeans were clean and he was wearing an old sweatshirt of the local university.
"So, what do you need done?"
"Wait. This is the first that I heard of this, we've never had someone here against their will before, and I don't know the rules, and ..."
I had gotten myself worked into a state. I like order and plans. The kids were a stretch for me, but they were kids and they'd be fun. Babysitting a criminal was not what I had planned.
"Sorry. There's no good way to say what I'm going to say. But we don't need a criminal around the property and I've got kids here after school and we do workshops for women and ...."
"I asked for this spot. I'm a non-violent offender and ...."
"No one in prison ever did what they were arrested for."
"I don't care. Off the property. Now. If the judge thinks this is such a great idea, he can ..."
"The judge was, or is a woman."
"Fine. She can call me and explain why she's allowing a community service project to be here and tell me why she didn't have the decency to call me first to see if it was okay with me."
My muscles were tense and I knew my face was flushed. Mike stood in front of me, his shoulders slumped and as if I had just run over his puppy.
"Now. Off the property."
I picked up my hoe, unconsciously, and waited for him to walk away.
When I got home that night, I was both physically and emotionally exhausted. The kids were fun, but tying, and I felt like I had bit off more than I could chew with them. And Mike, if that really was even his name, really irritated me and I wasn't sure why. Maybe because the judge approved the deal without checking with me first. Perhaps because Mike just thought it was going to be an easy out for whatever he crime he had committed.
I opened a bottle of Shiraz and started dinner. Nora Jones filled the apartment with her voice, and after a few minutes I had a nice buzz from the wine and the aromas of the pasta sauce filled my small kitchen. I poured another glass of wine and made a salad using greens from the garden. I ate dinner while reading the newspaper and surprisingly I finished the bottle of wine.
Finishing the wine had been unintentional. It was just a great bottle and I was worn from the day. My body was flooded with warmth and I was really horny, the usual consequence of too much wine. I looked at the kitchen and made a decision. It could wait, I was going to bed.
I took a long shower, the warm water pulsed into the muscles of my back and shoulders, stealing away some of the tightness. I washed my hair and soaped my body and when my hands brushed my nipples, the heightened state from the wine just got to me. My nipples were more sensitive than usual, and I paused, flicking my fingers across one, then the other, a joyful ache that seemed to travel all the way to my pussy. I took my nipple between my fingers, rolling it at first, and then pinching it as my other hand traveled down my belly to my pussy. I stepped back from the shower head; the water pulsing on my chest, rhythmically teasing both breasts, and my fingers slid between my lips and touched my clit. The first touch was intense and sharp, a jolt to my pelvis, and my finger started with a wide circle around my clit, narrowing around it, pushing against it all the while I pinched and twisted my nipple. It came fast, probably from the wine and the water, standing naked in the hot shower, and it started in my clit, like a shot of static electricity that magnified as it roared up my spine and settled in my chest. I stepped back, the pleasure washed over me in a wave of liquid warmth, across my chest, into my neck, and face.
Two days later, before the kids arrived to help me plant a pumpkin patch, I got a call from a man who did not identify himself. "Hold for Judge Caster". There was a pause, and then a woman came to the line and started talking. She told me that she had sentenced Michael C. Johnson to one hundred twenty hours of community service at the Victory Gardens Urban Farm. She verified that I was the manager. And asked if I had questions.
To this day, I'm not sure what came over me at that moment. I told her to put it in writing, sign it, mail it to me, and I'd consider it when it arrived. I've learned since then that you don't speak to judges this way. That's probably why she was speechless when I hung up on her.
Later in the week, the court order arrived with a cover letter from the judge stating that he had been assigned community service. I threw the letter into the in box. The kids and I planted potatoes. After they had left, and I was locking up the shed, the Chairwoman of the Board for garden called me. She wanted to meet me for dinner that night.
Jeanette met me at the door of the restaurant. I immediately felt out of place, it was an upscale bistro featuring local produce and meat that attracted the well to do of the community. I was still dressed in jeans, flannel shirt and work boots. I tried to hide my hands with dirt beneath the nails. Jeanette gave me a warm embrace and after a few minutes we were led to our table in a back corner. We ordered dinner and wine and when the server left the table Jeanette sat upright in her chair and folded her hands in front of her. I felt like I was going to get a lecture from my mother.
"We haven't had a chance to talk in a while, and I thought we should spend a few minutes together to discuss how things are going with the farm." Jeanette was nearly sixty, with flawless skin and her hair pulled back from her face. She was elegantly dressed in a green dress and pearls that really complimented her silver gray hair and steel blue eyes.
We talked about a variety of things and the waiter soon brought salads. We talked about the after school program, the new program for women and the farm in general. We eventually got to the heart of the dinner meeting.
"I heard Judge Caster called you."
I picked at my salad, thinking about my response.
Jeanette laughed, a deep throaty laugh that filled the space.
"That's the Judge. She does it the way she wants, whether it's hard time or making a statement. We saw each other a couple of weeks ago, we went to college together, and we got to talking about what we were doing and I must have mentioned the farm."
She sipped her wine and told me that the Judge had decided that she could send some help to the farm, and sentenced someone to community service.
"And I said 'no'."
"And you said no, and hung up on her." Jeanette laughed. "The Judge is laughing too. Said the lawyers and staff never question or challenge her and it was sort of refreshing to see what it feels like to be a normal person for a change."
That was the gist of the dinner. Jeanette wanted to explain how I happened to get a court assigned helper and not to look a gift horse in the mouth. The rest of the time we just talked about gardens and farms, kids and girl stuff. When we parted at the door, she gave me a big hug and walked away.
Mike announced his arrival the next day well before he was in my person space. I formally introduced myself. I showed him around the farm and listed some of the things that needed to be done that day. I still didn't know what he had done to get arrested and show up in court. So I asked him, and he gave me a political no answer.
"What was it?"
"I'd rather not say."
"If you want to work here, you will tell me. Or else, leave."
"Parking tickets? No one gets arrested over parking tickets. That's the best you can do?"
"Were you a parole officer? You ask a lot of questions."
"You do what I do long enough, you ask questions. So, parking tickets?"
"I got a lot of parking tickets. I mean a lot. Twenty, thirty, forty a year. Never paid them, and over a decade, all of it added up. They offered amnesty at times, and I never took the offer, thought I'd get away with it."
I gave him the to-do list and he left with tools in hand. The kids straggled in after school and we started talking and looking at our plants and working in the earth. A couple of the boys drifted away and went to where Mike was working and started working with him. I was like a mother hen, watching my group and trying to stay focused on them and constantly checking on the other boys. As we were rapping up, Mike and the boys walked back to the main building laughing and joking. The kids left, Mike put up his tools, and we both went our separate ways.
For the next week, Mike was there every afternoon, helping with the daily tasks, and then taking a couple of the kids and working with them separately. The boys liked to be with him, but eventually all of the kids rotated between the groups, sometimes with me, other times with Mike and always happy whichever group they were in.
On a night toward the end of the second week, Mike lingered after the kids had left, straightening the tools, puttering with stuff on the table. As I was leaving, he walked with me to the car. He looked nervous and seemed to stammer a bit when he tried to talk. There was a fund raiser the next night for a farmer's market downtown.
"And I was wondering if you'd like to go with me," he said, blending the words together.
I looked at him. His ball cap was slight askew and there was a finer sheen of perspiration on his forehead. I wasn't sure if it was from work or nerves.
"Can't? Or won't," he said, an edge to his voice.
"Can't. Won't. Semantics. You're a criminal. You're on community service. How appropriate is that?"
"They were parking tickets."
"A lot of them that ..."
"Yes, a lot of them. And I'm paying for it."
I started going through a list of reasons, rationale for my thoughts, and he rebutted each of them. I was getting nowhere, and despite wanting to just say screw it and walk away, he was really quite charming in making an argument to go out to dinner with me.
"All right, I will ..."
"Yes," he yelled and I swear he jumped in the air like a kid scoring a goal.
"One condition." His brow furrowed. "I pay for my ticket."
He started making the argument that he had asked me, and that he really wanted to take me to dinner, for a lot of reasons. I stood my ground and he finally relented. But the then smiled, it lit up his face, and said "It's a date!" as he walked to his car.
The next afternoon I stood in front of my mirror for the tenth time, modeling another outfit for dinner. I had arranged all sorts of tops and blouses and skirts and pants all over the living room, matching and swapping them trying to get something I liked. It had been a long time since I had been on a date, I really couldn't remember the last one, other than it was a dud, and this seemed to make me anxious. An hour earlier I had opened a bottle of Pinot Grigio and had nearly finished it as I tried on another outfit.
"It's just dinner, " I said aloud to myself. I spun around in front of the mirror, holding my arms out, looking to see if the skirt made my ass look fat. I had a silk red top and a nice black skirt with a pair of black hose. I don't really know if I was truly happy with the outfit or tired of trying things on, but I pronounced that it was the dress for the night and headed out the door.
I stood around the door of the restaurant and was very self-conscious as couples streamed past me. I felt like the girl at the prom, meeting her date, and to find out it was all an elaborate hoax. I kept checking my watch, probably every thirty seconds, fussing and cursing him for being late.
Mike yelled my name from across the street and then crossed between light and nearly was hit by a car pulling out from a parking space. He ran up to me out of breath.
"Are you all right?"
"Late," he said between gasps. "I couldn't find a parking spot, a legal paring spot, and it was a long walk from the garage."
I laughed. Maybe he had been rehabilitated.
We went into the restaurant; he gently took me by the arm and led me into our seats. The waiter explained the meal and then the food and wine began to follow. The appetizer was a delicious mesculum salad with roasted beets and carrots and drizzled with blueberry vinaigrette. We started drinking wine and eating the whole wheat rolls and talking through the meal.
After being a jerk the day before (not to mention when the judge sent him to me) and worrying about my outfit, I had a wonderful time. Mike was funny and kind and a nice guy. If I had found his profile on a dating web site, I would have said, "yeah, right" when he described himself. But as we were finishing the desert of apple tart and local cheese I was really sorry the evening was coming to an end. We walked to my car, his arm around my waist and I turned to say goodnight.
"We could continue the evening," he said, the mischievous smile again on his lips.
"Sorry, court orders still in effect," I said, but I felt my resistance wearing down.
He tried to make his point, but I put up blocks to every argument.
He leaned forward and kissed me, hard, urgent, and very passionate. I kissed him back, inhaling his scent, my hands on his face, feeling his beard beneath my fingers.
"Fine. I'll just go home and take a cold shower while I think about you," he said as he pecked me on the lips and walked into the darkness.
By time I had gotten home, I was in a bad mood. What was wrong with me? I had had a great time, I felt flirty and sexy and I really enjoyed his company. But I had to be some member of the rules police and say that nothing could happen. After a few minutes I realized it was that I was really horny and I had watched my partner walk away into the darkness.
I changed into my nightgown and got into bed. Thirty minutes later, I was still wide awake and thinking about the night, thinking about Mike, and lamenting what did not happen. I know myself and my body. When I get like that, there is only one choice.
I got out my vibrator and started to touch myself on my breasts and my pussy and touching my clit. My eyes were closed and Mike's was the face that I saw. I imagined his hands touching me and stroking me and I put the vibrator on my clit. It felt wonderful, and set me off. I put it in my mouth, tasting myself, and then I slipped the big wand into my pussy, slowly at first, then faster and faster. I pulled it out and rested it on my clit. I reached up and pinched my nipples, first one then the other as the vibrator buzzed my clit. I switched speeds and pressed it hard against me and the wave of warmth suddenly flooded my cunt and rushed like a wave of hot liquid up my spine. I arched my back, pushing harder against my slit while it buzzed, the sensations in my cunt strong and I felt it spasm as my orgasms washed over me. I collapsed into the bed and barely had the strength to flick off the vibrator before falling into a deep sleep.