It's summer in the suburbs. On every block of our neighborhood, pickup trucks roll up to brick walkways. Trailers hauling mowers, leaf blowers, and full crews. It's the season of landscapers and rivals drive past properties, eyeing each others' handiwork to see if the clipper know-how of Sam on Hwy 60 is equal to the golden pruning skills of Mack from Washington Street.
Take Ed and Kevin, for example. Long time landscaping rivals since their first class together at Landscape Academy fifteen years ago. Ed and Kevin often find themselves working side by side in our neighborhood, separated only by the trimmest of arbor vitae lot divisions.
Their work days start with Ed spotting Kevin's 16-foot M22 Li'l Giant extension ladder and raising him with his Alta Vista 10N 24-foot telescopic.
By 7 a.m., Landscape Wars is playing out live for all early morning walkers to see. Every third house has three to six healthy workers in place, and the ploys involved to acquire business is enough to have Donald Trump send in his film crew. Ed and Kevin bring out their 20-foot-long, hurricane-strength mulch blowers and start to show all the homeowners around who’s master and commander of shredded bark placement.
Covert intelligence gathering operations by the guys who work for them are set into motion -- information is traded from listening in across hedges, taking photos, planting listening devices in the petunias, interviewing neighbors, and secrets whispered across day lilies, Is it true Mrs. McClair needs to double up on her crew needs?
Stakes are high with some of this area's landscaping jobs costing in the tens of thousands of dollars; it's every land architect for himself when it comes to finding clients. I’ve hired Kevin, small jobs only, he came on a recommendation, but I can’t say I don’t enjoy the attention of Ed when he's around doing work for a neighbor. I mean, who wouldn't grow weak-kneed at a man who can talk nitrogen soil ratio and its effect on color range with hydrangea. I was in the middle of spreading my own mulch earlier this week, when the Liam Neeson look-alike Ed suddenly appeared, offering me his company’s card.
I gasped at the boldness, after all, it's no secret that it's Kevin who tends to our wisteria. Still, I never forget my manners, and I thanked Ed and let him know that his competition had my loyalty.
That's when Ed crossed his bronze triceps and leaned against his shovel. With his steely blue gaze searing right into me, he said nothing, only wiped his forearm across his sweaty brow. He licked his sun-parched lips and looking side to side, he said in a low voice, “Yeah... Kevin’s a good guy. He does what he can with his 74a Bobcat. But, lemme show you somethin’… got it backed up right here in the flatbed … ready to go. The RoboLift 3000. Take your bushes to heights you never imagined, just say the word.”
I blinked, feeling suddenly woozy in the morning sun. Falling into Ed, I excused myself, "I must've gotten up too fast."
"No problem, ma'am. Let me get my boys to help you out, just for today. Boys!! Let's load 'er up and deliver what we promise." Ed stands with his back to me now and turning around he zones in on my face, "We can be in and out of here, lay everything that needs to be laid, in an hour and half, two hours tops. Unless you want it longer. How's that sound?"
All I can answer is, "Kevin? Kevin who?"
* * *