“I want to thank everyone for coming to this year’s garden party and plant sale,” LuAnne said. “Before you leave I have a gift for each of you. Follow me.” Leading us to the shed, LuAnne pulled out a 32-gallon trash can filled with llama manure and earthworms.
“Everybody grab a container. I’ll shovel it in for you.” LuAnne plunged the shovel into the trashcan loosening the rich nutrients. The scent filled the air. “Fannie, grab an extra bucket, I want to give you and Richard one each.”
“You know LuAnne,” I said, “somehow thank you doesn’t quite cut it. So in the immortal words of your father, ‘I wouldn’t normally take crap from anyone, but for you, I’ll make an exception.’”
“Well, you won’t thank me if you don’t get the lids locked down before you put it in the truck,” LuAnne said laughing.
Richard grabbed the forty-pound bucket. I took the 30-pound bonus pack.
“Fannie, this is great,” Richard said placing the bucket into the back of the pick-up truck. “We can work the poo into the soil today. I can’t wait to get home.”
Handing him the bonus pack I said, “Well it shouldn’t take more than an hour to get home from here unless the traffic is backed up.”
The sun warmed the air and the truck canopy. The aroma filled the truck cab. Merging onto Interstate 5, we rolled the windows down so our eyes would stop watering.
“You know what my favorite part of llama poo day is?” I asked.
Richard shook his head.
“When we’re finished and the squirrels roll all over the ground like they just ate catnip and coffee beans.”
Laughing, Richard said, “If we only had a camera to film it.”
Forty minutes later we rounded the Fife curve heading into Tacoma. The Tacoma Dome came into view.
Just ahead of us, a white sedan drifted into the next lane clipping the front of an old Ford Ranger. Cars swerved out of the way as the sedan spun around ripping off its front bumper and clipping a Suburban sending it across three lanes of traffic forcing it to straddle the on-ramp median, shoving two compact cars ahead of it.
The car coming down the on ramp side swiped the Suburban, striking one of the compacts sending it spinning around to face on coming traffic.
“Richard, watch out,” I said bracing for impact.
Richard slammed on the brakes and swerved to the left, just missing the bumper as it dashed across the lane into the railing. The plants and forty pound container broke free of their bindings and hurled into the cab wall with a thud. The thirty pound container followed crashing into the forty pound bucket. A lid burst. Manure exploded into the canopied area.
Clearing the accident Richard pulled over to the side of the road.
“You okay?” Richard asked shaking.
“Yeah, you?” I asked my heart still in my throat.
“Yeah, but I don’t even want to look in back.”
We looked over our shoulders.
“Oh god,” I said.
Ten pounds of manure repositioned itself across the back of the truck.
“Can you tell if any of the plants were damaged?” Richard asked craning his neck.
“I can’t tell from here. We’ll have to wait until we get home.”
With the traffic stopped behind us, we pulled back on to the freeway and headed home.
“I hope we don’t see anyone until we get this mess cleaned up,” I said as we drove down our street.
George and Bunny stood at the end of their driveway waving at us. Richard pulled up beside them.
“Honey, I guess I don’t have to asked if you got your manure,” Bunny said with her refined Texas accent. Her nose trying to crawl into her face.
“What did you do Richard?” George asked waving his hand in front of his face, “fill the back end of your truck?” He nodded toward the manure on the windows of the canopy.
“We avoided an accident on the way home, but the plants and manure didn’t do so well,” Richard said shaking his head. “Now we’re left with this,” he said pointing at the back.
“Well, honey, let me get my dungarees on and I’ll be right over to help,” Bunny said.
Richard backed the truck into the driveway.
I hopped out of the cab and peered through the side window. “It’s too dark to see for sure,” I said. “I’ll grab the coveralls and gloves.”
“I’ll grab the shop vac and cleaning supplies,” Richard said walking with me into the garage.
Bunny arrived in time for the big unveiling. Richard opened the canopy door. The stench of hot manure wafted over us. We took a step back.
“Honey, that’s not for the faint of heart,” Bunny said her eyes watering.
Richard lowered the tail gate. Two plants lay on their side. Part of their dirt spread out in a fan pattern. The rest of the plants snug in their cardboard containers pressed against the far end of the truck bed. A tie-dye pattern of manure covered the truck bed and canopy. A dozen or so earthworms squirmed along the bed.
“I guess it could be worse,” I said tucking my sleeves into my gloves.
“How?” Richard asked holding his nose.
“It could have been all seventy pounds,” I said smiling.
“Fannie, honey, what is that?” Bunny asked pointing to the small brown and silver object hanging from the canopy ceiling.
“That’s our disco ball. It looks like it could use a bath as well.”
Bunny looked from Richard to me, one eyebrow raised.
Richard laughed. “Now that you’ve opened that can of worms, you may as well tell her.”
“We bought the truck for hauling and camping,” I said. “When we camp, we have a queen sized futon which fits perfectly. Richard christened the truck The Love Wagon. I told one of the in-laws about it. She and I decided the only thing missing was a disco ball. So she sent us one. How could we not hang it?”
Laughing, Bunny said, “Well then we will need to make sure we get The Love Wagon clean enough for camping. I’m sure you’ll be able to restore the disco ball to its former glory.”
Bunny and I carried the plants and the unopened bucket of manure to the greenhouse. Richard picked up each worm and placed them in the container. Using a hand trowel, he scooped the loose manure back into the bucket.
Bunny and I lugged two five-gallon containers filled with hot, soapy bleach water out to the driveway. Richard dipped rags into the water and passed them in. We scrubbed the interior of the truck until the earthy odor disappeared.
The disco ball soaked in its personal spa waiting to return to the spot light.
“Bunny, thank you for all of your help, it would have taken forever without you,” I said sitting on the tail gate wiping sweat from my forehead.
“Fannie, honey, you two get into more scrapes than Tom Sawyer, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Bunny said laughing. “What on earth is wrong with that squirrel?”
Fifteen feet from the truck a squirrel rolled over three times. Pausing long enough to scratch its ear, it looked at us. Rolling onto its back it used its shoulders and hips to scoot back to its original location.
“I must have spilled some of the llama poo over there when I carried the container to the back yard,” Richard said laughing.
Laughing, Bunny said, “I wish I had my video camera.”
“Welcome to the best part of llama poo day,” I said with a wink.