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Summerkill

BOOK: Summerkill
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COPYRIGHT

S
UMMERKILL
. Copyright © 2001 by Maryann Weber. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic
or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher,
except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com
.

The Warner Books name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-7595-2665-5

First eBook Edition: December 2001

Contents

Copyright

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Dear Reader:

We are especially proud to be bringing you this book, which is an iPublish.com original publication.

That means this book was discovered and endorsed for publication by readers like you.

The author submitted the manuscript to iPublish.com, where it received ratings and reviews from other writers and readers.
Their overwhelming enthusiasm for the submission brought it to the attention of the iPublish.com editors. We agreed this is
a book that deserves to be enjoyed by many readers.

And one of them is you! We hope you agree it’s a real find.

Sincerely,

The iPublish Editors

P.S. If you’re interested in submitting your own work for publication consideration, visit us at
www.ipublish.com
to find out how!

Gerhard Weber © 2001

When I got the idea of writing the story that became
Summerkill
, iPublish was probably not even a gleam in anyone’s eye. Fortunately, by the time I felt that I had told this story about
as well as I could, iPublish was up and running—and best of all, receptive.

There was no one starting point for
Summerkill
. I wanted to write about the area in which I live (a bit rearranged, in geographical detail, to suit my story). I wanted
to write about the concerns people who live in such areas have about their quality of life in the face of pressure for more
and more development. And I am deeply appreciative of the positive contributions landscape and garden designers make to the
environments on which they work their magic.

M
ARYANN
W
EBER
was born in Michigan and has loved gardening and nature since her early childhood. Even while dwelling in relatively urban
environs like Venice, Florida, and New York City, Maryann has maintained her green thumb, becoming a Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener and a National Garden Clubs Landscape Design Consultant in her free time. She’s also worked in the editorial
departments of several publishers.

Maryann currently resides in upstate New York concentrating full-time on her gardening and her writing.
Summerkill
is her first novel.

CHAPTER 1

T
he mid-August day that was to scramble so many of our lives got off to a bumpy start, a not uncommon occurrence in the months
since I’d become a head of household. I hit the floor running at first light; my nine-year-old nephew is emphatically not
an early morning person. Long since finished with breakfast and tired of watching him spoon his cereal around in the bowl,
I said impatiently, “It’s Thursday, Alex. Garbage duty, remember? Better get a move on.” An expression of alarm flashed across
his dark, sharp-planed face as he checked out the microwave clock. It was supplanted by one of hostility. “I don’t have time!”

“Try hustling,” I said unsympathetically. I had scarcely overburdened him with chores.

“No way!” he insisted fiercely. “It takes forever to wheel that can all the way out to the road. I’ll miss the bus.”

“So? I can drop you by the park a little later when I go to Mrs. Hansen’s.”

“It’s next to last day of softball!” He pushed back hard from the table and sprang up. “I’m not taking out the stupid garbage.
Come on, Galen,” he barked to his seven-year-old brother, “we got to get over to Donnellys.”

Galen, a genial little night owl who doesn’t need appreciably more sleep than I do, tossed off an it-wasn’t-me smile, grabbed
his backpack, and followed his brother out across the living room toward the porch.

“That means no TV tonight, Alex,” I felt compelled to call after him.

“I don’t care!” he shouted back. And then the porch door banged and they were gone.

“Shit!” I exclaimed to my golden retriever–whatever mix Roxy. The possibility of drops or handouts down the tubes, she abandoned
her station between the boys and ambled over to me, always-hopeful tail on the wag.

So who was it let them stay up till one watching television? Could it be the very same person who hadn’t grabbed a couple
of easy bonding points just now by volunteering for the garbage run she’d end up doing anyway?

My sister Vicky has a feel for stuff like that; it comes to me in hindsight, if at all. Her love for her kids is organic,
all-encompassing. I do love them, but …

Sometimes necessities override. Given her deteriorating health and her oldest son Jason’s violent outbursts, getting the two
younger boys away from Albany in February had to be the right decision. Neighbors talk; we weren’t many steps ahead of Social
Services. But right doesn’t necessarily mean well-taken, and as I knew from experience, you can’t just tell somebody “This
is your home, now” and expect them to believe it. All three of us would need to start believing that, somewhere along the
line.

“Come Saturday, though …,” I told Roxy, brightening. For a week and a half, with the boys gone camping, I’d be free to move
to my own rhythms again. I didn’t dare let myself hear how much I was looking forward to that.

I stacked the dishes, schlepped them to the kitchen, disposed of the abused cereal, did a quick rinse, and tucked everything
away in the dishwasher. Fishing into their assigned drawer for my car keys I announced, “Come on, mutt, it’s your lucky morning.”

We exited into the beginnings of another in our string of beautiful summer days, with temperatures climbing into the mid-eighties
but falling to sweatshirt range by bedtime. Fetching the garbage can from behind the woodpile, I set it on the right-side
driveway track, which runs a little smoother than the left. Somebody had graveled that long, winding driveway once, an operation
way past due for a repeat. It was mostly plain dirt now. No problem in any season for my Bronco, but I’d decided to wait to
straighten it out and upgrade until the front of the house was redone. People kept suggesting that should be soon. I’d ripped
off the sagging porch and gotten the rusted-out cars and assorted pieces of abandoned farm machinery hauled away, but from
the road the property still looked like a poverty pocket.

By habit a no-nonsense walker, I scolded myself to slow down. There might not be any roses to smell, but the slanted light
made my sparse front-yard vegetation of skinny white pines and junk shrubs about as scenic as it gets. And there was no need
to rush over to my client/friend Mariah Hansen’s. She’d still be in bed for another hour at least, and I’d find nothing much
to work on until midmorning, when the replacement plant shipment from Massachusetts was promised to arrive. If Ryan Jessup
hadn’t tried to sneak through another of his damn cost-savers, ordering smaller plants than the ones I’d specified, I could
have started getting things into the ground two days ago, like I’d planned.

Back when the goodwill was still relatively free-flowing, I’d have used that found couple of hours to process some paperwork
in my cubbyhole at Etlingers’ Garden Center, the nursery and landscaping firm with which I had been affiliated the last four
seasons. And en route I could have swung around by Hudson Heights, the area’s new country club/golf course/residential megadevelopment,
to check on some of the more doubtful plantings. Given the potential winterkill on that exposed site, they needed the best
start they could possibly get. But my boss and sometimes lover Willem, the only Etlinger who still smiled at me, was out in
Marysville, enjoying the aftermath of a seminar at my old alma mater. And having emerged from four straight months of the
tensions permeating the Hudson Heights project, I was disinclined to volunteer for more.

I’d known back in April it wasn’t the world’s best idea to sign on for another season with the Garden Center. For one thing,
none of the principals except Willem noticeably wanted me to return. For another, I had enough potential clients to take the
plunge and try to establish my own full-time garden design business. With the boys just arrived, though, I was reluctant to
commit to the extra, often irregular hours that would entail. And since Ryan had driven off their one reliable crew chief,
the Hudson Heights installation acutely needed someone who knew what they were doing. This could well be Willem’s breakthrough
design—I wanted him to have his shot.

Anyhow, my self-chosen season from hell was nearly over. I’d gotten the Hudson Heights hardscapes in, or at least blocked
out, and even if Willem was as spotty as I expected on the follow-throughs, the plantings had a decent shot at making it.
Figure another week and a half on this year’s installment of Mariah’s ever-changing garden—a purely fun assignment—and the
Garden Center and I would be finished. No way would I go along with the directive Ryan had announced at our late July meeting.
His idea was for me to spend the rest of the season cranking out generic designs for small-lot residential projects; he’d
procure the materials and whatever cut-rate crews they could round up would execute.

“Screw that—I don’t do Landscaping 101 anymore,” I told him, bristling. “And I’d never allow a design of mine to be processed
so ineptly. My clients get what they pay for.”

“You’re saying I plan to cheat them?” His delivery was infuriatingly soft and flat.

“The precedent would be there. Face it, Ryan, you can’t help thinking cheap.”

He’d shrugged, ever so slightly. “What I’m required to think about is profit margins. We’re not talking a showcase like Hudson
Heights, and the last time I noticed, your name on a yard plan didn’t make it one cent more valuable. The bottom line is,
we need to generate more revenues—now.”

“Then come up with appropriate ways to do that. It’s in my contract: any design with my name on it, I have to okay the materials
list, and I get to install. Check it out.”

“By this time I could recite your contract. But, Val, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Garden Center is not the only party
with obligations. We can argue this in court, if necessary.”

I’d told him fairly colorfully, and perhaps a tad loudly, what to do with that idea. After which things got, and had remained,
very quiet on the official level. Could they really take me to court if I walked? I ran it past my lawyer, who said well,
yes, though she couldn’t see why they’d bother. I couldn’t see they’d dare—would they really like my assessment of their operation
on public record? So Willem would indeed be minus one associate very soon, I’d reminded him yesterday before he left. “You
know I’ll work something out,” he assured me.

He refused to believe I didn’t want him to, though this was ninety-something percent true. Getting sprung a couple months
early would free me to line up the contract to design another small garden down in the southern part of the county, giving
Val Wyckoff, Inc., a nicer net profit for the current season and a thicker portfolio for the next one. All right, so I’d miss
Willem; that hurt just thinking about it. Missing, you get over.

BOOK: Summerkill
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ads

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