|Isobel Brandt \\ Persephone (praxidike) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-09-11 07:04:00
|Entry tags:||belobog, persephone|
all i know is a new found grace
Who: Thomas & Isobel.
What: Isobel gets a job, just like a real girl!
Where: The Environmental Nature Center.
When: Backdated to Aug. 31.
Despite the early morning hour, handfuls of people either stood in line or milled about outside the Environmental Nature Center's impressive exterior. Adjusting her purse strap, Isobel took a deep breath, pausing for only a moment to appreciate not only the building's lovely naturalistic setting but also the landscaping before heading toward the front doors. She looked like any other tourist who might have been visiting, or perhaps a volunteer, clad in jeans, sneakers, and a green tee with her hair tied up in a loose bun. Her glasses kept slipping forward, forcing her to push them back up the bridge of her nose nearly every few steps.
She'd spoken a little with Thomas following several of the yoga sessions he held on the beach in front of their shared apartment complex, the topic of her needing a permanent job coming out more swiftly than she would have liked. Thankfully, Thomas was a perfect gentleman about it, suggesting she come by for a visit to get a taste of the center and to see if she'd like working there.
Bobbing her head at a greeter through the glass doors, she made her carefully hesitant way toward them; her hands remained on her purse strap, for want of something to do with them.
"Hi... I'm looking for Thomas McCulloch?"
“Oh! You'll find him around the corner and to the left, right near the sloth rehabilitation center!” The beaming greeter hurriedly pulled a map of the ENC from a pocket within her volunteer apron, holding it out to the woman who admittedly looked a little lost. She gave her a wide smile as she turned to point in the appropriate direction, while simultaneously trying to keep an eye on the visitors entering the building.
And so it was a good thing for both Isobel and Janice (said cheerful and yet slightly overwhelmed new volunteer greeter) that Thomas rounded the corner. He was dressed in a light blue polo stamped with the ENC’s title, his khaki shorts slightly dirty from helping a group of second graders learn about the importance of composting.
“Well if it isn't Miss Isobel!” Thomas waved at his neighbor, then paused on the way over to tap a dollop of hand sanitizer onto his palms, borrowed for only a moment from the front desk. Hands sanitized enough to offer Isobel a greeting, he continued his beeline towards her, thanking Janice for her introductory directions.
“I couldn't help but overhear bein’ asked after, and boy am I pleased as a pickle to see ya! Sure has been a minute since anyone I know came down.” He smiled from ear to ear, remembering several of their post-yoga session discussions. “Miss Janice, I'll take things from here if ya don't mind,” Thomas said with a friendly wink. The relieved volunteer nodded with gusto, her attention shifting to a large family which had just stepped through the front doors.
“She's a little new,” Thomas said to Isobel in a hushed tone, though his statement was free of malice. “‘Course, I used to be, too. Gets to be fast-paced sometimes, but it's a right pleasant place to be if ya ask me.” He paused in his flurry of drawled words, dropping his enthusiasm level to a solid 6 ½. “I take it ya finally wanna have a look around here? Ya picked a great day to stop by, Isobel.”
His sunny energy was enough to help expel (or at least lessen, to some degree) the anxiety that had been threatening the edges of Isobel's mind; she smiled in return, nodding, her hands finally coming away from her purse to hang loose at her sides.
"Is it always this busy on a weekday? I mean, it must get busier on the weekends, but... Yes, I mean, I'm here to get a look around, and, you know, like we talked about. If you can introduce me to people who might think I'd be a good fit for this place, that'd be great." She shrugged, the gesture looser and less nervous-laced than it might have been previously. "Not that I'm expecting anything. It's just great to get the opportunity."
Thomas nodded--likely the opposite of what his shy neighbor wanted to see, but there was never any use in lying, unless the situation really, really needed a pure, white lie. This wasn’t one of them. “Well, we do get a lot of field trips comin’ through here, mostly from the elementary schools in the area. The science teachers especially like to bring their kids here, and I can’t say I blame ‘em. They’re only a lot to handle until ya can get their interest all focused on the same thing.” He looked around with pride at the entrance area of the ENC, the curious, happy crowds peering at their maps and pointing out the areas they wanted to see first.
“Why don’t ya walk with me over yonder? I’ll take ya on a short tour, and afterwards ya can do some explorin’ if ya want.” He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder, back towards the way he’d came. “We’ll likely run into more of the team, and I reckon they’d be pleased as punch to meet a prospective new member.”
"That sounds great," Isobel agreed, and the two fell into step nearly in tandem; Isobel couched her movements a little, letting Thomas take the lead since she was in an unfamiliar area. An indoor tree stretched out over the small space of the lobby, hovering over informational displays and small, glassed-in enclosures that she wasn't sure she wanted to know the contents of, with three hallways leading off in completely separate directions: the entrance, from whence they had come, the direction Thomas had appeared from, and another that looked like it lead to an outdoor seating area. Isobel let her eyes roam over the interior of the place, the smell of dirt and plants putting her even more at ease than she'd expected.
"I read online that you have a greenhouse? I'd love to see that. Do you guys focus on local plants?" She glanced back at Thomas as she spoke, though remained careful of where she stepped as several children went nearly running by.
“We sure do,” Thomas declared with a nod, slipping easily into the role of ENC guide. It was, after all, an aspect of his job that he’d quickly grown accustomed to, happy to encourage active interest in preserving and maintaining the environment and all its many wonders. “California’s got a great set of ecosystems, all of ‘em brimmin’ to the top with diversity,” he explained, motioning for Isobel to follow him towards the hallway which led to the outdoors area behind the building. Walking paths branched in different directions, away from the seats. The paths were lined with small stones and trimmed logs, giving ample room for visitors to travel safely along their chosen routes.
“‘Course, I imagine you’re awful familiar with the plants in these parts,” he said without a touch of irony, smiling at his neighbor. “The greenhouse is down this path,” he motioned to the center trail, flowers peeking up through the soil along the walkway, and trees dotting the horizon. “I reckon we’ll run into Ethel before too long, she tends the flora out here more often than not. Matter of fact, we might just see her in the greenhouse. She’s awful particular about keepin’ the plants fed; y’all might end up fast friends.” It was more than an expression of friendliness, for Thomas truly wished the best for Isobel--and that she might find herself at home among the ENC community, enough to perhaps fill out an application before the day was finished. He might not have known her for very long, but that did nothing to halt him from wishing her one hundred percent the best in her life; and wouldn’t working at the ENC make everything much, much better? It certainly had for him.
Isobel's gaze roamed far and wide as they moved back outside; Thomas' words weren't far from the truth, as she immediately and mentally started identifying several very familiar pieces of flora as they made their slow progress toward the aforementioned greenhouse. She found herself nodding, and then finally smiling back at her guide, pulling her eyes away from the plants for one monetary glance.
"That would be really great," she agreed, already more than excited to meet this Ethel. "I... ran a small nursery business, for awhile. Turns out I'm better at just the plant part than I was at the business part," she quickly added as an uncalled for reason as to why she wasn't still currently running the business. Isobel yammered on, hoping that they wouldn't ask more questions that she wasn't entirely sure she was capable of answering. "I helped landscape a number of businesses and other ventures around the L.A. area; so yeah, I'd be very interested in learning more about what you guys handle here and how I might be able to help. If you guys need the help, of course," she finished, not wanting to step on any toes before she was even in the door.
Thomas grinned with surprise, sincerely impressed with Isobel’s admission. He briefly tried to picture his demure neighbor as the head CEO of her own business, and admittedly found it slightly difficult. “I surely can’t imagine the rigors that must come with handlin’ a whole business, but I’m mighty impressed ya managed for a minute,” Thomas said, acknowledging the struggles she must have faced. “I don’t expect I could do the same, seems like an awful lot to handle.”
Curiously, Isobel seemed more than happy to rush through her personal exposition of her past job, quickly moving their conversation back to the ENC and its employment opportunities. His smile didn’t entirely waver, but it did curl in on itself as he noted the change; in this moment, she reminded him oddly enough of Matthew; he, too, was of a private, almost defensive nature. Thomas was used to this sort of behavior, and he chose, perhaps rightly so, not to pry.
“All that ya see out here is what we handle, but we’ve got some special flowers in the greenhouse, Ethel’s speciality,” he explained, raising a hand to point towards the building they were approaching. A veritable forest of different plants could be seen from the outside, the greenhouse’s windows tall and particularly inviting for the sun’s light. “The bitter cherries are one of my favorites; you’ll see a few of them in there. And,” Thomas announced, “we can always use help from folks that know their way around topsoil and compost.”
Thomas' aim to remain on the topic that Isobel continued to hint toward pulled an abashed smile from her mouth. As the greenhouse came into view, her gaze was fixed on it, curious to get a closer look at the things inside. She picked out the familiar ones, for a moment trying to remember if she'd done a lot of local orders or if she'd tried more variety in her sales pitches. From what she'd read about herself in the news (which was an odd feeling, still), she'd catered well to clients' requests while still maintaining the integrity of the local ecological population.
"Prunus emarginata is certainly pretty to look at, but they're very true to their name," Isobel countered with a smaller smile, looking back at Thomas. "I'm guessing you guys have the emarginata shrub, since it's local? Or do you have the mollis variety, too?" Her brows shot up on her forehead, her words confident in their knowledge.
Blond brows furrowed in thought, his steps taking him ahead of Isobel on the path--just enough to get to the greenhouse door before she did. He held it open so that she could step inside, the sheer warmth within the building undeniable, and yet strangely comfortable.
“Emarginata sounds awful familiar, and I reckon we’ve got a few of those, but I can’t recall if we have the mollis,” Thomas paused as he looked around the building, searching for Ethel. She was the true expert of their plant varieties, and what he did happen to know, he’d learned from her. “Truth is, Isobel, I spend most of my time helpin’ with the tours and school groups,” he admitted. “Sometimes I’m an extra hand with the animals,” Thomas further explained, thinking of the new sloths the ENC had recently admitted.
And then he spotted her, finally: Ethel, queen of the ENC greenhouse and proud of it. She wore bright pink gardening gloves and dusted dirt off on her cheerful, sunshine yellow apron when she noticed who had entered the greenhouse. Thomas waved at her, glad to see they hadn’t missed her shift.
“Miss Ethel, have I got someone for ya to meet!” Happily, Thomas flashed a smile at her, the wire-haired and rosy-cheeked woman walking towards them; she stopped periodically to check on a flower here or a shrub there. Ethel certainly was in her mid-fifties, and yet she walked with all the confidence of a fresh-faced 21 year old. “Y’all are gonna be a real pair, I’m sure of it,” Thomas said with an encouraging nod at Isobel.
“My word, Thomas, you didn’t tell me you had company today,” the pleasant gardener declared with a touch of false hurt when she at last arrived. “I’m Ethel Kissinger, no relation to Henry,” she articulated with a wink that only a three-times-over grandmother could accomplish without seeming facetious. Offering a degloved hand to Isobel, she smiled apologetically down at her dirt-splattered apron. “Don’t mind my mess, I was helping transplant a few new beauties we moved in today.”
"Oh, please, think nothing of it," Isobel returned, grasping Ethel's hand with a firm grip for a quick shake. She could barely stop herself from glancing around the greenhouse, excited to be present amid so much flora. "Thomas was just showing me around and, uh, I was hoping I might be able to help out on a more regular basis if the ENC can use me. I'm between jobs right now... But I'm a botanist, degreed and everything. Is that a red-flowered buckwheat? It's still on the endangered list for California, isn't it, if I'm not mistaken?" She motioned to a plant in a wide, rectangular planter to Ethel's left; a thin stem shot straight upward, sectioning off into blossoms of vividly red flowers pointed directly at the overhead lamps hanging from the greenhouse ceiling; a few others were directed at light coming through the clear panels of the glass wall.
Ethel’s eyes lit up, and Thomas could have sworn she was clearly impressed by Isobel’s plant pedigree; he stepped back to let the two of them get better acquainted, leaning over to grab a spare broom and dust pan from near the front door. A small lump of soil had fallen from a planter bumped by a wild child somewhere between the difficult ages of 6 and 7, and Thomas hastened to clean up the mess, so as to let Ethel focus her full attention on Isobel.
Which she most assuredly did, the glimmer of excitement at finding another person so enchanted with plant life shining through her wholesome, grandmotherly visage. Smile lines creased at the corners of her eyes, and she nodded with a measure of pride when Isobel correctly named the bold-colored buckwheat. “You are correct; we’re hoping and praying they’ll be removed from the list soon, but oh, these times are rough,” she said with a sigh, briefly touching the side of the planter. “I do wish there was more we could do, but for now, we’ll be housing some of them here, safe from bulldozers and high-rise office buildings.”
Clasping her hands together, Ethel refocused her attention on Isobel, deciding she rather liked her initiative. “With an eye like yours for uncommon knowledge about plantae, I don’t believe you’d be out of place. Of course, there is no pressure whatsoever for you to apply now, but I would personally like to suggest our volunteer program, if nothing else.” She gestured to the rest of the greenhouse with her ungloved hand, the entirety of its shocking expanse of housed green leaves and brightly colored flowers, some of them strange and exotic. “The afternoons tend to become so very busy, and an old woman like myself could use an extra hand.”
Thomas, in the background, had finished sweeping up the spilt soil, and was peeking over curiously at the two women, ears perked for any sign of good news. Since it seemed to be going well, he went to dispose of the soil in a large trash can, returning with a spring to his step. “I don’t want to be a nuisance, Ethel, but ya oughta tell her about the new prickly pears. Don’t ya need help with them?” he interjected, looking eagerly at both of them.
Isobel glanced in Thomas' direction, looking back at Ethel with a raised brow. "I'd love to take a look, if you'd be interested in letting me? Could be an impromptu interview, of sorts, not that I'm trying to push," she added with a small laugh, her eyes crinkling a little as she knew she'd found a kindred spirit when it came to her particular passion. "I'd definitely love to volunteer, at the very least. I'm still weighing my options, but this place... It really has a great atmosphere, and clearly people who care about what they're doing." Her hands floundered at her sides a little, showing her nervousness, but her smile never wavered.
"Oputinas are beautiful, and if there's one plant that's probably doing well in this heatwave, I'd imagine it'd be a cactus."
“Hon, you can consider yourself part of this cactus-saving team for right now, and we can discuss the nitty gritty job details along the way,” Ethel said after a thoughtful pause, considering her new apprentice. She pulled her gloves back on, indicating she was ready to get back to business--and eager to see the exact level of Isobel’s mettle. “Thomas, I’ll let you know how she does,” she affirmed with a calm smile.
“Isobel, I’ll let ya two get further acquainted,” he responded, giving her two thumbs up for further encouragement. “Ya got this, but now I gotta get back to a couple of persnickety baby sloths. I’ll be seein’ ya around!” He offered her a short wave, and left the two women to their personal areas of expertise.
Isobel gave Thomas a parting wave, making a mental note to get something from Alice's shop as a thank you for the networking opportunity. But she didn't linger long on his disappearing figure, instead already turned back to Ethel before Thomas was out of the greenhouse. Her eagerness to get back to work was clear in every line of her body, like a runner at the starting line.
"Do you have another pair of gloves? I don't mind getting dirty, but cacti are notoriously pokey..."