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The six rows of pom-pons

And when Nephew Tatsuo, who was seven and in high second grade, got used to the place and began coming out into the fields and pestering us with difficult questions as “What are the plants here for? What is water? Why are the bugs made for? What are the birds and why do the birds sing?” and so on, I said to Uncle Hiroshi, “We must do something about this. We cannot answer questions all the time and we cannot be correct all the time and so we will do harm. But something must be done about this beyond a doubt.”

“Let us take him in our hands,” Uncle Hiroshi said. So Uncle Hiroshi took little Nephew Tatsuo aside, and brought him out in the fields and showed him the many rows of pompons growing. “Do you know what these are?” Uncle Hiroshi said. “These things here?”

“Yes. Very valuable,” Nephew Tatsuo said. “Plants.”

“Do you know when these plants grow up and flower, we eat?” Uncle Hiroshi said.

Nephew Tatsuo nodded. “Yes,” he said, “I knew that.”

“All right. Uncle Hiroshi will give you six rows of pompons,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “You own these six rows. You take care of them. Make them grow and flower like your uncles.”

“Gee!” Nephew Tatsuo said.

“Do you want to do it?” Uncle Hiroshi said.

“Sure!” he said.

“Then jump right in and start working,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “But first, let me tell you something.

You cannot quit once you start. You must not let it die, you must make it grow and flower like your uncles.”

“All right,” little Nephew Tatsuo said, “I will.”

“Every day you must tend to your plants. Even after the school opens, rain or shine,” Uncle Hiroshi said.

“All right,” Nephew Tatsuo said. “You’ll see!”

So the old folks once more began to work peacefully, undisturbed, and Nephew Tatsuo began to work on his plot. However, every now and then Nephew Tatsuo would run to Uncle Hiroshi with much excitement.

“Uncle Hiroshi, come!” he said. “There’s bugs on my plants! Big bugs, green bugs with black dots and some brown bugs. What shall I do?”

“They’re bad bugs,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “Spray them.”

“I have no spray,” Nephew Tatsuo said excitedly.

“All right. I will spray them for you today,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “Tomorrow I will get you a small hand spray. Then you must spray your own plants.”

Several tall grasses shot above the pompons and Uncle Hiroshi noticed this. Also, he saw the beds beginning to fill with young weeds.

“Those grasses attract the bugs,” he said. “Take them away. Keep the place clean.”

It took Nephew Tatsuo days to pick the weeds out of the six beds. And since the weeds were not picked cleanly, several weeks later it looked as if it was not touched at all. Uncle Hiroshi came around sometimes to feel the moisture in the soil. “Tatsuo,” he said, “your plants need water. Give it plenty, it is summer. Soon it will be too late.”

Nephew Tatsuo began watering his plants with the three-quarter hose.

“Don’t hold the hose long in one place and short in another,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “Keep it even and wash the leaves often.”

In October Uncle Hiroshi’s plants stood tall and straight and the buds began to appear. Nephew Tatsuo kept at it through summer and autumn, although at times he looked wearied and indifferent. And each time Nephew Tatsuo’s enthusiasm lagged, Uncle Hiroshi took him over to the six rows of pompons and appeared greatly surprised.

“Gosh,” he said, “your plants are coming up! It is growing rapidly; pretty soon the flowers will come.”

“Do you think so?” Nephew Tatsuo said.

“Sure, can’t you see it coming?” Uncle Hiroshi said. “You will have lots of flowers. When you have enough to make a bunch, I will sell it for you at the flower market.”

“Really?” Nephew Tatsuo said. “In the flower market?”

Uncle Hiroshi laughed. “Sure,” he said. “That’s where the plant business goes on, isn’t it?”

One day Nephew Tatsuo wanted an awful lot to have us play catch with him with a tennis ball. It was at the time when the nursery was the busiest and even Sundays were all work.

“Nephew Tatsuo, don’t you realize we are all men with responsibilities?” Uncle Hiroshi said. “Uncle Hiroshi has lots of work to do today. Now is the busiest time. You also have lots of work to do in your beds. And this should be your busiest time. Do you know whether your pompons are dry or wet?”

“No, Uncle Hiroshi,” he said. “I don’t quite remember.”

“Then attend to it. Attend to it,” Uncle Hiroshi said.

Nephew Tatsuo ran to the six rows of pompons to see if it was dry or wet. He came running back. “Uncle Hiroshi, it is still wet,” he said.

“All right,” Uncle Hiroshi said, “but did you see those holes in the ground with the piled-up mounds of earth?”

“Yes. They’re gopher holes,” Nephew Tatsuo said.

“Right,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “Did you catch the gopher?”'

“No,” said Nephew Tatsuo.

“Then attend to it, attend to it right away,” Uncle Hiroshi said.

One day in late October Uncle Hiroshi’s pompons began to bloom. He began to cut and bunch and take them early in the morning to the flower market in Oakland. And by this time Nephew Tatsuo was anxious to see his pompous bloom. He was anxious to see how it feels to cut the flowers of his plants. And by this time Nephew Tatsuo’s six beds of pompons looked like a patch of tall weeds left uncut through the summer. Very few pompon buds stood out above the tangle.

Few plants survived out of the six rows. In some parts of the beds where the pompons had plenty of water and freedom, the stems grew strong and tall and the buds were big and round. Then there were parts where the plants looked shriveled and the leaves were wilted and brown. The majority of the plants were dead before the cool weather arrived. Some died by dryness, some by gophers or moles, and some were dwarfed by the great big grasses which covered the pompons altogether.

When Uncle Hiroshi’s pompous began to flower, everywhere the older folks became worried.

“We must do something with Tatsuo’s six beds. It is worthless and his bugs are coming over to our beds,” Tatsuo’s father said. “Let’s cut it down and burn them today.”

“No,” said Uncle Hiroshi. “That will be a very bad thing to do. It will kill Nephew Tatsuo. Let the plants stay.”

So the six beds of Nephew Tatsuo remained intact, the grasses, the gophers, the bugs, the buds and the plants and all. Soon after, the buds began to flower and Nephew Tatsuo began to run around calling Uncle Hiroshi. He said the flowers are coming. Big ones, good ones. He wanted to know when can he cut them.

“Today,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “Cut it today and I will sell it for you at the market tomorrow.”

Next day at the flower market Uncle Hiroshi sold the bunch of Nephew Tatsuo’s pompons for twenty-five cents. When he came home Nephew Tatsuo ran to the car.

“Did you sell it, Uncle Hiroshi?” Nephew Tatsuo said.

“Sure. Why would it not sell?” Uncle Hiroshi said.

“They are healthy, carefully cultured pompons.”

Nephew Tatsuo ran around excitedly. First, he went to his father. “Papa!” he said, “someone bought my pompons!” Then he ran over to my side and said, “The bunch was sold! Uncle Hiroshi sold my pompons!”

At noontime, after the lunch was over, Uncle Hiroshi handed over the quarter to Nephew Tatsuo.

“What shall I do with this money?” asked Nephew Tatsuo, addressing all of us, with shining eyes.

“Put it in your toy bank,” said Tatsuo’s father.

“No,” said Uncle Hiroshi. “Let him do what he wants. Let him spend and have a taste of his money.”

“Do you want to spend your quarter, Nephew Tatsuo?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Then do anything you wish with it,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “Buy anything you want. Go and have a good time. It is your money.”

On the following Sunday we did not see Nephew Tatsuo all day. When he came back late in the afternoon Uncle Hiroshi said, “Nephew Tatsuo, what did you do today?”

“I went to a show, then I bought an ice cream cone and then on my way home I watched the baseball game at the school, and then I bought a popcorn from the candy man. I have five cents left,” Nephew Tatsuo said.

“Good,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “That shows a good spirit.”

Uncle Hiroshi, Tatsuo’s father and I sat in the shade. It was still hot in the late afternoon that day. We sat and watched Nephew Tatsuo riding around and around the yard on his red tricycle, making a furious dust.

“Next year he will forget what he is doing this year and will become a wild animal and go on a rampage again,” the father of Tatsuo said.

“Next year is not yet here,” said Uncle Hiroshi.

“Do you think he will be interested to raise pompons again?” the father said.

“He enjoys praise,” replied Uncle Hiroshi, “and he takes pride in good work well done. We will see.”

“He is beyond a doubt the worst gardener in the country,” I said. “Probably he is the worst in the world.”

“Probably,” said Uncle Hiroshi.

“Tomorrow he will forget how he enjoyed spending his year’s income,” the father of Tatsuo said.

“Let him forget,” Uncle Hiroshi said. “One year is nothing. We will keep this six rows of pompon business up till he comes to his senses.”

We sat that night the whole family of us, Uncle Hiroshi, Nephew Tatsuo’s father, I, Nephew Tatsuo and the rest, at the table and ate, and talked about the year and the prospect of the flower business, about Uncle Hiroshi’s pompon crop, and about Nephew Tatsuo’s work and, also, his unfinished work in this world. 

 

 

 


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