So a couple months ago, Dexter Jones built a friendship gate in his back fence connecting his yard to his neighbors’ yard. Those neighbors happen to be siblings: Godfrey and Melody. And now Godfrey is one of Dexter’s best friends and Melody is Dexter’s girlfriend, though she and Dexter have yet to physically touch each other because of the dang virus going around, but they’re enjoying the suspense, if you know what I mean.
One late afternoon Dexter is weeding the broccoli patch in his burgeoning vegetable garden when someone asks, “Are those broccolis?”
Looking up and around, Dexter espies a little boy peering over the solid wood fence between Dexter’s yard and the neighboring yard to the south. The little boy is standing on something enabling him to look over the seven-feet-high fence, but Dexter can’t see what the boy is standing on.
“Yep these are broccoli plants,” says Dexter, gesturing to the big plants sporting numerous heads of broccoli. “Who are you?”
“Larry,” says the boy, frowning. “I thought broccoli grew on a tree.”
“Nope,” says Dexter, smiling. “More like a little bush. How old are you?”
“Five, but I’ll be six in three weeks,” says Larry, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. “How come you put a gate in your other fence?”
“I’m good friends with Godfrey and Melody who live back there, so we made a gate for easy visiting.” Dexter sighs happily as he thinks of Melody and how he’ll be seeing her soon for an evening visit on her patio. “Hey what are you standing on, Larry?”
“I nailed some boards to the fence,” says Larry, matter-of-factly. “Kind of like a ladder and I climb up them.”
“Why did you do that?” asks Dexter, impressed by the little boy’s inventiveness.
“To look at things,” says Larry, nodding. “I made one on each fence so I can see other things besides our yard. I like your yard the best now that you have a vegetable garden. Your beans are growing really fast and you get lots of bees and butterflies. The yard behind us is just blackberry bushes and the yard on the other side is full of junk.”
“Do you have a garden?” asks Dexter, feeling a pang of sympathy for Larry and all the children confined to their little spaces because of the dang virus.
“No, we just have a patio and a lawn,” says Larry, shaking his head. “I wish we had a vegetable garden, but my mom says she doesn’t know how to grow vegetables so we can’t have one.”
“I can help you put in a vegetable garden,” says Dexter, smiling at Larry.
“Wait a minute,” says Larry, disappearing.
“Uh oh,” says Dexter, laughing. “Now what have I done?”
What he’s done is get Larry to go get his mother who comes out into her backyard with a little ladder and stands on the third rung up so she can see over the fence into Dexter’s yard. Her name is Harriet. She’s thirty, divorced, single, works at Safeway, and would love to replace her little patch of lawn with a vegetable garden, but she knows nothing about gardening.
Dexter and Harriet chat for twenty minutes, decide they like each other, and a couple days later Dexter and Godfrey knock out seven planks in the fence between Dexter’s yard and Larry and Harriet’s yard, and they build a second friendship gate.
And just a few weeks after they build that gate, this being the height of summer, Larry harvests his first radish from his new vegetable garden and calls Dexter on the phone to make sure it’s a good time to come visit.
Dexter steps out of the shower, having just gotten home from work, answers his phone, and tells Larry to come over in ten minutes.
Larry watches the clock on the kitchen stove until ten minutes have gone by and then he rushes out into his backyard and goes through the friendship gate into Dexter’s backyard to show him the radish.
“Wow,” says Dexter, admiring the radish from several feet away. “What a beauty.”
“I know,” says Larry, gazing in wonder at the beautiful red radish. “I think maybe I have a green thumb.”
“No maybe about it,” says Dexter, imagining giving Larry a hug. “You’ve definitely got the knack, kiddo.”