The fight to free the car from the bog that I had created in George Harrison’s world-acclaimed garden took a lot out of me. And my railing against God for abandoning me did as well—though I didn’t have any regret for that. It was late too, past midnight, and my day had started early. The prospect of walking back to the mansion and facing the glare of the stadium lights and the scrutiny of George and Olivia drained my will to move.
I eventually opened the car door, my eyes squinting—careful not to inspect the damage I had wrought on the garden environment—slits opened only enough to see my feet take their steps away from the bog. I just didn’t want to know. It was drizzling mist, and a thick, fast-moving current of waist-high fog, drifted across the path ahead of me. On my right, I passed a tall hedge of a maze, and with the fog and the darkness, it reminded me of a scene out of the horror film, “The Shining.” Normally, something like that might creep me out and cause me to hustle out of the area, but I didn’t care anymore.
When I pressed the black button in the courtyard—VOOSH!—VOOSH!—light from the two towers exploded all around me. I hung my head as if waiting for the executioner to give me the business.
“Yes?” the somber voice of George inquired from above, same as before, from inside the brilliant light, within the darkness, somewhere unseen between the balcony columns.
“Stucinthud,” I replied feebly.
“Stuck in the mud.”
I raised my head and looked the light square in the eye, “I’M STUCK . . . IN . . . MUD!”
“Wayne, didn’t you go out the way I told you?” Olivia called down from the balcony.
“I know. I know. I don’t know why I took a right.”
“Hold on,” she replied.
Light rain fell.
Olivia, hugging a coat wrapped around her, met me in the courtyard, accompanied by Dhani, who had donned a khaki safari hat, and appeared to be up for some adventure. “Let’s go get your car out,” Olivia said.
As I led the way, down the path, outside the range of the lights, Olivia was a bit surprised with the direction I was taking them, “Gee, Wayne, I know we’re spooky but we’re not that spooky,” she remarked.
I couldn’t see how, with me at the wheel, and Olivia and Dhani pushing, that we were going to get the car free. And what was also playing on my mind, perhaps more importantly, was the impending drama if Olivia should happen to discover that my car had completely annihilated George’s entire crop of Dianella tasmanica. What stopped me in my tracks: the thought of her falling to her knees, in the mud, fists clenched—Dhani bending over her, wringing his hands for his mother—Olivia throwing her head back—her parish-shattering scream jarring the midnight pubbers down the hill in Henley-on-Thames inside the Giggling Squid.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “We’re not going to be able to push my car out. Not this wet and the rain picking up.”
“Well, all the staff have left for the weekend,” Olivia replied. “And George . . . he doesn’t do this kind of thing.”
What? I thought. George doesn’t push?
“Come on,” Olivia said, turning back around toward the mansion, “I have an idea.”
She went inside leaving Dhani and me huddling for a couple of minutes in the courtyard.
“I’ve called for a driver to take you home to London,” she said. “When the staff return Monday, they’ll get your car out and I’ll phone you to come pick it up.”
On the one hand, I was a bit disappointed that she had not arranged a room inside for me to sleep over in; on the other hand, I was relieved to escape—saved from having to be present with the Harrisons when daylight revealed how badly I had defoliated swaths of rare and exotic plants in their garden.
The car to London arrived in short order. As its headlights entered the courtyard, I suddenly remembered, the check for payment that the Harrisons had given me earlier, was left in my car. Naturally I assumed any possibility of a continuing relationship with the Harrisons was already irretrievably lost but I didn’t want to remove absolute doubt by having them discover that I had carelessly left their £8,000 ($12,000) check out in the open for the staff to find.
“Oh, Olivia,” I said, “I just remembered some important paperwork left in the car.”
“Well hurry up, the driver is here.”
As much trouble as I had already caused that evening, I felt a real responsibility to get my butt in gear, and man, I took off. About ten yards into my sprint back to my car, I heard a little voice in the wind whispering, “Wayne!” A few more yards and the little voice was louder and more urgent, “Wayne!”
I turned around. It was Olivia. “YEAH?” I called back to her across the courtyard.
“YOUR CAR . . .” she pointed in the opposite direction . . . “IS THAT WAY!”
I couldn’t believe it. The only humiliating act that remained for me to perform which might have added to the embarrassment that I had already perpetrated on myself was to pee with complete abandon in my pants. I didn’t dare look at Olivia when I headed back to where I had just bolted from and started my dash again—albeit this time toward the right direction. As I passed by, the driver, in coat and tie, was standing at attention, by his car, looking impeccably competent—professionally sullen expression, his laughing eyes following me.
Monday morning I got a message at the office that my car was ready for pickup. Ed Heyden, my superior, and son of the managing director, drove me the forty-five minutes to Friar Park. I was fortunate to have Ed drive me. He can be snarky on the odd occasion but generally he has one of the top five sweetest dispositions I’ve ever known in a man—particularly towards the disheartened. If he had busted my chops during the whole trip out there for losing the Harrison account I would’ve considered it reasonable. Mercifully, he was being generally Ed.
Through the back gate, Ed dropped me off near the courtyard where my car was parked. I looked around for George, Olivia, or Dhani, but only Harry, George’s brother, was there waiting. He told me the damage to the garden wasn’t too bad, but not how bad, and handed me my car keys.
Back at the office, I phoned Olivia. “Don’t hang up!” I pleaded. I apologized for the disastrous fiasco again. “And I really felt like a jerk running off in the wrong direction, away from my car.”
“Don’t worry,” Olivia said. “George and I had a good laugh about it at breakfast next morning. I told him I thought you were dyslexic: I say ‘left’—you go right . . . “
About two weeks later, I got a call from Jeff Lynne who was out at Friar Park—Olivia had referred him to me. Can you believe it?
One of the most thrilling moments of my Apple computer career was returning to Friar Park and finding a yellow post-it note stuck right up front on the casing of the Harrison’s Mac monitor with my name and phone number on it:
That whole garden drama seemed to strengthen my relationship with the Harrisons. I was eventually asked to manage their PCs in the office too. When Christina and I were making the decision to relocate to America, I had to seriously consider whether I could leave and hand off the Harrison account. It meant that much to me.
Which brings us back to Father God.
Father God, forgive me. For going off on You like a fool—accusing you of abandoning me when You’re always there—for me knowing more than You know—for doubting Your love for me. Amen.
BTW: I’m not dyslexic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Copyright 2017 Wayne Coster Cooper