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Virgil is the name of our newest narrator, and boy does he have a cheery dad. In fact, his pops is so happy that he's smiling even when there are rats scurrying up people's legs.
What's he so cheery about? The community garden, of course.
The next day, he gets Virgil up to start working on it. Virgil isn't too thrilled about the whole thing, and we can't blame him. It's the first day of summer break after fifth grade, and he just wants to sleep in.
We also learn a bit about Virgil's heritage. His dad is from Haiti, and now he's a taxi driver in Cleveland. Looks like Virgil isn't going to give us too many details, because that's all the info we get.
Anyway, Virgil and his dad have a lot to do for this garden. And they're off:
Step 1: Virgil and his pop find a spot of ground they like and clean it up. This means throwing out lots of trash (except a random locket, which Virgil keeps).
Step 2: Do the same clean-up routine to another plot of land.
Steps 3-6: Do it all over again until you've got six patches cleared up.
Virgil's dad definitely has a plan. You see, while driving people around the city in his cab, he's learned that fancy shmancy restaurants will pay major bucks for specialty lettuce. So that's exactly what Virgil's dad is going to plant and sell to the local restaurants.
While Virgil's dad is super happy with his business plans, Virgil is kind of embarrassed. Their garden is huge compared to everyone else's. And he only gets more embarrassed when his old third grade teacher, Miss Fleck, points this out.
But then this story gets more complicated. When Virgil's dad hears Miss Fleck commenting on the size of the land, he tells the teacher what's up. He says that each of the six plots of land are for different family members who can't be there to plant themselves. Here's the run down:
Plot #1 is for Virgil and his family, so that's cool.
Plot #2 is for Virgil's uncle (his dad's bro) Antoine.
Plot #3 belongs to Virgil's dad's aunt. Yep, this is a big family tree we're getting here. And according to Virgil, both Antoine and his great aunt live in Haiti. Miss Fleck doesn't know this info, but we're thinking these relatives won't be planting anything in the Cleveland garden anytime soon.
Plot #4 goes to Virgil's dad's Uncle Philippe, who Virgil says lives in New York. This sure is some cross-country farming.
Plot #5 belongs to Virgil's grandfather on his mom's side. Hold up, Virgil tells us this grandpa died last year. Okay, so he definitely isn't planting any lettuce in the near future.
Plot #6 is for Virgil's mom's sisters. But here's the hitch: Virgil tells us that his mom doesn't even have sisters. What?!
Okay, so we've got some serious lying going on here, and Virgil is stuck just watching it happen. Miss Fleck doesn't seem to buy the story, but there's nothing she can do about it anyway.
So eventually the lettuce grows and Virgil has a ton of responsibilities to care for it. And how does this lettuce-tending go? Let's put it this way: Virgil doesn't exactly have a green thumb. In fact, the lettuce grows in crooked rows, starts to wilt right away, and gets eaten by bugs. Actually, it looks like Virgil has the anti-green thumb.
But then Virgil's dad finds out some bad news from one of his taxi passengers: lettuce can't grow in the summer. Huge bummer, but at least the dead lettuce isn't Virgil's fault. Oh, and remember that smile Virgil's dad always had? Yeah, well that grin is gone, dear Shmoopers.
Virgil feels angry, sad, and sorry all at once. He was going to get a new bike with the lettuce money, but that dream is dying with the bug-eaten lettuce leaves.
Then he asks the picture of the little girl in the locket he found if she'll help save the lettuce. Yep, this story just got weird.