The cost of niceness

Mental Health
Hank was known far and wide for his unprecedented levels of kindness, compassion, and all-around pleasant-to-be-around-ness. Though his range as a self-employed handyman was limited to a few small rural towns, word of mouth actually brought people from cities a few hours away to meet him, some with the pretense of some machine needing repair or some consultation on home maintenance that they could have easily had wherever they were from. Hank knew this, and, in his niceness, said nothing. As a handyman, he came to regard this talking with people who clearly really needed to talk as just another kind of job he could do.
What no one knew about Hank, of course, was that although in his day-to-day life he really was as wonderful as everyone said, it was bought with a price. On Hank's rural land, past the house and the tool shed on an overgrown dirt path that wound behind several copses of gnarled trees (looking, generally, like an uninteresting and vaguely sad place) there was a dingy-glassed greenhouse. Here it was that he kept the plants, the 'vessels of wrath', as he called them in his mind. He would go here, late at night or early in the morning, or whenever he niceness threatened to crack, and would whisper soft cruelties to the withered plants, keep them barely alive and yet refuse to let them die until they had been utterly used up in Hank's own twisted secret garden.

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