By Candi Lavender
Reaching for a towel to dry her hands, she noted the towel next to hers. It was haphazard. No, that was the wrong word. It was carelessly hung. Everything he did was careless, except when it was in his domain. Tools were hung precisely on the shed walls and if she returned something to its wrong location, there were harsh words. “Can’t you see where this goes?” His car was always pristine and shiny; hers was almost always dusty and dull.
She replaced her carefully folded towel and looked past the front yard to the garden. His garden. She prepared and cooked the vegetables and fruit that grew there, but he furrowed the arrow-straight rows and planted the specimens alphabetically. Beans always came before cabbage and turnips always followed tomatoes. She had marveled at first at his attention to detail, but then resented the allure of the plants. Even garden pests took precedence over her list of household chores. She would miss the fresh, seasonal food, but she would be happy to see this garden of delights fall into disarray. She would laugh as the deer, raccoons, and squirrels chewed holes in the tomatoes and cucumbers and think about what he would say if he were still around.
She let the old screen door bang shut as she went outside. Shivering in the early morning light, she put on rubber boots. Reaching the shed, she grabbed a shovel and stood looking at the neat rows of steel and wooden tools. She hoisted the shovel over her head and struck the row of hoes and rakes, causing them to swing, tangle and fall to the ground. Smiling, she trudged toward the beds of collards and cucumbers. She straddled the two rows and plunged the steel rim of the shovel into the ground.
It was late June and the earth gave way under the pressure of the blade as she dug deeply into the soil. It was her intention to make a long, deep scar in the garden, between the C’s. After all, his name was Colin and so it seemed a fitting resting place.
After a couple of hours of digging, she had a hole she thought would hold his old, shriveled body. She threw the shovel aside and kicked at the loose dirt. Marching back toward the shed, she found the wheelbarrow and moved it to the back of the house.
Hot, thirsty and exhausted, she took off her dirty rubber boots and went back inside the house to rest. She could finish her task tomorrow, there was no hurry now.
The day passed quietly in the country. She sat on the porch rocker while thinking back on the 50 years that had passed since she came to this old farm. Colin had been tall and handsome and she was young and full of dreams. The years changed all that and now she sat, sweet tea in hand, and let the tears fall. Cancer had taken Colin’s dignity – his flesh and will to live had also disappeared during the long fight. Even in death, Colin had been careless, leaving her behind with no one to care.
The following morning, she dragged Colin’s lifeless body from their bed and out into the last remnants of darkness. The sun was rising over her right shoulder as she pushed the wheelbarrow toward the garden. Years of working hard made her strong and resilient; Colin weighed no more than the dog she had buried last year in the turnips. Colin had dug Trixie’s grave but didn’t have the heart to put the dog in the ground.
She tried not to crush the collard leaves as she pushed the wheelbarrow in between the rows. Reaching the deep furrow, she up ended the vehicle and felt Colin’s body slide onto the earth. She sat down on the ground and closed her eyes. Her body shook and she swallowed back the tears. A small cry escaped her lips, but she righted herself and stretched the body out in the center of the trench. Using a shovel, she began to cover Colin with the rich, nutrient heavy soil he so loved.
She stood for a long time leaning on the shovel’s handle and looking at the garden. A squirrel was meandering through the row of tomatoes and she shouted, “Get outta here!” She waved her arms and watched as the rodent scampered away. Then she laughed. Perhaps she would take care of the garden.
Back in the house she washed her hands and looked at the wrinkled towel beside hers. Realizing she had no desire to adjust it, she took her neatly folded towel, dried her hands, and placed it beside Colin’s.
Candi Lavender studied creative writing at Salem College and her short stories have been published in Gemini Magazine and Lulu.com