He was the kind of gardener to whom Nature whispered her secrets. His garden was a ripe lavish spectacle, a thing of pride and envy on a drab suburban street. Intriguing, that this display of sensitivity came from a man so crude, violent. As if a spark of beauty buried deep within him would not be denied. He spent his life drinking alone in that garden, grunting and chuckling, stumbling around and passing out, discovering himself bruised, scratched and bleeding in the morning.
The gardener said to his wife “Why me? It should have been you.”
He sits propped by pillows and he stares at his hands. So soft and pink and clean now, so unlike his own hands. And his arms, once slabs of tough muscle, are just floppy, withered flesh hanging out of his generic gown. His face squeezes and contorts as he struggles with the weight of his false teeth. He asks for something and everyone reaches for it at once. A glass of water, a tissue, another pillow. His voice is a dry rasp. Sometimes he is too weak to speak so they sit around him like a silent jury. A family drawn together by an invisible thread that they don’t really understand, it pulls them close despite their dislike and embarrassment of him. They look at him, they look away, they look at each other, they look away. Nowhere for the eyes to rest, no place not touched by this. This vague horror. This stark disbelief. This self gratifying fear. So brutal and futile, to watch death at work. No way to assimilate the devastating lesson because your own death is yet to come.
The gardener’s wife said “I know I should feel something but I don’t feel anything.”
Forty years of bitterness. She does what has to be done.
She is wiping the drool from his chin. Sitting beside him night and day. She is raising a cup of iced water to his mouth, pushing the paper straw between pale lips.
She is moaning over his dead body, preened to look alive again, it seems weightless on the cushioned white satin.
She is placing a pink carnation on the coffin lid, with a shaking hand, before it is lowered into the ground.
The moist earth ready to receive him, new secrets to whisper in his ear. His body a garden itself now. The cemetery a garden of bones. And waiting for him to arrive, a heavenly garden of no more pain.
A stream of doe eyed guests come to offer their condolences. They sit up straight in her leather dining chairs and are served bitter coffee in tiny gold rimmed china cups. Delicate sugared pastries arranged on a silver tray. Starched ivory linen tablecloth. Her hands resting before her, right hand laying over left, the gold wedding band gleaming. With calm resignation she repeats the details of his illness, his treatment, his death, over and over again until the flow of guests finally stops.
Then she begins to clear the garden. Slowly and methodically, she chops and rips and hacks. The vegetable garden overturned. The multitude of flowers torn out by their roots. The extravagant jungle of ferns snipped away. She prunes the grape vines and roses and fruit trees until only thick, bare, oozing stems remain.
(C) Magenta Nero 2014