By Elaine D. Walton
She started planning the garden because it was the dead of winter and she was bored and didn’t know what else to do. Her mother told her once that some plants did better when they were placed next to others, but four long years ago have passed and what did she have to show for it? Just an empty patch of dead earth.
This year things would be different. She had a new plan that would put tomatoes with tomatoes and peppers with peppers. The half-double lot was tiny but she knew from experience that she didn’t need much space—and 3 feet X 6 feet would be plenty. Besides, the only mouth she had to feed now was her own.
She gathered her tools and headed to the backyard. Yesterday’s snow was still hanging around, and since the wind wasn’t blowing, all her neighbors could see the black lines she scratched into the white dust. She thought of how pissed Mrs. Finkelstein would be without plump, juicy tomatoes to steal and it made her laugh out loud. The sound rattled the leaves clinging to barren branches.
She paced off the area parallel from the scratched line. Making marks in the snow like that reminded her of the snow angels she made as a child. She thought about laying down and doing it once more for old times’ sake, but changed her mind when she noticed Mr. Williams looking out his kitchen window at her, saying Jesus Christ what the hell is that crazy woman doing in the middle of winter like this without as much as a coat on. She gave him a one-finger salute until he closed the curtains.
The shovel piercing the frozen soil made one hell of a racket but she didn’t care. Her heart beat faster and beads of sweat formed on her pale skin as she moved earth from one spot to another. Whether from exhaustion or the cold, she couldn’t feel a thing anymore and that was just fine. As she worked, a cardinal tweeted his blessing from the rooftop.
Just as the last scoop of dirt was excised from the plot, she heard it—quiet and far away but certainly heading her way. The blue curtains parted like the sea to reveal Mr. Williams and his bubble-gum chewing slut of a wife eyeballing her from their kitchen window, and then she heard the squawk of Mrs. Finkelstein’s storm door opening and knew that dried-up scarecrow had come out to enjoy the show, too.
They didn’t have to wait long. Their only regret was that there would be no tomatoes or peppers to steal next year.