Splash of paint

First Fruit

            Adam was tired of tilling, tired of planting, tired of composting, weeding, pruning, nurturing, harvesting, cooking and taking leftovers to the compost pile.  He had gardened for years, the plot of eager earth like an open mouth—cultivate me, water me, feed me, care for all my needs.  The garden called to him each day he came home, worn out, from a day at the office.
            At one time, the garden had been just what he needed after a long day indoors.  The smell of the earth, the colorful intricacy of squash blossoms, the weeds that imitated sprouting lettuce, radish and beet.  All of it seemed closer to miracle than to the burdensome work it seemed to be now.
            So he let it go.  St Patrick’s Day passed without seed potatoes, onion sets, cabbage plants, chard or lettuce.  Mother’s Day passed without basil, tomato, squash, beans or corn.  Crab grass crawled across the garden plot.  Violets bunched along it borders.  Jimson weed, sunflower, wild oats, and lamb’s quarters rioted across what was once orderly space.
            He relished its run to ruin.  He mowed around it, but left it untouched.  How tall? he wondered.  How wild?  How various?  How long, he asked himself, would he be able to let it go?
            Longer than he thought, though his wonderment at the thriving dissolution of growth became his shock at such a choking overcrowding of dissipation.  In this riot of wildness, some plants became victims, strangled, yellowing, falling to the earth with curling leaves.  The plants that needed the most sunlight and water were first to their knees.  Those with deep roots, tough leaves, or those quick to seed, were the victors.  What had been interesting became disheartening.  Nature, he saw, was a brutal gardener.
            Mowing one day, he spotted a flicker of red that must be a cardinal among the weeds.  The color did not move as he made his turns around what had been his garden.  He put the mower away and went to the disheveled patch.  He waded in and rescued the one survivor of his effort from the previous year—a tomato the size of a golf ball, sweet and bursting in his mouth.
            The next day he strode into his plot.  He would give his vital volunteer some space.  Maybe he’d find other signs of survival.  He had work to do.

"First Fruit" first appeared in Paradigm










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Flash of red paint

Pepper plant


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