Quilt of plans

The Last Coroner's Wife

They bought the Glimmer place.  The only mansion in town, it was surrounded by a limestone wall.  The county could barely afford to hire a coroner, but this one had retired early from the military.  His wife was a recluse—never went out shopping, stayed away from church.  The town saw her only when she accompanied her husband to each death.  On each of those trips, she would bring home a souvenir.  She dug a slip of day lily from old Monroe’s bungalow.  She took a cutting of lilac from the front of Rob Martin’s barn.  Rhubarb from Mrs. Jenkins prize patch.  Rose moss from the Thomas rock garden.  After a while, townsfolk saw her at night.  “Dug up a peony from the courthouse gardens,” someone reported.  “And a tea rose from the library,” said another.  School grounds, historical society, churches: all found plants missing.  When the county could no longer afford the position, the coroner and his wife left town, and the Glimmer place, unsold, grew over with vines.  Old Sampson bought the place, finally, to bulldoze the wall for the limestone.  As he broke through, he found the overgrown garden of the coroner’s wife.  With plants, she had created a map of the county, each plant signifying a person’s life, each souvenir placed inside the square walls just where it had been found in the square county.  Of course everything was grown to riot, so hers was a disheveled garden, ruined like the county.  Old Sampson shook his head.  At least the garden was a riot of life, where the county—its hopes and dreams—seemed nearly dead, failed.  At least Nature goes to ruin in beauty, he thought.  Buildings and farms, they just go to ruin.

"The Last Coroner's Wife" first appeared in Little Balkans Review








Stone with word "me" carved in it


Errant plant

Clump of grass

Quilt of flowers

Return to Design Garden

Return to Garden Plots Map