Espaliered tree

Such a Sound

            One summer, some nights, after a rain, the night still and soft, the windows open for what was always a cool breeze, if I awoke in pre-dawn light, I heard a sigh, a shudder, a soft moan just outside my bedroom window, coming, I thought, from my garden.  Was it an animal, stretching itself after nocturnal prowling, readying itself for a daytime burrow?
            Sometimes the sound was slick, like running a finger down a sweating glass, making me think of a cat, licking dew from the grass.  When I sneaked to the windows, though, I saw no cat, dog, possum or raccoon.  Was an earthworm turning in the newly wet soil?  A caterpillar crawling on a cabbage leaf, soon to cocoon?  A bird sharpening its beak on a fence post?  Rain, sound, fruitless investigation, until the summer wore its way into fall, and I harvested the garden and, though rain continued, the sound stopped.
            The next year, my grandfather came for a visit.  An old farmer, he had to undergo some medical tests, so he stayed with me for a week.  My garden was just coming along, tomatoes setting, beans forming at the ends of their vines, corn rising, young beets ready to boil.  The rain came down hard one day, and that night I heard the sounds from the summer before.
            I described what I was hearing to my grandfather, asked him to solve the mystery.  He smiled.  That day he drove a stake into the garden, and late afternoon we watered well.  Same sounds that night.
            “Go look at the stake,” he said in the morning.
            The stake was just as he’d driven it in the day before.
            “What do you notice?” he asked.
            Nothing, I told him.
            “And the corn?” he asked.
            The sweet corn, young and thriving, had outgrown the stake driven to its height, all in one night.
           “Some nights,” said my grandfather, “out on the farm, next to a field of corn, I can hardly sleep for listening to it grow.  Such a sound.”

"Such a Sound" first appeared in Kansas City Voices







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