Winter onion

Winter Onion

            John remembered his grandmother’s place in the country as if he were still the boy just returned from the two weeks he spent there each summer.  Now, after the loss of his Grandpa William, Grandma Violet’s move to town, her seven years in the nursing home after the breast cancer, he did not know what to expect.
            He’d spent every summer in the hottest room of the old farmhouse, the southwest bedroom, attic ceiling slanting in the heat.  Would the bed be as narrow as he remembered it?  He would drive slowly, crunching gravel, and there, as the road curved, he would see the house, white with green trim, the front partly obscured by the apple and pear trees along the lane.  He would pull in, and go to the barn—red, huge, prototypical.  His brother might be there already.  They’d promised to take turns grabbing the rope and swinging down and back, dizzying swoops followed by safe landings in the hayloft.
            And her garden might still be someone’s garden, winter onions green all year round.  He would pick one and carry that boyhood taste with him.  The asparagus would be all lace and red berries.  No doubt the corral would be in use, some horses, maybe a mule.  And chickens.  He’d hated them, especially the banty rooster that pecked at his Achilles tendon, making him run.  “I keep him for fun,” Grandma Violet had said.  “To keep boys moving.”
            John headed deeper into the country.  His brother Thomas would meet him soon.  They’d buried Violet the week before, the grave already sodded, no different from all the other graves.  John rounded the curve.  And saw no house, no barn, no trees, no chicken house or corral.  Only his brother’s car, parked in a short space that once was the beginning of the drive.  Now it provided access to a flat field of winter wheat, young and green.  The brothers walked into the field, to where the house might have stood.  John bent to the one small sprouting of winter onion.  He put it in his mouth.  That bitterness would linger with him the rest of his day.

"Winter Onion" first appeared in I-70 Review





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