The vegetable garden

I took a hoe and a spade to the small vegetable garden behind the house. The tomatoes and radishes weren’t doing well. The carrots were smaller than my thumb. The surrounding corn whispered their rot. There wasn’t much food in the house, other than what the neighbors brought after the funeral: dried up pieces of beef, casseroles, pies. The cupboards were almost empty and there were only a few dollars left in the biscuit tin under the sink.

Generosity is abundant in a time of loss, but when that loss is forgotten, so is the kindness. I couldn’t blame anyone for it. It was a harsh summer for crops, and no one had much to spare. The supper tables were lean, most folks living off eggs and whatever small crop they could muster from their own gardens. I had no truck to go visiting, and the old Allis Chalmers tires were as soft as candle wax.

The sun made my eyes ache. At least the well was holding up, but without a good rainfall, it might peter out by fall.

All I had left were my hands and my pride, and I didn’t know which would give out first.

I dug the garden, a scant half-acre of dry yellow vegetation. The soil was hard and crumbly. I found some decent sized onions and turnips I could turn into a soup. The carrots would have to do. There was some deer meet in the freezer, back from last fall when Jeremiah was in a shooting mood, and cans of lima beans and navy beans. I didn’t care for them, but hunger would make my preferences unimportant. I would dig until there was nothing left to dig.

There was no time for loneliness, even though I felt it festering inside. My heart felt as withered as the goddamn corn.

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