I’m not going to brood over “I Knew Him” any longer. It’s entirely counter-productive. It will get written when it’s percolated and is ready to be written. I trust my brain to fill in the gaps when it’s ready.
In the meantime, here’s the very rough beginnings of something I started recently which I was going to call “Summer’s Lease” but I find that someone has done a short story with that title. I might stick with it, after all it’s not going to be published for a good while yet.
There are parts of garden that hold more memories than others, and this is one, the strawberry beds. It was here he first started to garden—at an age he can’t recall precisely, but has the clearest memory of his fingers wrapped around the warm wood of a trowel he could hardly hold, his baby fingers slipping from the handle. Everything was sensation. The feel of the tools, wood-warm, iron-cold, earth-damp, and Mother was there, always crisp and always cool, in her huge straw hat and loose pinafore.
She dug at the ground, then sat back on her heels, addressing her son. “Like this, Terrigan. See?” Terrence spoke the words his mother had, the way he remembered them, at least. She said a variant on them each year, becoming less babyish as he grew, grew as surely as the Monkey Puzzle Tree beyond the pond. “You have a make a little home, a cave underground for the roots to live and grow. Make the proper house for each plant, and they’ll flourish to show how you happy they are.” He remembers looking up, seeing the sun pierce through the tiny holes in her hat and lighting up the backs of her hands—or was that another time and place?
Smiling at the bitter-sweetness of it, and in mild castigation that he still—at twenty-nine—missed her here beside him, he turned the earth over with the trowel; practiced and sure. Strawberries. He would rather go without potatoes than not plant strawberries. Despite Roke’s annual complaint at the cost of the plants, and the work involved. The mounds, the straw, the endless bending. “Too old I am, Mister Terrence and that’s a fact, you’d better get a young man from the village.” It wasn’t as if he expected Roke to tend the strawberries, but it was a charade they both played—that Roke was still able to manage the whole garden—and that Terrence employed him for that fact. It had been several years since Roke had been able to do anything of the sort, and Terrence found himself in the garden more often than not. Employing a young man—or young woman, girls seemed to be doing the most extraordinary things these days—was out of the question. It was not only a matter of finances—Roke lived in the small cottage at the end of the two acre garden, hidden beneath willows out of sight of the house, and therefore was content with much less money than any new gardener would require—but there were no young men (or women) willing to do that sort of work these days. Since the war the village had become a place where the old lived. The old and the old at heart.
Roke had been here when Mother lived—and died. He’d been here since Father was a boy, but it was Mother he loved, for Mother had loved the garden, and by extension—to Roke’s eyes—Roke. If encouraged he would talk about Mother at any opportunity. Sometimes—and it was like picking a scab—Terrence would find the old gardener, sit in his house, drink his peaty tea and listen for as long as he could bear to tales of the way his mother had improved the garden.
“Nothing here but lawn,” Roke had said a dozen or more times, forgetting, it seemed, that he’d told the same story over and over to a man who never tired of it. “Oh, your father—especially when your grandmother was alive—he didn’t want a blade of it touched. ‘It might not have been Capability Brown’ he’d tell her, ‘but it was designed like this, and damn it, Evelyn, I like it like this!’ And she’d laugh, you know that quiet, deep laugh she had, and catch him by the arm and lead him off, and soon enough she had men digging the borders in a week. I never did know how she persuaded the old lady, your grandmother, beg your pardon, mister Terrence.”© Copyright 2011 Erastes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Erastes