The Gardener

by Sylvia Heike

In the summertime, city dwellers like me flock to their allotment gardens. The village of one hundred postage stamp plots–with their vibrant cabins, lush gardens, and ever-smiling residents–looks like it’s been transplanted from a children’s book.

Bill and his purple cabin on Plot 29, next to my yellow 28, are no exception. His abundant hanging baskets, lush peonies, and award-winning roses are not only the envy of his neighbours, but their pride. In a community like this, we’ve come to share not just gardening tips but our joys and sorrows as well.

When I hear the news about Bill, I can’t breathe.

The man who tends to his little patch of land with devotion, making it burst in brilliant colours year after year, won’t one day be able to see the bloom of his own garden.Bill is losing his vision due to glaucoma.

But he doesn’t give up. He sows, mows, nips, and trims. Perhaps more than ever. Perhaps as much as when his wife Rebecca died seven years ago, soon after I lost my husband. He builds a patio and re-paints his cabin–a deep, soothing shade of lavender I suggested.

At the end of the summer, I join Bill in his garden. He doesn’t talk about his impending darkness, but the way he admires his flowers at close range rather than a few steps away, tells me it’s slowly descending. Every bulb and seed he plants, he does without knowing whether he’ll be allowed to see its rise from the soil.

He tells me of his plans to donate some of his precious roses because their thorns give him trouble. I tell him he needn’t do that if he teaches me how to prune them.

He takes my hand and calls me the light in his darkness, but it’s him who’s the light in mine. After all these years, something sown in two dark places has finally begun to bud.

Sylvia Heike lives in Finland. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in freeze frame fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, and other publications. When not writing, she enjoys long walks in the forest and deciphering birdsong in her garden.