continued from previous
Olivia waved from afar with one hand while resting her entire body on a big shovel. The early morning heat had pretty much exhausted her already, but the satisfaction that came from this morning’s garden work had brought a wide smile to her face. She had spent the past hour finally getting to know David, the mystery gardener at the square. She had convinced him that he could use some weekend advice from a couple of biologists, and an aspiring vertical farmer.
“So this is the famous niece I’ve heard all about?” Olivia said as John and Aspen approached. The air was filled with the heavy smell of warm soil that had been sitting too long without any plants to nurture. “Welcome to our new project!” – Olivia made a 360-degree gesture pointing to the destroyed botanical gardens. Everything around her was still a Ground Zero of mixed debris: dead plants and all kinds of man-made objects from the surrounding buildings, all glued together by a thick, fertile mud. A stubble of young grass had begun growing on the surface of all this, which had already started to die in the areas where the mud had desiccated and cracked open in the summer heat.
“I guess this is all ours now” Olivia said as David wasted no time handing out a couple of garden tools to John and Aspen.
“Don’t forget these!” – Olivia frisbeed out two massive straw hats. “The sun rays today are murderous. But we have high fashion on our side”. Aspen smiled innocently at Olivia’s joke as she took a couple of seconds to admire the weave pattern on the hat.
John pointed towards the ground: “Good choice on the African aloe David. But I’m surprised your calendulas even germinated. They tend to dislike intense heat. If you’re lucky they may just stall for a couple of months and start growing again in October. But if you’re just looking for some yellow color, you’ll be much better off with California poppies, Mexican marigolds or even rudbeckias. They can really take a battering, as long as they have water. By the way, by battering I don’t mean hurricanes!”
Aspen let her shovel succumb to gravity as she slowly kneeled down over what she had uncovered. It was the corpse of a dog that must have perished in the hurricane. John spotted the identification tag around the neck. He rubbed the mud off with his thumb to reveal the name: “Petunia”. He pulled on the buried leash with both hands, carving a deep line in the mud as it became unearthed, until it he couldn’t pull anymore. Clearing the mud with his shovel, he saw that the leash was firmly attached to a submerged tree branch. Petunia had drowned in the flood because her leash had got stuck.
David came over, recognizing his dog. He kneeled down in front of Petunia, placing both palms in the mud. He clenched his fists tight, as thick tubes of clay gushed out of his hands. He spent a few seconds staring at Petunia’s expression: a combination of tranquility, and agony. He started breaking into tears as he lay down on the side, half his face in the mud, facing Petunia. He felt Olivia’s hand on his shoulder as he silently said goodbye to Petunia forever.
“This will be our petunia section” John said. We’ll have surfinias everywhere, in every color that exists. I know where I can get the seeds.” He put his arm around Aspen, pulling her close. Taking his hat off with the other hand, he placed it on his chest as they both looked down at David and Petunia. This was probably enough gardening for today.
from the upcoming novel A New Earth
to read from the beginning, go here
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books