The Garden by Travis Cooper (Written for a competition

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THE GARDEN An old oman sat on her verandah in her roc!in" chair# $he as rapped in a %&ilt that as patterned ith little hand se n patches' it draped over her li!e a blan!et# Her face and hands ere rin!led and decrepit# $he ore tiny s%&are "lasses on the end of her nose# (n her fl&tterin" hand she held last ee!s paper and s%&inted at it' tryin" to ma!e o&t the headlines# $he had been yo&n" once' lon"' lon" a"o# $he had orn a bonnet and a pretty me&ve dress# )&t no she sat o&t atchin" the inter rain' &nder her verandah# *ines eaved aro&nd the splinterin" poles# A tree she had planted lon" a"o' had t isted itself &p thro&"h the "reenin" floorboards# The old omans heel chair sat stationary' ne+t to her anti%&e roc!in" chair# The old oman fro ned for a moment and loo!ed o&t into the "arden# $he stared into the "arden' it as f&ll of over"ro n eeds# (n the middle of the yard there as a lifeless pile of leaves' timber and tree limbs hich dimly "listened in the afternoon rain# ,atches of "rass ere spro&tin" from it# ,resently the oman shivered as a b&rst of cold ind str&c! her# The deteriorated "arden beds ere over"ro n# The ve"etables had "one to seed# A lemon tree as to one side of the yard' its fr&it rotten and mo&ldin" on the "ro&nd# The fence as bro!en in the middle' plan!s of ood st&c! o&t from it' s ayin" in the ind# The front "ate as covered in ivy' lon" fla!es of paint dan"led from its r&sted frame# A piece of metal scraped at the "ate' creatin" a piercin" s%&eal thro&"h the air# The old lady thre her hands over her ears' droppin" the paper on the damp boards# As she sh&t her eyes' deep cro s feet rin!les appeared at the sides of her eyes# The "ate s%&ealed a"ain' the oman s%&ee-ed her eyelids ti"hter# Her eyes be"an to throb' p&mpin" the e+tr&din" violent bl&e veins in her eyelids harder# The "ate still s%&ealed# The loomin" dar!ness behind her eyes as replaced by small pi+els of hite li"ht# The hite li"ht became more intense and ashed over every part of her# Her arms became ea! and n&mb# Di--iness s ept over and she sl&mped bac! into the chair# Gently her body roc!ed bac! and forth# Conf&sed rays of colo&red li"ht danced in the dar!ness li!e lasers# $he heard an overbearin" so&nd' similar to the so&nd of a sea shell bein" p&t over ones ear# (t faded in and o&t and finally her head cleared#

$he heard the faint throbbin" tones of ind chimes and slo ly opened her eyes# .ello dots floated in front of her# As she searched for the chimes point of conver"ence' the hites of her eyes flashed briefly as her eyes rolled' closed and opened' b&t everythin" seemed f&--y and o&t of foc&s' she as li!e a person in a pitch dar! cave searchin" for a ray of li"ht# $he blin!ed several times and finally she co&ld ma!e o&t the chimes han"in" from the pole on the ri"ht of her# $he loo!ed o&t into the "arden# The daffodils s ayed in the ind# The pet&nias bobbed &p and do n ne+t to the neatly placed "arden tiles# The leaves on the paths had been s ept and placed in a pile in the corner of the yard# The la n as c&t short and there as a n&mber on the freshly painted "ate' /0# A bl&estone path led from the steps at the front of the verandah' aro&nd the yard in a perfect circle# ($he had been yo&n" once) Reachin" o&t from it ere smaller paths' hich ere paved' they led thro&"h an enchantin" "arden# A man as hammerin" a ay at the pine fence# The old oman tried to stand' her mo&th as ca&"ht bet een a "rimace and a smile' a be ildered smile# The rin!les on her forehead ere standin" o&t# $he tried to stand b&t co&ldn1t' and her heel chair as no lon"er on the verandah# A oman came o&t of the ho&se' she s!ipped do n the front steps' across the bl&estone path and over to the man# $he as carryin" a "lass of lemonade# $he has &ni%&e feat&res' her hair as a deep bro n and as tied behind her head# $he ore no ma!e &p' he eyes ere a stran"e b&t l&rin" "rey# $he ore a me&ve dress hich as c&t short before the !nees# The man at the fence loo!ed &p and smiled# His face as r&""ed b&t handsome' his blac! hair as slic!ed bac! ith bryll cream' altho&"h it as messed on the left side# 2Ah' y1 startled me' R&th#3 the man said' he pic!ed &p a ail and p&t it in his mo&th# R&th handed the "lass of lemonade to him# 2)e dy#3 he said raisin" the "lass sli"htly# He loo!ed bac! at the fence# 2Gonna need at least another pac! of nails to finish this b&""er#3 he said' his bro bendin" in the middle# 24&st ma!e do ith hat y1 "ot' )en#3 R&th "rinned s eetly' 21loo!s pretty st&rdy to me#3 she tested the fence ith her palm# 2( "&ess it1ll have to do#3 )en said' nailin" the last rivet into the fence# 2What yo& earin1 yo&r best dress for' then53 )en said ith a "rin appearin" in the corner of his mo&th# He stood &p and held her by the hand' his smile brea!in" over his face# R&th ran her fin"ertips thro&"h his hair and smiled as ell' 2Come on inside y1 bi" l&"#3 They al!ed alon" the path to"ether hand in hand' ri"ht past the old oman atchin" in the chair# $he loo!ed .

1 better "et that fi+ed' )en#3 The co&ple disappeared and di--iness s ept over her a"ain# The screen door slammed sh&t and the old oman opened her eyes a"ain# The front yard as barren' there as nothin" there b&t dirt hich as p&shed in to a fe piles aro&nd the yard# There ere empty cardboard bo+es beside her on the verandah# $he co&ld hear faint voices inside the ho&se# There ere no fences in the yard' she co&ld see the ho&ses ne+t door and across the street# There ere a fe empty bloc!s alon" the d&sty dirt road# A bo+ as layin" in the front yard ith the printed ords6 2$tenson1s "ates7 complete ith ne onder hin"e and latch#3 A boy ran past the ho&se# He as earin" a sailor s&it# A little "irl ran behind him (his sister)' she as earin" a ballerinas cost&me# The old ladys mo&th dropped a"ain# The little "irl ran after her bi" brother' she ta""ed him on the bac!# 2.o&1re it 4ohn83 2No ay' yo&1re a blin!in" cheat R&th' ( as barley an1 yo& !no it#3 4ohn protested# They had slo ed and 4ohn as al!in" bac! to the ho&se ith his arms crossed' r&ffled that his little sister had beaten him# His sister as tryin" to !eep the pace b&t 4ohn !ept speedin" &p every time she "ot close# A "olden 9abrador ran o&t of the do""y door# The old lady reached o&t her hand' the do" ran past and ran thro&"h the yard# The old lady1s e+pression s&ddenly t&rned "ray# Her hand "rabbed thro&"h the air' her fin"ers stretched o&t into a reach# The do" sped to the end of the road to ards the t o children' the old lady tried to spea! b&t co&ldn1t# 29oo! o&t#3 she breathed# The do" raced &p to the children and leaped into the air' to ards 4ohn# The old omans mo&th loo!ed as if she as bitin" into somethin" that asn1t there' she tried to stand a"ain and fell to the "ro&nd# There as no verandah# A car screeched aro&nd the corner abo&t t o ho&ses &p# The do" .&p at them' her mo&th as ide open ith the hint of a smile' she listened an+io&sly' the screen door s%&ealed sh&t# The old oman closed her eyes and mo&thed the ords as the door contin&ed to s%&eal' 2.

h my "osh' Get &p R&th' What are yo& doin" do n th####3 The old mans r&""ed face t&rned so&r' his bro bendin" in the middle' .bore do n on 4ohn' pa s o&tstretched' it1s tail a""in" happily' 4ohns face content ith an innocent smile# His arms ere held &n ieldy o&t in front of him# The shinin" ne ford as speedin" alon" the middle of the road# The old oman reached a"ain' her hands "rabbin" at the dirt in front of her' she thre her head aro&nd' the roc!in" chair as no lon"er there# The do" collided ith 4ohn as he ent s!ittlin" bac! ards into the road# The do" hit the "ro&nd' pic!ed itself &p and leaped bac! ards# The ford as only a drive ay a ay# The driver screamed on the bra!es# The heels s%&ealed as the old oman closed her eyes# Her head span aro&nd in circles' she dry reached into her m&d stained hand# $he realised it as rainin" b&t co&ldn1t ma!e o&t here she as or ho to open her eyes' it as as if she as deep ithin a dream and co&ld not a!e her self# )ehind the old omans eyes' patterns formed li!e sno fla!es and faded :&st as fast as they appeared# The ire screen door s%&ealed open# The old oman didn1t open her eyes# The ire door slo ly s%&ealed sh&t a"ain# The rain po&red do n &pon the "ro&nd' p&ddles ere formin" aro&nd the old omans body' her floral dress as soa!ed ri"ht thro&"h# The bro!en fence crea!ed in the heavy ind# 2R&th' are yo& alri"ht53 An old man came thro&"h the door# 2.

lease###.h ##R&th' .lease R&th' Wa!e &p' please' pleasss###R<TH83 The old man held her hand' as a tear came to his eye# The rain do n on his face' his bloody !nee !neeled amid the eeds# as beatin" 2.many rin!les enhanced this loo!# 2R&th53 !nees# He st&mbled do n the stairs and fell' "ra-in" his 2R<TH5' .lease don1t die R&th'3 he hispered his lips almost to&"hin" her forehead# The old oman slo ly opened her eyes' and loo!ed into the "arden' the bl&rs of "reen and bro n be"an to t&rn into the trees and eeds# The ire door s%&ealed once more and came to a stop# 2.1 better "et that fi+ed' )en3 she croa!ed# )en smiled and h&""ed her' a tear rolled do n his face# R&th loo!ed &p at )en' 29ets "et o&t of the rain'3she mana"ed a ry' b&t sincere smile 2Come on y1 bi" l&"#3 )en lifted her into his arms and carried her inside# .