Web Site: Raymond Walker
A little story of; too short a life together.... or maybe not.
By Raymond Walker
The garden looks really overgrown, I really must make an effort and get it back into order. Rob knows it is actually all right and were another with a less critical eye to look they would see a pleasant country garden. To him however it is overgrown and he hates to think of it so for there was never a weed to be seen when Ann was alive. He also knows perfectly well that that thought is as false as his earlier one but he will never forget how they spoke of her garden at the funeral.
It had always been her garden and she thought of it as such.
She always kept it so nice they had said and they were right, she had. He had never been a gardener was never really interested though they had spent most of their retirement in the garden. She weeding and hoeing and generally looking as fit as a fiddle. As fit as a fiddle was another phrase he had heard often at the after funeral tea.
He was only in the garden to be with her and watch the river as it passed. It was something he had never tired of in all his years of retirement, listening to Ann humming along behind him as she weeded and watching the peat brown river swirl past in front of him.
When she had died he had decided to keep up her garden as a kind of epitaph to her days for she had loved it so much. So religiously he got himself out of bed in the morning listening to all his joints protesting as he pulled on his old brown corduroy trousers and wellington boots and with nothing more than a cup of tea flung himself into daily gardening.
He hated it, hated the dirt beneath his fingernails, the gravel piercing his boot soles, the smell of rotting vegetation, the noises his back made when he tried to straighten, all of it. There was nothing about gardening he liked. All he had ever liked about it was her love of it, the smell of cut flowers in the house the taste of garden vegetables.
He got one respite though, for an hour at lunchtime he would sit on his bench at the edge of the garden staring over the low dry stone dyke at the river passing beneath him. He watched the peaty brown water with its eddy’s and false currents, seeing the occasional fin of the small brown trout that inhabited it.
It was the highlight of his day. At night he lay awake in the empty wide bed and listened to it gurgling and rushing and liked his time alone for a minute or two. But then he remembered that once he had done that and the noises of the river had been echoed in her soft snore and the warm smells of the garden had been in the cheek she rested on his shoulder.
And then he would cry for while until the sounds of his sobs were like to him the noises of the river and there he would sleep until rough morning sunlight drew him again into her garden. The work that he said he would never do in his retirement for he had worked hard his long life.
She gazed over the garden wall on the muddy river below and thought of him as she always did though her hands itched to be digging again. She did not know why she still did the garden, she gave away all her vegetables now that she had no one to feed them to. She still cut flowers in the spring and summer and placed them in the vases she had dotted all over the small cottage. But what use was there in doing such things now that he was gone. There was no one to see them anymore, she had only placed them there and made sure she had flowers as she thought he liked their smell.
She hated that dirty brown river with its endless noise, its endless swish and swirl and dirty brown sides but still she took time out each day to gaze into its depths for she knew that’s what he had loved most.
And that was her epitaph to him. In fact she found herself watching it more now everyday though she was desperate to turn and run her hands through the rich brown earth. But what was the use.
She remembered the funeral and that all his old friends, well the ones that were still living giving her their condolences and some of their words, like steadfast and true . That he always had been.
So despite herself she steadfastly watched the ripples on the river and after a while could even tell the different hues of brown that he had talked of so often on their long evenings together for he never wanted a television or many of the things other people wanted. He was just happy being there with his river and her to talk to. She never realised until to late that all she needed was her garden and him there talking to her.
At night in her bed she lay awake for now she had little to rise early for as she had once done for her garden and could smell the flowers that she had cut though now there was no one but her to smell them.
She heard the rustle of the wind in the branches of her trees that she had so lovingly planted. And then she would cry and remember how it blended in with the soft susurration of his expelled breath, which she could feel on her cheek, which she always rested on his shoulder.
She did not know why she had done that always for in later life it was such a bony shoulder, but she never felt more comfortable than there. Eventually she would drift into sleep till the morning sun and the spate river noise brought her again to another day.
He resolved that with all the time she had put into it and how much he remembered her in her garden that he would, when he finally passed, be put to rest there. He owned the cottage outright and had put a sum aside for her garden still to be tended long after he was dead and gone. He saw a lawyer and signed all the appropriate papers so he would be buried there and the house left to ruin for what was it except a roof over his head without her to make it a home.
He left there and went back and tended her garden, watched his river and lived in their house for the rest of his years. When finally he died he was buried according to his wishes in her garden and there he rested thinking of her.
Her breathing grew worse with each day and she realised that her time was coming to an end. She did not mind, she spent everyday now staring into his river and night lying in their bed, for she rarely slept now and she resolved to be cremated and her ashes scattered in his river for that is what he would have wished.
She saw a lawyer and signed the will that gave such instruction. She arranged that the house go to ruin for though it was only a house it had been their house and she wanted no unhappiness in it ever.
Her time came soon but not as soon as she wished and she was cremated in line with her instructions her ashes scattered in his river.
Where she lay thinking of him.
And so the years passed and he remained in her garden and she in his river.
And so the years passed until a rainy Scots Sunday in October when it lashed so hard the raindrops bounced from the road and grass and the earlier months of accumulated rain finally took their toll on the old ruined cottage. Which, with a wrench, the garden and parts of the house slipped downwards to the overflowing river to be swept away forever.
In the water Ann felt a presence and reached out her arms and other arms enfolded hers. She smelled her garden on him and he her river on her and she lay her head upon a familiar shoulder and together they slept forever more.
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