The old women next door was out in her garden again before five in the morning. Blowing the steam from my coffee, I took a sip and watched her bend over the rows of flowers. She reached between the ones with pink petals and yanked weeds in the same motion used when tweezing eyebrows, with swift, controlled jerks. Her hand would clamp, close and squeeze. Then the arm ripped up in one smooth movement. There she would pause, stopping at the same distance from the ground every time. With an abrupt sweep to the side, slender blades of grass would fall like spring green hair around her knees. The bright sap must stain her skin, clothes and the air around her because I could smell it from here.
The breeze carried the drone of her one-sided conversation with the black dog through my open window. His head rested on outstretched forelegs as he relaxed fully on his stomach. When I'd first pushed the window to let in the sound of birds, he'd noticed with a flick of ears but hadn't taken his gaze off her. Since moving in three weeks ago, I'd often thought about joining her in morning conversation. But she seemed grumpy in the way old people sometimes were, and I was particularly thin-skinned since my mother died.
Death and needles, bugs in the dark, and old age were all things we avoided thinking about. They never told us how many people died of natural causes. Instead we were given percentage lists of who got cancer, crashed their cars or drowned in the lake. My mouth was bitter with coffee dregs. I dumped the cup in the sink and walked away. Apple blossoms floated through the window and swirled as I sat at the table. A newspaper was folded neatly in front of me. The bold headline, “God Has Left California”, covered half the visible ...
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...d and jumped against me, almost knocking me over and I forgot her. “Watch out!” I laughed. “Yes, I know we're running late. No worries. The weeds won't grow faster than I can pull them.” He galloped around me playfully, happily, as my feet sank into the rich dirt of the garden. We'd been doing this for years. Serving in this garden was an honor and a task not left to fools.
Passing under the apple tree, I tapped a bright globe of fruit with my finger. The same fools never listened to warnings and would bite a poisoned apple if it looked good enough to eat. A snake, glistening with metallic rainbows, slid along the branch. Cupid stared, ears forward, until it was out of sight. “I wouldn't worry about him my friend.” I told him. “He's harmless.” It wasn’t as if I was wrong, I’d just lost the ability to give a damn. Right now there was rotted and wormy weeds to pull.
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