Crazy Garden

Yvonne’s parents were really busy. They worked full-time and were only at home in the mornings and evenings, and at weekends just stayed in bed. They loved her of course but they never had time for her. They were always like this, having sort of given up in the world.

Yvonne did her share of washing, cooking, and cleaning, and the garden was completely her domain. Mum and dad wanted to pave it over. “Honey, it’s too much to manage,” they’d said. “Imagine how much time we’d save if it was maintenance-free?” She recalled pulling the worst face ever. “We could have some flowerpots if you like. And think about your own sports yard – to play whatever you want.”

“What would I play by myself?” she’d said.

Her mum had turned away, about to cry. He dad had flashed anger but quickly controlled it. He’d said, “Whatever you want, honey. Play whatever you want.”

The truth was that she didn’t want to play anything by herself. She wanted another sister. One that didn’t disappear.

Yvonne went into the garden daily. It was only a patch of lawn edged with some rosebushes, daffodils, and tulips, but she’d done a nice job of planting. She loved being involved with nature. It seemed magical that things just grew out of the ground. Mrs. Murdoch called over the fence, “How is Lucerne’s most promising young gardener?”

“Very well thank you. How is Lucerne’s hardest working gardener?”

Mrs. Murdoch lived by herself and didn’t go to work. How she paid her bills no one knew. She had made an amazing little world in her garden, and devoted her time to tending it. It wasn’t a big space – the same as Yvonne’s, about thirty feet square – but she had transformed it into something extraordinary. She was always out in her garden, come rain or shine, cutting, pruning, planting, and singing. There was a tall fence right around it, so Yvonne couldn’t see her when they chatted outdoors. She only ever saw her from above, peering down from her sister’s room. It made her sad to go there, but it was worth it to see her neighbour’s garden.

At its centre was a rough brick well with a pointy slate roof, reached by walking around a circular labyrinth made of stones. There were two prominent fruit trees, one with golden shining apples, and the other with what appeared to be black and white blossoms. There was a wall of metal mirrors on one side – had she had a TV makeover? – and a tiny bog on the other, always enveloped in mist. One corner held a rockery with many fluffy mosses, and the other was filled with spiders’ webs. A glass globe dangled from one corner of the house, with a luminous surface like oil spilled on the road, and on the other corner was a spiral metal drill spinning with the wind. There were bird, squirrel, and hummingbird feeders. A red-roofed, white shed seemed like home to the white statues placed around the garden. It was hard for Yvonne to note their features from high up, but she could see they were wearing angelic robes. A nice change from gnomes.

Her dad said, “Why would someone go to all that trouble to make something just for themselves? Something they never shared. It seems selfish to me.”

Her mum said, “She’s a good gardener, she’s probably had horticultural training, or landscape design. But she just does it for her own pleasure.”

“What’s wrong with that?” said Yvonne. “Shouldn’t we make ourselves happy?”

“That would be a fine thing,” said her mum. As soon as I’m back from work, and have cooked dinner, done the laundry, changed the sheets, and washed up, I’ll get right on it. I’ll make myself happy.”

Yvonne saw she was raw, and said, “Sorry mum.” Her mum turned away, and Yvonne knew she was crying again. Her dad hugged her mum, and then hugged Yvonne.

There was a huge storm that night – thunder, lightning, and drumming rain so loud that Yvonne woke up. From her room she saw her own modest garden – the rosebushes were bending, and tulip and daffodil stems had snapped. How sad. She wondered about the garden next door. She crept into her sister’s bedroom to see.

Mrs. Murdoch’s garden was going crazy. The golden apples were shaking and flying off; black and white blossoms floated into the sky; the rough stone well cranked, and the labyrinth’s stones rearranged themselves; mirrors flashed back bolts of lightning, which lit up mists arising from the bog; the mossy rockery had become a little Niagara; the spidery corner held raindrops like jewellery; the glass globe reflected all of this; the spiral drill spun furiously; bird, squirrel, and hummingbird feeders swung violently, dispensing seeds, nuts, and sweet squirts; red tiles flew off the shed roof.

Suddenly the storm stopped. The house door opened and Mrs. Murdoch walked out. She smiled up at Yvonne and waved. She had a beautiful face. Yvonne waved back. Mrs. Murdoch beckoned her down. Yvonne felt compelled to go. Mrs. Murdoch opened a small gate and let her into the garden. Despite its disorder, it seemed beautiful and wonderful. Too late Yvonne realized that the statue next to her was familiar. Mrs. Murdoch touched Yvonne on the head and she joined her sister, asleep in a witch’s garden. Mrs. Murdoch was pleased with her dozen adopted children. They were better off here than with parents too busy to care for them. She would tend them instead.

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One Response to “Crazy Garden”

  1. Enjoyed it; flags on email

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