The Garden

Posted: August 12, 2012 in Weird
Tags: , , ,

Andrew ignored the heat warnings. He ignored Rose’s concern. It was too hot, she said. Just ride the trainer, she told him. But he refused. He had fun with Rose, but he didn’t care for her concern. She was a trophy, a caretaker, a partner. They had a good relationship, as far as he was concerned. As long as she didn’t bother him or act too motherly, he would keep her around. But when she tried to tell him what to do, she irritated him. Her concern was noted, but out of bounds. If the riders on the Tour de France could ride in 90-degree plus weather, he reasoned, so could he. Rose was entitled to her opinion, but not entitled to share it.

“Honey, just keep it short, then, OK?” He hated it when she called him “honey.” He tolerated “babe.” He preferred Andrew, and he really preferred it if she would have left him alone. His training schedule called for a long ride that day. His long rides were his escapes from his responsibility to the world, including her, and he resented her trying to take it away from him. Andrew dismissed her as he mounted his sleek Pinarello and rode off without a word. He always dismissed her concern with an annoyed silence.

Andrew rode through empty farmland, void of cars, shade, and any place to stop and refuel. It turned out to be the worst possible route for a long, weekend ride. Now he was thirty miles from nowhere and out of water. His body covered in a fine silt of evaporated sweat, his lips cracked and dry. Andrew tried to moisten them, but his mouth was dry. All he tasted was salt and dust.

Andrew labored with every breath and turned each pedal with slow, heavy legs. He needed to find some shade. He needed some water. Andrew noticed that his jersey was dry, the streams of sweat that once flowed down his brow had long dried up. His body suffered from drought. Andrew had hot rides before, but never had he suffered like this. He coasted through the dizzying shimmer of the sunlight radiating off the pavement. He rode through the stifling curtain of humid air that filled the gaps between the cornfields.

He turned a corner and coasted down a small bend, stopping at an intersection. Andrew placed a foot on the pavement and bent over, resting his head on his handle bars. He looked at the iPhone mounted on the handlebar stem. The map showed him nothing: Andrew was in the middle of nowhere. He pushed off and turned the corner.

“Just keep riding,” he said over and over, “Just keep riding. There will have to be a gas station or something coming up soon.” Andrew would have settled for a mirage. If fantasy was truer than reality, then a mirage would do nicely indeed.

After a few more bends in the road, a few more rises and descents, Andrew finally came upon an old, decrepit looking building. Weeds had overrun the front lawn and had advanced into the cracked and crumbling driveway. From a distance, the place looked abandoned: the roof seemed to be caving in, creeper vines swallowed up most the front porch and sides. A few old rusted hulks of cars grazed listlessly in the back, and the skeletal remains of rusted bikes leaned against the side of the building. A worn sign with the faded words “Chthonic Gardens” stood watch in front of the porch, the paint on its wrought iron chipped and flaked. A small “Open” hung from two rusty chains.

“Really?” Andrew thought as he pulled into the driveway. The place was overgrown and falling apart, ruins from a rural America long abandoned to memory. But among ruins lie hidden treasures, and Andrew hoped that perhaps in this run-down flower shop he may find such treasure: a hose, a faucet, anything to hydrate his dry, dusty body.

He walked up the steps to the porch and opened the door. A garden gnome sat crouched among some overgrown pots next to the door, holding a welcome sign. Andrew knocked on door, which was answered only by an empty echo.

“Well, lil’ fella,” Andrew said to the gnome as he walked through the door, “I guess you’re the only one home, and you seem to be inviting me in.”

Andrew took a quick inventory: Stacks of old flower pots, a small collection of garden gnomes, an old roll of paper towels, and an empty spray bottle. Andrew walked to the back of the room and entered what must have been a greenhouse full of the ripe smell of freshly mulched leaves. Shards of grass crunched under the hard soles of his bike shoes. A young tree grew from one of the flower beds. Having no one the trim or prune it, the tree had broken through the glass ceiling. The statue of a small garden gnome sat at the base of the tree, sitting cross legged on a bench, smoking a pipe.

Andrew felt a little dizzy. He could feel his skin burn and he felt no relief. His skull was like an oven, roasting his mind. Andrew knew he needed help. The shadows created by the sunlight seem to dart from one part of the greenhouse to another. The overgrown vegetation seemed to slither among the beds in a slow, hypnotic dance.

Andre sat down next to the garden gnome. “Hey little fella, I guess you wouldn’t have any water on you, do you?”

“Well, of course I do!” The gnome stood up. “There’s a hose right behind that workbench.” He pointed the stem of his pipe towards the back of the greenhouse. “It might be a little earthy for you,” the little gnome walked up to Andrew and ran his little finger along Andrew’s shin. He tasted the tip of his tongue. “Hmm, but judging from the state you’re in, my friend, I don’t think you’ll be too choosy.”

Andrew stood up quickly the blood rushed to his head. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to stem the rush of blood into his overheated brain. Andrew reached for the tree to balance himself.

“Whoah there, big fella. Don’t want you to fall now. Come on, let’s get you something to drink.”

The gnome led Andrew towards the hose and opened the spigot. A rusty-brown stream of water flowed out, but Andrew didn’t care. He drank his fill from the hose, not minding the earthy odor and metallic taste of the water. He pulled the hose from his mouth and let the water flow over his head. Andrew felt like he was regaining his senses. Andrew wiped his face, spitting out the salty taste of the water that had mixed with dried sweat. “I wonder who owns this place,” Andrew said, taking another swig from the hose.

“We do,” said the gnome. “Welcome to Chthonic Gardens.”

Andrew stood up and staggered away from the gnome in disbelief. He wasn’t hallucinating was he? He was having a conversation with a garden gnome.

“What is this place, what are you doing here?”

“This is our home and business. We’re artisans. We make organic fertilizer.” The gnome sat down the ground and crossed his legs. He watched Andre intently while smoking on his long, stone pipe.

Andrew burped. He felt like his old self again. He was getting stronger, he felt like he was more in control. “What do you make it out of? Gnome dung?”

“Well, a kind of dung, to be sure. Human, to be exact.”

“You make fertilizer out of human dung?” Andrew said in disbelief. Heburped again, only louder.

The gnome laughed. “No, we make fertilizer out of humans.”

Andrew doubled over and grabbed his stomach as it tightened and clenched in a violent convulsion. “What, what, did you do….” He fell to the ground and withered into a pile of dust.

The gnome stood up and grabbed a small spade and spread Andrew among the the weeds. He sat back down under the tree and began to hum a simple tune. Soon, the gnome thought, humans will burn through the planet, leaving only little, protected glades like these. “And then, Brother Elm,” he said to the tree, “we will be able to teach those humans who are left how to live as good neighbors.”

The tree responded kindly, speaking a language long forgotten by man.

THE END

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