Sunday, May 24, 2009

A short short story

Gophers and moles in the garden have been a big topic with neighboring gardeners lately and it reminded me of a short sketch, I wrote for a fiction class many years ago. Tonight I decided my little tale needed, rather gopher like itself, to be popped out of it's dark slot in the drawer and be exposed to the light of day on my blog. I can't imagine where else it could make a debut... well, I'll let you be the judge. Here it is:

a clip art picture from here.


Constance couldn’t finish her thought. When the pain gnawed into her left side, words fled her mind like small animals scattered by a predator. She watched the baby gum the bread and egg yolk. The pain passed.
“That’s right, Honey, you eat so Momma won’t have to nurse you,” she said to the fair skinned baby.
“Where does it hurt, Ma?” the older child asked. “Your face is all wet again.”

“It’s deep inside, Rosie,” Constance answered, "but I'll be okay."

Constance leaned against the counter and made an effort to wipe away the spilled honey.
“Ma, there’s ants on my chair,” Rosie hollered as she drew her arms and legs up in disgust.

“It’s cause yer messy,” Constance said as she moved slowly toward the child. “Ants like messy girls, they do.”

"Wouldn’t be no use calling a doctor. Don’t have the money to pay. Couldn’t lie down like he’d tell me anyway. Be good to get something for this pain though,” she spoke aloud to herself. “Pa always said keeping busy cuts pain. Plenty to keep me …," she stifled a gasp and reached to knead her flesh.

“Ma, can’t I have more egg?” Rosie asked.

“There isn’t more. Chicken don’t lay more than one a day. Want more bread and honey?” she asked, already smearing another slice with the viscous amber.

It hurt too much to straighten up, but hunched over the chipped enamel sink, Constance rinsed dishes and sought to fix her mind beyond her body. She set her gaze through the window onto her garden. She worked hard in the garden but every morning she would find some damage. Often there were vines chewed off at the root; the squash and melons still small, hard and inedible. They were perfect for their age, but cut off from their roots, they’d lie on the ground unfinished.
“Don’t even want to go see what varmints might have done last night,” she spoke again to herself.
With a wet soapy hand, she rubbed her side in a tenuous fashion. “Like to know what this is.”
She tried to distract herself by focusing on the view again. She was sure she had just seen a small dark cone of soil rise in her garden. “Well, I’ll be,” she said. “Dirty vermin. Stay inside and watch the baby, Rosie.”

At the back door she thrust her bare feet into some oversized cracked boots left by her husband. “Stay put now,” she told the girls.

She wrapped her hands around a shovel that she had left leaning outside the back door and moved toward the shifting mound of soil. As she approached, she saw brown fur and stiff whiskers appear and then dart back out of sight. Constance posed herself with attentiveness worthy of a hunting cat, the shovel raised above her shoulder. The soil moved and bright beady eyes surfaced. She swung the shovel. The wounded gopher clawed madly to return to the safety of its underground tunnel. Constance gasped as she again lifted the weight of the tool to her shoulder and again smacked the animal with the flat side of the shovel. The gopher lay still on the ground. Shiny fleas bounced in its short fur.

Constance thrust the nose of the shovel into the soft earth and leaned her wooden weight upon the handle. She felt her breath draw in deeply and her heartbeat quicken. She straightened herself slowly. Just at the moment, she couldn't’ feel the pain.
******************* (c) 1984 Jeannette
This incredibly artistic fictive story aside....there are many pages on the web extolling the role gophers play in the landscape suggesting that gardeners should learn to live with gophers. Having raised vegetable beds with wired bottoms sure helps me feel more philosophic about gophers.


Gretchen Joanna said...

I love this story! It captures the experience of climbing out of a hole by means of fighting to accomplish one concrete victory.
Don't you hate how Blogspot messes up your paragraph formatting? I'm glad, though, that you didn't take the time to fix it and postpone putting this up.

Sarah Beth said...

cool story mom!

Suzenne said...

We liked the part about the fleas! She was able to get her attention off pain for a moment.
Love, Suzy and Mary in San Jose