Contest #31 winner 🏆

The Memory Garden

Submitted for Contest #31 in response to: Write a short story about someone tending to their garden.... view prompt

70 comments

Submitted on 03/04/2020

Categories: General

          In sixteen years, she will leave the garden. She will tell the buyers of the house how to tend each patch and plant, carefully, and they’ll do it for a while and then the garden will fall apart, because they have other concerns. The soil remembers, though. The soil always remembers.

          In eleven years, her firstborn child will pick unripe blueberries in mid-spring, try to taste them and recoil from the sour. She will laugh and take pictures on whatever the equivalent of a phone camera is in ten years. She’ll post them on whatever the equivalent of Facebook is in ten years. She will wonder why she ever thought life was meaningless.

          In fourteen years, the cat will die and she will bury it in the garden, knowing that its body will fertilize the crocuses come spring. And when the first crocuses emerge a few months later, she’ll sing the same sing her father used to sing every April, and she will be OK.

          In three years, she will adopt a cat. She’ll let it wander the garden, peruse the stepping stones with caution, paw the dirt and hiss at the thorns that nearly get caught in its fur. Lucky the fence is there. She’ll take the cat back into the house and finally name it.

          In six years, she’ll meet her wife. She’ll take the beautiful woman back to her house, nervous and unsure if the other woman feels the same way, with the pretenses of making a pie together. The other woman will pick blueberries with her and laugh and tell her that blueberry pie is her favorite. She’ll pretend that she had not already learned this from several hours of online stalking. The sun will catch the other woman’s hair and she will feel melancholy seeing it. They will kiss for the first time in the kitchen later, making pie crust together.

          Two years ago, she moved into the house and told herself that one day there would be a garden out there. She was too tired to dig up the grass and till the dirt and build a fence that day, though. She was tired from moving but it wasn’t just that. She was tired from being alone and working and being misunderstood. The soil knew this. It would still respond to her hands and her tools and be ready for life, but it would also be ready whenever she was ready. Behind the place where the garden would be, forsythia bloomed and reminded her of the golden hair of a woman who’d broken her heart. She wasn’t ready to go into the backyard yet.

          In one year, she will build a fence around the garden. After her first year of gardening, she will have learned that a fence is necessary. She will snicker under her breath, thinking evil thoughts about the rabbits and squirrels and deer who won’t get their greedy little paws on her tomatoes this time. She will soon learn that squirrels know how to climb fences.

          In eight years, she will marry the love of her life in the backyard. They will say their vows under a bower of roses that they grew together. They and their newfound friends and family will eat pasta filled with summer tomatoes from the garden and she and her new bride will cut into a blueberry pie together and smile.

          In nine years, they will celebrate their anniversary under the roses and get an email that the fertility clinic will, in fact, accept their insurance, and they can start planning to have a baby.

          In two years, it will be a horrible grey day in March and her knees will collapse under her and she’ll cry because nothing makes her feel good anymore, not even the stupid garden, and why did she think getting out of the house would help? And slowly but surely, water droplets will start falling. Her hair will be crowned with rain. The soil will get wet. Her pants will become muddy. Her hands will become muddy. The rain and the soil know time and they know that yesterday, tomorrow, and today are fluid as a river and ever-changing as a garden. They know about everything that has happened to her and everything that will happen to her, same as they know how to feed the roots of the basil plant and the asparagus. She will remember her future and think that she needs more life around her, and contemplate getting a cat.

          One year ago, she came back from the store with a bunch of potted plants and told herself that this time, none of them will die. She forced herself to believe it and she lined her windowsill with succulents and herbs and this time, none of them did die.

          In thirteen years, she will go to the farmer’s market with her jams for the first time, and she’ll make friends that teach her how to market her products better. She’ll meet friends who even help her with her day job, so that in sixteen years, she’ll have enough money to move to a bigger house in a better school district.

          In five years, she will accept help from her friend and go to the baking club that meets downtown. She’ll spend most of the time hiding behind her friend and not talking to anyone, for the first few months. Then she will get infatuated with a beautiful woman who loves pies and start learning to speak up. She’ll thank her friend a thousand times and she will tell her cat about it while she harvests butternut squash.

          In fifteen years, her daughter’s friends from play group will all come over to carve pumpkins and she will panic because a bunch of crows destroyed several of the pumpkins and one of her daughter’s friends will burst into tears because they wanted a pumpkin and they will wither away into abject misery if they don’t get a pumpkin right this second. She will save the day with a butternut squash that she will tell the child is a special pumpkin.

          In seven years, she will invite her best friend from childhood to come to her house for Thanksgiving and they will collect acorns and leaves and discuss her best friend’s husband, and her girlfriend, and giggle about nearly-forgotten inside jokes. She will remember that happiness is not a new invention of her new life, but has been there the whole time, holding her up even if she was too scared and tired to know it.

          In six months, her neighbors will move in and their grandchildren will run wild over her backyard, nearly trampling the garden, and she’ll be fine with it because she actually quite likes kids, even if she knows she’s too immature to handle them. In four years, she will babysit those grandchildren while her neighbors give her tips on how to build beanstalks. The grandfather will build her a wooden trellis and present her with it, and she will hold herself not to cry. They’ll spend June and July trading produce. The grandkids will torment her cat with a laser pointer. She will never forget their advice.

          In fifteen years, both her neighbors will have died. Their grandchildren will be in college. The bean trellis will have fallen apart and been replaced with one that she built with her friends from the farmer’s market. She will be moving out soon. The new neighbors are much younger and she won’t know them as well.

          In sixteen years, it will be the end of winter again. The soil knows. It will be ready to melt and feed and turn and grow. It will be ready for rain. And she will prepare it for the last time.

          Today, she tills the soil. Tomorrow, she brings her potted plants out to the new garden. Basil, tarragon, rosemary, and thyme. Blueberries and strawberries for pie. She wants there to be a rosebush one day. She’s going to plant asparagus and butternut squash. In the spring, there will be fine soft greenery. In the summer, there will be sweet tomatoes and beautiful berries. In the fall, there will be gourds. In the future, there will be crying, rain, and love. Today, she makes a garden from scratch.

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70 comments

Reece Benton
16:02 Mar 13, 2020

Does anyone else notice the trend in what they seem to choose as winners? Just me? It almost feels like pandering at this point, and I am a member of the lgbt community. A bit uncomfortable.

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Neghie Thervil
16:28 Mar 13, 2020

I do see the trend, but I tend to agree (most of the time) with the choices. I liked this story because of the interesting way it was told. I'd like to believe that's why all of the winners are chosen.

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Arielle - Reedsy
20:18 Mar 17, 2020

Hi there, Reedsy team member here. We have run the Reedsy Prompts contest for over three years now and have always considered ourselves to be very lucky in regards to the number of diverse stories that are submitted to us on a weekly basis. If you look through the previous contest winners on this site, as well as our old Medium blog, you will find stories about, and from, all kinds of people: https://medium.com/reedsy/ We choose winning stories based on a number of different craft-related factors. We do not aim to fill a quota. A good story...

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Carlie Beth
03:04 Mar 19, 2020

Thank you Reedsy for relying! Any doubt I had about this website is gone! Thank you for proving you’re a fair website! Thank you everyone for speaking out, I think this community is full of great people with amazing stories.

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Skye Bailey
14:57 Mar 18, 2020

👏 Thank you reedsy.

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Reece Benton
20:11 Mar 18, 2020

I in no way meant to detract from the writer's efforts. I applaud them for their win. I only meant to draw attention to something I found a tad strange. As I have previously mentioned, I am a member of the lgbt community. I would love to see more representation in the world -- when it feels deserved. That said, I don't believe I personally would have selected this piece as the winner, given the other options. I do not mean to cause controversy. This piece was perfectly fine, I suppose, though it felt like reading a mixed up list o...

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Annie James
19:20 Mar 29, 2020

Why do you feel the need to keep your mouth shut? You never know the answer unless you ask, right?

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Martin Ward
16:23 Mar 13, 2020

I noticed that trend too. Maybe it's a literary thing.

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Chloe Lim
23:22 Mar 13, 2020

Wow I really liked this one! At first I was a bit put off by the jumps in timeline and thought it was bad writing that they were out of order, but I soon realised that this was your deliberate way of saying that our lives are messy. There are ups, and there are downs. There is growth, and there is decline. But more importantly there is hope. If you're stuck in a period of grief right now, there is a future you can look forward to. And nature is always there for you.

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Jessica G
09:34 Mar 19, 2020

I saw in some comments that they disliked how this story jumped around but I LOVED it. I thought it added to what I think you might've been going for with the unpredictability of life and how you never know if your next good thing is right around the corner, and showing how much a life can change. I thought it read as hopeful. I might also just be a lesbian who likes pies and gardening, but the bottom line is that I loved this. 10/10 would read again.

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Aisha Hashmi
15:49 Mar 13, 2020

I am sorry, but did not really care for this story at all. No character development, just a bunch of supposition and I did not at all connect to it. I am not being rude. I am telling the truth. No development of the character, it made no sense when it referenced one thing then said something later in the story that contradicted it, and the events taking place were jumping around all over the place, leaving me the reader with no idea what was going on. If the golden rule is to be polite and give criticism in a way that can help the writ...

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Reece Benton
16:00 Mar 13, 2020

Totally agree. Felt like wandering lost through a series of disconnected events.

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Waverley Stark
09:10 Mar 14, 2020

I thought this story was great. Well-written and thoughtful. Criticisms are helpful, but not flat-out rudeness. "Golden Rule," honey. Look it up.

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Waverley Stark
06:01 Mar 19, 2020

I’m sorry about my comment. Reading it over, I was mentally hitting myself and agree that it was rude. Ariel, you have a beautiful story, and I apologize for vclogging up the comments section with all this crap😔 In the future I promise to keep my mouth shut

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Reece Benton
20:14 Mar 18, 2020

I don't believe anyone was trying to be rude, but I apologize if my comment was taken that way. Simply because I did not personally enjoy a story does not negate it as a quality piece. I'm certain there are plenty of published pieces in the world that I would not enjoy, and many who have received endless rejections that I would enjoy immensely. The problem with judging writing is that it cannot be done objectively. Once again, though, I apologize if I came across as rude. I still congratulated the writer on their win, and gave them a t...

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Lori Colt
00:32 Jun 11, 2020

This is absolutely beautiful. What a gorgeous story about the transcience of life. Masterful!

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Lucie Hall
07:38 Mar 18, 2020

I actually saw every little detail in my head and it is nice to know that people (including Reedsy) support the lgbtq+ community.

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Lynn Penny
15:33 Mar 13, 2020

I loved this! The mixed of a timeline really added to the experience.

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Aida D
03:11 Apr 03, 2020

I'm looking at the comments and nobody is trying to be rude, but as a kid I think you all could have said things in a bit of a nicer way so your not hurting the authors feelings, like constructive criticism. For example: I thought the story jumped around to much and I personally could not relate, but keep writing! Your a really great author! Now that was just an example, but I loved this story! It was so good and very poetic. I was wondering if you would be willing to share a tip with a younger writer?

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08:36 Mar 31, 2020

I thought this story was lovely and poetic. I loved the part about saving a child from heartache by cleverly telling her that a butternut squash is a special pumpkin, which is something you need to do to save the day sometimes. It also made sense to me that it wasn't linear, like the present, past, and future isn't linear in a person's memory nor would it be in the memory of plants and soil. I just let the months or years wash over me as I read, as I would if I were the rain or water in the soil of a garden, not trying to put an order to them.

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Chantel Chamonix
03:16 Mar 20, 2020

Wow, you created some really beautiful imagery in each time period. They each felt real and authentic. "Today, she makes a garden from scratch." I don't know why I cried at this line but I did. Maybe it has something to do with starting, and that you can start from nothing. Yeah, I love this story. Well done!

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09:30 Jul 30, 2020

Love the way you wrote this. In these many years, this will happen, in that many years that will happen. Couldn't have thought of it myself!

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Laura Clark
21:15 Jul 02, 2020

I love this so much I can’t really put it into eloquent words. Beautiful, poignant and perfect. The people who have been rude about it need to remember the age old adage: if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. I hope you keep writing - this is gorgeous.

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Samantha Davis
18:32 Jul 01, 2020

This story made me feel anxious because I did not know how old the character was in each paragraph. But, I really liked this story and valued how years past life and death happened and yet it was almost as if the soil showed no emotion.

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18:02 May 06, 2020

Oh my goodness. This is the best story I have ever read!

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Amber Gray
01:51 Mar 28, 2020

This is a very lovely story. I was able to picture all the events perfectly and really connected to them. Great job! This was a very unique take on the ups and downs of life and it turned out well. (:

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Abigail Langford
00:46 Mar 28, 2020

Very well written! I love the way you drive the story on with more and more excitement. And I love the style it's very interesting and soothing. Good job!

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Tori Rinard
06:58 Mar 25, 2020

Suddenly, I want to start gardening again. This was so beautiful to read. A lot of beautiful storytelling has to be reread to truly understand. Two times later and I...wow. My eyes and mind thank you. Plus, the LGBT+ addition made it feel so much more special to me. Great work <3

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Hafsa Fahim
17:39 Mar 22, 2020

This is a very beautiful, touching story.

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00:22 Mar 21, 2020

I like this idea. I want to experiment with telling a story using this structure.

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Skye Bailey
14:58 Mar 18, 2020

This was lovely, I'll admit I got chills. The use of time was really interesting and well done.

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