Cindy looked out the window into her backyard. She had only begun the garden this year, but it already looked good. She had daylilies still in bloom and had recently planted mums in goldenrod, rust, blue, and purple—there were early fall colors throughout the garden. The sedum had turned autumn maroon and the hostas were still deep green. She looked to the left at the hippopotamus fountain she had found at Architectural Salvage and got lost in its falling water. The fountain was different from anything else she had ever seen. It had five fat hippos holding out a silver gray bird bath between them. A ceramic bluebird perched on top of one of the hippos had water flowing from its beak into the bath.
After Cindy got the fountain, she found a hippo family on the Internet that squirted water out of their mouths. They were made for a pond, so she had a one put in on the right side of the backyard, down the hill a little. She could see the white, gold, and black backs of the Koi, their scales glistening in the autumn sun near the top of the water when she sat in her bright kitchen. It had been so dry that summer that she had to keep filling the pond with water.
As she stared at the garden, she realized she could hardly believe it had been a year. One year since Ed had died. He died suddenly one day. Just like that, he had a heart attack. He had gone to work fine, but never come home. She’d had no time to adjust, no time for goodbyes; he was just gone. They’d been planning a deck on the back of the house; they were in the midst of packing for a vacation to South Carolina to go to the beach. Early that morning they had talked about where they would have dinner that night. They had decided on Clifton’s Pizza, a place now Cindy sometimes goes and sits alone, imagining Ed still with her. She has conversations with him in her head, smiling and laughing at what they say to each other.
Everyone where Cindy is a social worker thought that she had held up so well, had been unbelievably strong after losing her husband of 22 years. They didn’t realize that at home she had begun to dig. Every evening after work, she went outside with small hand tools and dug in the soil. She had begun to keep a pair of Ed’s khaki pants by the back door that she slipped into when she got home from work, along with an old flannel shirt of his. It felt good to have his clothes on, like she crawled into his skin and was able to keep him alive by doing this. If the neighbors saw her outside digging, they didn’t mention it.
Some days she used a screwdriver, others a trowel, sometimes a spoon. Anything that allowed her to get further into the earth. It was after the entirety of her backyard was dug into that she decided to plant a garden. Before that it hadn’t even occurred to her.
One evening as she pushed crocus corms down into the cold earth, her fingers covered in November mud, she wondered if Ed would like the garden.
She wondered what he would think of the fact that she dug up the backyard.
Elizabeth Glass has a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Miami University, and is the recipient of a Kentucky Arts Council grant. She has been published in journals and magazines including The Chattahoochee Review, The Georgetown Review, and Writer's Digest. She has a story in the forthcoming anthology Motif 3: Work published by MotesBooks. She lives in Louisville, KY, where she is a social worker.