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Keyless
Thursday, September, 2 2021
Old Arla's garden lay fallow in the cool late summer afternoon.
The widows barn, where her husband used to hay the horses now shelters her riding lawn mower.
Her son, just past this spring last, still has a friend, come up out of the east.
As he covers the garden on black strips of shroud, he looks up and sees the ancient lady, wheeling rocks in a wheel barrow over to him.
“I can get that, Arla.”
“No need—I'm not dead yet.”
The rocks are soon pinning the landscaping fabric to the ground.
As Arla surveys the garden and looks over at the sixty yard strip where they had uprooted ten cart loads of pig weed [Amaranth], she says:
“I'm going to pay you for this. You work hard.”
“No, Arla. Tim was my friend and he always bought breakfast. I owe him.”
“You know its his birthday today.”
“Sorry you lost him, Arla.”
“Don't be. He was in terrible pain his whole life. He's in a better place now.”
“What do you want Bob to plant in the garden next year?”
“Oh, I'm done gardening. He can plant whatever he wants. And you tell him that I won't rob him. Bob's a good man.”
“He had me manure it. I'm sure he's got an idea.”
The little old man from the gutters of a distant hell then began to wheel the cart and tools back out to the road.
“You know,” said Arla, some 27 years his senior, “they don't make 'em like you any more. Men shun work these days. They're soft. I'm lucky my son was was your friend.”
She paused in wonder about sometime or someone long gone, and he imagined she was thinking of Dutch, her husband, the bull rider who she gave four sons, and who once upon a right time punched out two big city men for cussing in front of women at his gas station.
He stopped and grinned, thought back to the day before when she was directing him in the pig weed eradication, and declared, “Well Arla, I've worked for a few women in my life. But I never had one point at something that needed done and say, “Oh, just take it right through the gut.”
She laughed with the recollection and smiled, “Well, I hope that's a recommendation. Sounds kind of harsh when you say it.”
He smiled and waved to her and her age-quavering voice followed, “Tell Deb if she needs any neat to feed you I've got burger in the freezer.”
He then wondered, as he approached Deb and Bobs house, forever unlocked, doors open in case anyone needs a thing, keys in the truck, that there was something magical and passing about living in a keyless land, where “robbery” was taking some peas from a borrowed garden.
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