James awoke, still groggy, in his bed. His dad must have carried him up the stairs last night because he didn’t remember anything past dinner. Actually, the only thing in James’ memory at that moment was the faint and quickly fading recollection of a dream he had had last night….something about the trees…they had spoken to him, their message carried in on the night air. Odd dream, he thought, but then most dreams are, aren’t they? Before he could give it another thought, the last vague remnants of the dream vanished from his mind as cold, hard reality crept in and took hold. His mother was gone. She would not be in kitchen downstairs making his breakfast, or in the greenhouse tending to their seedlings. She wouldn’t be calling to him to get out of bed or even sitting on the porch with his dad, sharing coffee and talking about their plans for the day. No, she would not be any of those places doing any of those things ever again.
James felt numb and wondered if that was normal. Perhaps numb was what came after sad, all that was left after your heart breaks in two and your world turns upside down. He wondered, for a moment, if he would ever feel anything again or if he would remain like this, numb and distant, as if watching himself from outside of his body.
Keeper jumped down from the bed, stretched, and walked over to the window. He stared out toward the garden and then looked back at James, as if reminding him. The seedlings. Jane had set them down to follow James and, last night, he had vowed to plant them and tend them as she would have wanted him to….as they would have done together if James could have it all to do over again. He pushed back the covers and climbed out of bed, still wearing the clothes he had on last night. His dad must have wanted to be extra careful not to wake him. Good enough, thought James, and he whistled for Keeper who followed him down the stairs.
Where was his dad, James wondered? He had checked the office and his parents’ bedroom, but his dad had not been in either of those places. And here, in the kitchen, it was quiet and James was alone. His stomach grumbled slightly and he remembered that he hadn’t eaten last night. James grabbed an apple from the counter and walked out onto the porch. The yard was empty but the car was still in the driveway. James circled the house and, finding himself alone in the back yard, headed toward the garden. Kneeling beside the tray of seedlings, James plucked the hand trowel from the dirt in the corner of the garden bed and got to work. One by one he pulled the seedlings gently from the tray compartments, careful not to tear their fragile roots. Turning back a scoop of soil, he placed each in its own tiny hole and patted the dirt down around it. He continued on slowly, planting each seedling with great care, as if it were the most important thing he would ever do. And when he was finished, and the tray was empty, he sat back and admired his work and imagined his mother there with him. He would get another tray of seedlings from the greenhouse, and another, and plant them all. It would take him the better part of the morning, but it kept his mind from drifting back to yesterday and the sight of his mother at the base of that tree, and he felt he owed her that….to keep her here with him, in the garden, and not leave her memory there sprawled among the roots.
When all the seedlings were planted, and the trays empty, James lay back on the grass next to Keeper and stared at the clouds. A gentle breeze blew through the yard and Keeper raised his head and cocked his ears and stood. He moved slowly toward the path at the edge of the woods. James whistled for him but Keeper did not come. Instead, he sat and growled… a long, low rumble of a growl. “What is it boy?” James called to him. Keeper’s eyes remained fixed on the path leading into the trees and the tiniest bit of trepidation fluttered inside of James…and he wondered again where his father was.
© Kelly Rainey and 500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015.
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