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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: A patch and a hope
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
09/08/06


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A patch and a hope

My back groans in protest as I heave myself to my feet. It’s been a grueling two hours, weeding, trimming, planting. Yet, the sorry excuse of a garden looks forlorn.
Actually, it mirrors the despair in my heart, the terrifying loneliness, the pain.

“Mom, have you finished?”

Pushing tangled hair away from my face, I am assaulted with the my daughter’s image. My heart lurches into its familiar dance of pain. At twelve, she’s the size of a three-year-old. Sadly, she can’t even do what three-year-olds do. She slides on her rear end instead of walking, messes up her face while eating, and I have to clean her up every time she has a bowel movement.

She hasn’t always been this way. I haven’t always been a widow.

Five years ago, I had a husband and Teresa was like any seven-year-old. We lived a simple but happy life. One bright Christmas morning, we loaded our old car full of food, intent on dispensing cheers to as many people as we knew. We started with my mother, wove our way to Mark’s childhood home where his father still lived, then down to an elderly woman Teresa’d adopted.

Tired but happy, we set for home at night. The stars weren’t bright enough to light our path and the car’s headlights were weak. I will forever regret the fact that I was talking too fast and that Mark was listening intently.

The next bend came round too soon. Our screams rent the still night air. I felt myself dropping through space, the metallic taste of blood on my lips. Then nothing but darkness.

When I came to, my mom was staring at me with a look that told me all was lost. She was reluctant but I was eager, so the story unfurled. Mark died on impact, Teresa’s condition was critical.

The memories cause my head to ache. I reply Teresa. “Yes.”

“Will they grow fine?”

I look at the tomatoes I’d planted. I doubt if they’d grow at all, if my heart would ever be at peace, if tomorrow would be any better than today.

“Will they?”

“Maybe. Let’s go have breakfast.”

She slides along in obedience. I can’t get her to use her wheelchair. She hates it with a passion, the same passion that made her live.

The prognosis was bad. If she lived, she’d be a paraplegic. She lived, she wasn’t a paraplegic, but for a reason that confounds medical science till tomorrow, her frame began to shrink. The bones, the skin, everything but her head.

“Will the tomatoes grow?”

Her repeated question crowds my head and before I know it, I’m snapping at her, “I don’t know. Leave me alone.”

Life’s been hard and unduly unfair. Before Mark’s death, I didn’t work, only dreamt of one day becoming a writer. After his death, I was coldly thrust into the breadwinner’s field. We are surviving, but barely so. Teresa’s medical bill gulps money faster than the dry patch of garden outside gulps water.

In four years, I’ve toiled endlessly in the garden and have only been rewarded by two harvests. Two miserly harvests.

I don’t know how I reached my conclusion; the important thing is that I have a conclusion. Either God doesn’t exist or cares nothing for us.

Teresa’s eyes fill with tears but she presses on. “I hope the garden grows this time.”

I plunk a plate of rice in front of her and begin to play with my own food. She eats in silence while I sulk at a God I’ve ceased believing in.

***

The sound of horse hooves on the roof jerks me out of an uneasy sleep. What is going on? Jumping off the bed, my first thought is of Teresa’s safety. My heart begins a long and uneven race as I barrel out of the room.

She meets me at the door. “It’s raining.”

The horse hooves turn to mighty pelts of rain. My heart stops racing.

“Mom, it’s raining.” She repeats as if I were deaf.

It’s not rained in a year.

***

Teresa slides noisily into the room. I look up from the script I’m trying to write.

“The tomatoes.” She’s fairly bursting with excitement.

I don’t understand her when she gets this way.

“They’re growing. I saw them.”

With a speed I didn’t think I had, I was running out of the door, into the rain that’s been falling for two days. Into hope.


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This article has been read 638 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Haug09/14/06
I'm glad you described the mother as being real. Her lashing out at her daughter through her own pain was realistic. I can't imagine the broken hearted feeling she must have had. I'm glad she found hope in the end.
Rita Garcia09/14/06
You told this heartbreaking story with passion and a hope for a better tomorrow! Wonderfully written!
Alexandra Wilkin09/15/06
Aside from the strong writing, what held me was the realism in the mother's character. She really felt worn down and worn out. Very good indeed. God bless. xx
Jan Ackerson 09/15/06
Oh, yes--this mother's pain is absolutely real. I've often described my similar spiritual state after my daughter's accident as "shaking my fist at God," and that's the sort of mood you've portrayed here--with a beautiful blossoming of hope at the end.
Venice Kichura09/15/06
I felt your pain!
Excellent job of relating a painful, yet hopeful story!
Jan Ross09/15/06
Very honest and realistic story. We adopted three older children with "special needs" after we had three of our own and the part where the mother snapped at her daughter -- well, oh how I understand that!

I like the way you ended it -- there was hope. That's all a mother needs! The ending preserved the realism you conveyed. I noticed a few little mistakes here and there that you may want to go back and rework a bit, but the story itself was very good! God bless you! :)

Phyllis Inniss 09/16/06
I felt the mother's pain, but there was hope in the end. That's what we need to keep us going, with faith.
william price09/16/06
I've worked in this garden too. Thank you for the healing words and hope. This story has a mission to minister. Very well done and anointed. God bless.
Joanne Sher 09/18/06
Exceptional characterization and description. This definitely held my attention throughout. I could definitely feel the mother's pain. Excellent!
Joyce Poet09/29/06
Whether or not this story placed is really beside the point. It's a winner. The hope you've sown with this story in the soil of so many souls will not go without a harvest. All the compliments I can dig deep into my heart and come up with for you to encourage you to keep spreading and planting seeds of hope can't possibly suffice. May the Lord, sincerely, cause His face to shine on you. Be blessed, Treava