Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Gardener - Aaron Alford

The two men had run off, as they were so prone to do, never giving the stranger in the garden a second glance.  The woman who was with them had followed.  He was alone now.  He stretched wide and took in the morning sun as it fell warmly on his face, his hands, and on the garden’s green leaves.  The air was cool, and smelled of the freshness of a newborn day.  A morning song sprang suddenly from the sky above him, and the singer lighted gently on a branch just a few feet away.  He stood there, watching her preen her wings, and he marveled at such a small and elegant creature.  She cocked her head and puzzled at him for a moment.  She sang once more, as if to ask who he might be.  He smiled in response, and the singer hopped into the sky in a flutter.

He heard footsteps approaching, and not wishing to be noticed, he hunkered down on his haunches, and busied himself with the patch of little yellow flowers beside him.

The woman had returned.  She was visibly distraught, sniffling, speaking to herself in whispers and sobs.  He kept to his flowers as she approached the great rock that stood behind him.  He glanced her way, but her eyes did not meet his.  She paused at the sight of the open rock face, and peered into the barren tomb.  He could hear her sharp breaths, and quietly watched as she stepped trembling into the tomb. 

He returned to his flowers with a pensive brow.  He knew what she was thinking.  ‘They’ve taken him!  Oh God!  They’ve taken him!  Hadn’t he suffered enough?  Why strip him even of the dignity of a grave?’  He heard her sobs from the inside of the sepulcher.  The yellow faces of the flowers stared back at him, as if pleading to him, “Say something!” 

Convulsions of sorrow were coming upon her now, and she turned from the open grave, steadying herself against the stone that should have sealed the tomb.  Her fingers caressed her lips as she looked to the empty blue sky in despair, and with a last great sob, she buried her face in her hands, and wept.

He stood to face her, and stepped slowly toward her.

“Ma’am?  Why are you crying?”

“Please!” she said between gasps, her hands pressed mournfully to her face. “Please, if you’ve taken him... If you know where they took him, tell me!  I’ll take him!  Please!”

She fell into the stranger’s arms and wept.  “Please.”

He took her into his embrace, standing silently.  The two of them stood there in the cool of the morning, her head nestled into his chest, both of them aglow with the still rising sun.  He smiled when the breeze caught her unkempt hair, tickling his neck so softly.  He put his lips close to her ear and whispered a single word.  


Her eyes shot open in recognition, and she pushed herself away to see his face.

“Teacher!” she screamed, and took him into her arms so tightly he began to laugh.

“Oh God!  It’s you!  It’s you!” she cried, her heart barely believing what she was holding in her arms.

“It’s me,” he said.

“Oh, let me hold on to you forever!” she cried.

“Not yet, Mary.  But soon.”