Leaving the Garden

by Stephen Ramey

We dropped baguettes over Rouen, their golden crusts catching the sunlight as they fell. Through the scope I watched shrapnel crumbs fly out at impact, the rings of smiling faces around that point that formed a hungry bull’s eye. I thought of the hundreds of people who would be fed, bone thin children, women with upside down mascara eyes, men grown saggy in the constancy of their defeat.

At Brest, we dropped oranges, crate after crate of citrus. I watched them fall in clumps through clouds gone gray, saw the spray of their impacts, one after another, a gleaming trail through the darkening streets. I heard laughter, the surprised laughter of children shooting squirt guns, women discovering love letters, men playing a sport.

In Gabes it was lettuce, spattering green explosions across that desert sand. I thought of shade and water, children swimming in silence while their adults looked on. Peace.

By Palermo we were offloading tomatoes. Red splashed the world below us, gutters filled with red juice. I thought of the people who would be splattered, of seeds tearing their opened eyes. I thought of turning back, but I was not a pilot.

In Athens we dropped sausages, the casings bulged with chopped meat. I thought of the craters they would make, the haze of spices they would raise. I thought of old men and women clinging, children lying prone in the streets. I thought of my own death.

War became a blur of squashes and string beans, corn cobs, misshapen melons. I no longer watched through the scope; I stared blankly at the single vegetable in our payload, a swollen cucumber suspended from the ceiling. That drew me back to myself. I thought of its torpedo shape, the denseness of its pulp. I wondered what would happen when we dropped it.

Stephen V. Ramey’s flashes have appeared in various places, including Cafe Irreal, Eclectic Flash, Foliate Oak, Bartleby Snopes, and others. He lives in New Castle, Pennsylvania, fireworks capitol of the world.

What do you imagine life “in the garden” to be like? What happens there? Some think life in the garden is easy, that we simply plant seeds and watch them grow. It’s not like that. Even the heartiest plant needs nurture, the water of our blood, the sympathy of our souls. And, nurture is no easy thing. The soil resists our tools, edges dull, handles break. Our backs grow crooked over time. Every step is crucial. Plant a seed too shallow and the wrinkled skim twists it away from our design; too deeply, the darker soil devours our fruit before it can emerge. Then there’s the matter of irrigation. How much water do we allow in, how much must we keep out? It’s a delicate balance between a healthy garden and ravenous overgrowth. Did you know we polish the produce? Each fruit on every stem must shine with our own reflected face. It’s the only way to keep pests from destroying what we work so hard to create.

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