In the garden. Late afternoon sun. Shoveling, raking, leveling dirt until my hands blistered. While my stepdad staked the fence. He pointed to the poison ivy I can never seem to identify. He persisted with staking despite all the rock ledge, found the soft earth. And we laughed about a politician, you know the one. He wrapped the wire fence, joining it to each stake, but I never once looked up from shoveling to see how he’d done it. The sun sank into shade. And my mom put on her garden gloves and plotted out the plants and I dug with my daughter’s yellow plastic shovel because I couldn’t find the spade, which isn’t a spade but a trowel. And the spade made me think of A Tree for Peter. Then the trowel was found. And my mom and I planted tomatoes and eggplant and peppers and herbs, and my stepdad quietly persisted with the fence. Until he was finished and sat on a rock to rest. And I didn’t think to get him water. We were digging and patting down dirt. My mom in her straw hat, kneeling at the garden bed, separating the basil, saying, remember we come from pioneers, we have pioneer blood. I had underestimated all the work, but they knew exactly what they were getting into, happily, without complaint. I tromped around in my bare feet, hauling dirt and water, holding the afternoon like a smooth stone, the kind you pocket and find a special place for so you can come back to it again and again, turn it over, catch each fleck in the light.
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