A journal of narrative writing.

The garden ran along the granite retaining wall. At the far end of the yard where the wall turned and became a sharp, high, cinder-blocked corner grew the climbing squashes that suddenly one morning were infested with beetles that looked like ladybugs until you saw them up close with their black stripes and translucent bodies, that burst with a crisp tiny click when you mashed them. What came out looked exactly like French’s prepared mustard, turmeric bright, and it was very unsettling to kill them, picking them off and stepping on them and feeling it under your shoe, the light weight required, though in the very short end they won, chewing every flower and leaf, and there were no vegetables from that part of the garden. Inside the house the ladybugs had massed by the hundreds in the upper corners of the sunroom, and surprised you by biting when you interfered with their movements, so the squash beetles looked like ladybugs to me. The tomatoes were in the middle with the pole beans, and there were hundreds of tomatoes we picked. We ate them sliced with salt and gave them away and there were still too many to eat. When they turned a purplish red they were rotting and if we forgot for a single night to take them out to the compost pile they collapsed on the newspapers and stained the kitchen table and there was that smell like sweetened body odor and the quick circular darting of the fruit flies, like spots at the corners of your eyes, but mostly we remembered to take them out. In front of the wire cages and teepees of oak branches the beans wound their vines around were the sandbox I had built and sanded the corners of and painted the color of sand, and the wading pool, which was blue and decorated on the inner lining with fishes smiling and blowing bubbles. Where the wall tapered to its end there was a shady slope where moss grew and eggplants and cucumbers on a black iron trellis. Our landlord didn’t mind this. He was Polish, and still spoke with an accent. There were mineral specimens in that part of the garden, citrines and polished geode slices, one a dark green that I still have a piece of, and quartz crystals the three of us had arranged to catch the afternoon sun that fell on the moss. It was an excellent garden, though too small for corn. Above the retaining wall red and white and pink azaleas had bloomed and faded and were blooming again and some unsuccessful boxwoods filled in the low spaces where the landscaping cloth showed through the pine straw. I kept the Brinkmann smoker beside the slope, and I was cooking a pork roast over coals and basting it with soy sauce and garlic and olive oil while her little girl kept me company with questions. She was three, close to four, I think. It was a summer evening at home when the screen door opened with a slight creak of the spring and her mother stepped out onto the concrete stoop and stopped at the steps that led from the stoop into the yard and held something up, bunched and pale. What are these, she asked. The little girl began shrieking. I looked toward the grill quickly, and then at her where she stood well away with her fists by her side and shrieking. I lifted her. Her tears were on my neck. I looked at her mother. She put them behind her back. It stopped, just like that. Where did you find them, I said.