Bay Reflection
by Audrey Y. Scharmen

Editor's note: Halloween gives permission to transform ourselves into any of the personas lurking beneath our daily facade. Here long-time contributor Audrey Scharmen imagines one such transformation.

The old woman was a recluse without a real job. She was a free-lance writer whose days were spent indoors at a word processor spinning tales of gardening. She was a loner who came out only in the dusky part of the day to sit in her messy garden among disheveled and withered things.

Actually she knew nothing of gardening. Her columns were all about why to garden, not how. Her flower beds were slapdash plots nurtured only by hope and fantasy - neither of which ever lasted through summer. She wistfully longed to be a real gardener, to hang out with those who belonged to clubs and knew the proper names for flowers and never resorted to the vulgar colloquialisms she used such as snotweed, knotweed and pissenlit.

Alas, she simply hadn't the knack. There was, however, in a dark corner beneath her old crabapple tree, an inexplicably green and healthy patch of periwinkle vines and it was there she came as the white-hot haze of the Bay Country summer blushed pink with sunset and one could almost see across the creek. There was the feeble song of hot cicadas and a ghostly scent of ragged herbs and four o'clocks spared by a terrible drought. There were goldfinches swinging on tattered sunflowers beside the bird bath. They brought a semblance of normalcy to a summer gone bad.

Then her patch of green came under surveillance by angry neighbors: A furry terrorist had roamed the waterfront community since spring and eaten what little was left by the drought. He never came to her yard - but why should he? she mused. It wasn't exactly a Fresh Fields kind of place. No self-respecting scavenger would want to dine there.

The neighbors declared that her periwinkles hid the lair of the terrorist. It is there, below in a maze of tunnels, they cried. The woman laughed and imagined a cozy labyrinth of cunning groundhogs in ruffled aprons and pantaloons - like those in children's books of yore.

But her peers did not think her remarks amusing. A kind of hysteria set in, and evenings brought a crescendo of angry voices and a flickering of torches to the shadowy woodland along the shore. She grew uneasy and hoped the Dog Days madness would soon end.

And it was there, in that controversial patch of periwinkle one night - as the day melted into darkness and no rain fell and a great red Thunder Moon rose in a clear sky over the creek - that she saw the bud: A single enormous pulsating pod among satiny leaves and ready to burst into bloom. She knew it must be a rarity - a night-blooming cereus kind of plant - that just might assure her acceptance into any garden club in the county.

So she filled a rusty sprinkling can with precious water, hope and fantasy (and a generous spoonful of Miracle Grow) and lavishly fed the burgeoning bud. And she was never seen again.

There came, soon after, the rains of three successive hurricanes to drown the terrorist and restore the creekshore gardens. All but the garden of the old woman, which remains a sad, abandoned place where no birds come and nothing grows - except a patch of periwinkle guarded by an ancient crabapple tree.

| Issue 43 |

Volume VII Number 43
October 28-November 3, 1999
New Bay Times

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