Don’t mistake me for your crabapple
by Abigail Williams
You are in the garden, kneeling among scarlet lupin spears. Savage, you stab the soil with your fork, weed out green tips with dark delight. I find myself lacing the edges of the lawn, shifting from one damp paver to the next. I am ornamental. Like your crabapple which refuses to blossom, I am in the wrong place.
‘Sam’s doing well at school,’ I offer. I hand these pearls, these claims to you, and I feel like my daughter presenting pieces of gravel in the pink crook of her palm, watching me intensely to check I understand their value. You hold the words for long enough to please me, before tipping them out of your ears. It is dangerous to show interest in the grandchildren. I might ask you for something. You fend me off with a long pole.
‘Carol and Jon had theirs again. A whole week.’ You look at me as if I sent them. ‘Carol was exhausted.’
I remember when you planted the lupins. And the hellebores on the shady side. The dahlias and the bee balm. You carved a new shape for the lawn, and you make dad crop it to lush stubs: US marine-green. Your garden is curated. You weigh it daily, your roving eye bleak and calculating. Do the plants feel themselves suspended in your balance, I wonder? Do they sense the threat of the fork, the severing of their clinging arms?
When they are tiny, you are tender. You patrol the borders with your slug scissors. You blanket buds when frost threatens like a mother wrapping winter’s child in a warm towel. But they are like me. Their petals will brown. Their bloom will fade. They will need you too much.
Always the shadow of your fork stripes our shoulders.