Lost in the Garden

Uncle Ezra sat expressionless in a frayed nylon lawn chair next to his yellowed herb garden. Cigarette butts fell out of the full pie tin ashtray and onto the table as he stubbed out a cigarette.

I sat between Ma and Papa on a shaded bench under the overgrown fig tree. The dew-drying spring morning heat smelled of damp dirt. In my boredom I squirmed side to side, like a wild spirit weighed down by a wet lose-weave blanket.

Uncle Ezra’s coughing fit broke the silence. He gasped to catch his breath, stood up and leaned against the wall with both hands to sturdy himself. I too gasped for air.

“You okay?” Ma asked him.

Uncle Ezra didn’t say anything as he turned to face us. He unbuttoned his shirt and shoved his clenched fists into his pockets and inhaled, deep and deliberate. I too inhaled, deep and deliberate. Our chests barreled and tense with the damp atoms of decomposing fig leaves.