THE BACKYARD CEMETERY
I’d been fine, deadheading marigold blossoms, brown and crinkly at the buds.
For the first time in years, the sunflowers had come up, bobbling precariously on their thin green stems, ready to topple, as they always do. I’d been remiss about fall cleanup, so I stood out there in my winter boots, clipping and cutting, pruning and bagging.
And then, from the boggy-browns of late-winter garden, a turtle emerged, pulling himself through the grass.
Plugging along doggedly, he stopped to rest now and again and to crane his neck up and down.
I thought at first he was one of those snappers, the kind that can take your finger off if you get too close, so I kept my distance, wondering if he’d walked the whole five-miles from the lake, or if he’d caught a ride part-way. Either way, I knew he didn’t belong here, in the middle of my garden.
It caught me by surprise, the wishing.
Because he used to take care of this type of thing: shit on the lawn, birds the cat dragged in, half-squished spiders.
But I am alone now, so I scooped a rusted shovel under the turtle and saw the flabby edge of its shell, how it folded around the turtle like a shroud.
I thought about what I wished someone – anyone – would have done for me when I found myself sick and alone and crouching in the shadows.
I pulled off my gardening gloves and reached out, barehanded.
I petted his neck and sat with him for a long, long time.
And somehow that ocean between us became a lake and then a pond until it was nothing but a tiny droplet in my little plastic watering can.