Friday, April 1, 2016

Free Fiction: Blueberries

Hyle mucked his way up the hill to the clearing. Mud squished under his boots and each time he pulled a foot forward an accompanying sucking sound issued forth. He squelched along the path, usually bone dry in the summer, and normally only a little tacky at this time of year, but the uncommon rains soaked the ground until nothing remained of the dirt except over-watered mud.

He moved the heavy bag he carried from one arm to the other, to give his muscles a rest. The weight unbalanced him just enough that he needed to choose his steps with care, lest the slippery mud release and carry him down the hill on his backside. The bag contained compost he’d made in his own bins, which sat at the back of the house and collected vegetable peelings and apple cores.

He intended to add the compost to the area surrounding the blueberry bushes he’d planted three years ago. He and Tony. They’d dug up the ground together and put the tiny little bushes—really more like sticks—in, and pulled the dirt back on top to cover their roots. They’d dreamed of a nice blueberry patch up here, out of the way, hidden from prying, hungry eyes. The birds might nibble a few, and perhaps the rabbits, too. The neighbors would be none the wiser. Hyle had dutifully wrapped fencing around the little plot of land where the bushes grew, to keep out the little critters.

It was a good dream. A nice dream.

Except Tony wasn’t around anymore. Tony dreamed big, but he didn’t wait around for things to grow. He found greener pastures and kicked up his heels with others who had thorny blackberry patches tucked away in the corners of their land. Tony flitted like a bumble bee from one blooming flower to the next.

But Hyle remained behind, and his patience was still intact. He meant to follow through on the dream, even if he did it alone. The blueberry bushes should come into their own this summer, and the berries should be plentiful. He could almost taste the ripe, summer-sun drenched berry.

He crested the top of the slope and the path dried somewhat. The runoff down the hill stayed wet, but up here, the dirt was rich and dark. The spot was perfect, with pine trees on the outer edge to provide a hint of shade and a touch of acidity. There was good drainage of the ample rain and the westering sun provided enough sunlight to keep any plant happy.

Hyle stopped to gaze on his patch. The bushes showed signs of coming back to life after a snowy winter sleep, with green leaves and branches stretching toward the sky. Hyle frowned. Three of the bushes looked washed out. He plopped the bag down at the edge of the patch and walked over to examine the bushes. Seven other bushes remained, healthy and hearty, but these three bushes had been ruined.

Hyle ran his fingers through the dirt. There didn’t seem any reason for the dead bushes, but dried out and stick-like, they were obviously dead. Except….

Hyle thought back to the day they’d planted the bushes. As usual, Tony had frittered the time away, joking and laughing. In the warm afternoon, his heart full of affection, Hyle hadn’t minded. But he’d done the bulk of the work. He’d dug most of the holes, and he’d covered over the roots, of exactly seven of the bushes. Tony had done three.

Hyle stood up and returned to his bag of compost. The taste of regret lingered in the back of his throat. The poor little blueberry bushes had deserved a better fate. But then again, so had Hyle.

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