The Garden Experiment
As a distraction they gave Tim a square-meter section of the garden. He planned to grow his own little green army men by planting the plastic figures in rows of trenches that he called the Flanders' Field, but wouldn't say why–they were Washingtons. The tiny green beret-bies sprouted in just a week. They didn't eat, didn't sleep, obeyed only Tim. Less like a conductor of an orchestra than a stocker of inventory, he babbled nonsense and the men waddled into the shed and stacked. And when that filled, they walked down into the basement and stacked. The original seeds' tendril sprouts spread beyond Tim's square across the garden's rows and into the lawn, but his parents were just happy he had a hobby to keep his overactive imagination occupied. Shed, garage, basement, attic all stacked to capacity with still soldiers. It seemed like a nice diversion that kept him out of any more trouble–until he said the one word that was shared between his army man language and English: Attack.
At night the salt and pepper shakers would waltz the checkered tablecloths, dragging tiny trails in the ever-settling dust. Urban explorers might blame the scrapes on rats– lord knows this part of town has had its share of those since the last plant closed. If the adventurers lasted long enough to speculate. Bailey still prowled the family diner–his rooftop garden and rain catchers were effective for a single mouth, and his booby traps not so much deadly as maimy. On otherwise still evenings, Grandpa Sam would climb from the frame on the wall to wistfully watch the pepper and salt waltz in the soft light of the moon through dust-filtered windows only occasionally darkened by Bailey’s pacing shadow.
Zebulon Huset is a high school teacher, writer and photographer. He won the Gulf Stream 2020 Summer Poetry Contest and his writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Gone Lawn, Meridian, Rattle, The Southern Review, Fence and Atlanta Review, among others. He publishes Notebooking Daily, and edits the literary journal Coastal Shelf.