Northwords Now Issue 38

The FREE literary magazine of the North

The Gardener

by Tom Ashman

He watched out of the window of his ramshackle, hand-built home amidst the granite mountains. The fog and recent rain made the rocks cry rivers that cascaded down their flanks and finished up somewhere beneath the mist and low cloud, in what was once the world where people lived.

    His home was nestled just below the summit of one of the smaller mountains in the area, though still high enough to stand well above the clouds. All around him were steep drops that appeared to fade into an oblivion of fog. He could always see the looming masses of the surrounding peaks, even at night they were evident by the black vacuum of stars standing against the pricked sky that moved like a spinning top through the years. It seemed as though his mountain was the centre of the universe, and everything else was just cardboard props that where wheeled around him to mark some arbitrary sense of time. After all, he had never been to the other peaks. Who is to say that they weren’t an illusion or image.

    These mountains once had names that were now forgotten because he had never known them. It was afternoon, and today the fog had not lifted even slightly. The sun tried to make its way through but only succeeded in making the world white. Its pale disc burned behind clouds swirling on top, making it possible to distinguish its perfect round shape. He went outside and raked the gravelly patch around his door. His home was made of old wood and chunks of plasterboard, pieces of block and stone built up around the outside. He had found relative peace here in his rubble house and come to learn things about the world, truths that applied, even in the state it was left in.

    Inside his home were little shelves with old books on them, a small stove and several windows that looked out over the fog valley. He had hundreds of tins of food that he had stored. As he ate, he would flatten the tins and either build them into his house, or occasionally make small sculptures out of them, of things he once knew. He had placed these tin sculptures around his gravel patch garden and would stand and rake and be amongst them. He collected drinking water from the rain via a downspout from his roof into a water butt that sat under one of his windows. He never lacked water now that the rain was no longer acid.