The Orchard (Flash Fiction)
Nancy sat down in her favorite chair after a hard-long day. Every day her life seems to get a little harder and at Ninety-two those increases made for a hard day. Her favorite chair is in the sunroom overlooking her garden. Nancy has a fruit tree for every child and every grandchild with a veritable orchard of apple and pear trees in memory of her progeny. The newest tree was just three years old, planted for her granddaughter Anna. She and her husband Henry lived on their property for nearly sixty years. They inherited the farm from Henry’s parents after his mother died. Her Granddaughter Ashley ran past her out the door and into the yard with another two girls.
Ashley said as she passed, “Hi grandma.”
Nancy started to say something, but the girl was long gone before she could.
“These kids today are in just too big a darn hurry. No time to stop and take a breath,” Nancy said as she watched the door swing shut.
Nancy turned to her to see her husband’s smile.
Henry said, “when did we become that old couple that complains about the kids these days? I remember those summer days on my daddy’s farm doing chores, swimming, and all those things I’m sure we both don’t want any of our grandchildren doing.”
Nancy smiled, “we had some good times back by that pond or in the hay……… good times.”
Nancy smiled on the inflection in “good times.” She lightly patted Henry on the back of his hand thinking about how natural the gesture was even thought when she was younger, she thought differently. She remembered seeing her grandmother do the very same thing thinking about how it was odd. Henry brought his hand up to her face and touched the tip of her nose. He lightly ran the back of his hand down the side o her head and down to her neck lightly messaging her neck just behind her ear. It was a gesture as sensual as it was comforting. She thought about the first time Henry did this before they were married, days before he went to war. She didn’t know then if she would see him again. When he came home, he came home to meet their three-year-old son Henry Thomas Junior.
The thought of their son made her think about that day. He preferred being called Thomas rather than Henry or Junior. He left home at eighteen and went to war in his twenties. He came home in a box covered in a flag.
Nancy said, “don’t start something you can’t finish old man.”
Nancy smiled as Henry lightly chuckled. He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.
The door to the kitchen opened and a woman leaned out.
Mary asked, “Mom, would you like a cup of tea?”
Mary was their youngest child and had moved in with her children when her husband left her for another woman. She had five children with the oldest in college and her youngest out in the yard playing among the trees in the orchard.
“No thank you dear……I could use a shot of something stringer,” Nancy said with a smile on her face.
Mary asked, “Mom, who are you talking to out here?”
Nancy said, “I’m talking to your father.”
Nancy looked over at the urn on a table. She placed him there in his favorite spot watching over the orchard about five years ago. Mary didn’t say anything. She looked over at her father then went back to her cleaning. Nancy turned back to Henry.
“I think we did well. I think we did really well,” Henry said as he looked into the kitchen.
Henry looked like he did when he came home after the war in his uniform and covered in metals. He wanted to look polished and strong for his wife and son. He didn’t want them to see the pain in his eyes, the anguish for what he saw in the war. He sat back down and was his old self again. Nancy put her hand on his in that old gesture that was all too familiar.
Nancy said, “I miss you every day.”
Out in the orchard, Nancy could see the girls running around the tallest of the fruit trees. A Gala apple tree. The tree stands tall around other Gala trees representing their other children. Standing next to the tree was their son Thomas. He was in his uniform standing tall and proud, watching the niece he would never meet. Off in the distance, she could see her mother and father-in-law watching over their great-granddaughter as they stand next to the place they are buried.
Ashley stopped running and looked at the sunroom to her grandmother. She did her best to brush off the dirt and leaves as she ran for the door.
“Hi grandma,” Mary said as she passed.
Ashley walked up to her mother with a couple of apples.
Ashley asked, “mamma who’s that man sitting next to grandma?”
© 2019 Michael Collins aka Lakemoron