10 Steps to a Fruitful Garden

by Carol Pariss Krauss, 3.24am 10th March 2021

Ten Steps to a Fruitful Garden in Bear Creek
“The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out. They crawl over your dirty snout...” 
The Hearse Song (Harley Poe version)

Step I.
I knew they would come. I just didn’t realize they would come at high noon. I had seen their claws and talons lift up the red mud and pine needles at the border of the winter garden. I could feel them watching me when I took the garbage out at dusk. I always thought they preferred the dark. I wonder if the plan was strategic, one they drew in the dirt with x’s and o’s like soccer  plans? Or was it more chaotic and crazy, like William the Conqueror?

Step II.
Decay is a slow process in a Bear Creek winter. Organs, bones, the occasional tuft of hair like to hang on when it dips below forty degrees. The worms and maggots are still there. The milky white globs nibble slower, but they still nibble. 

Step III. 
I didn’t realize what a mess they would make on the side patio. It was too early in the year for me to have blown off the pine needles and bleached the slab spring white. All those entrails and muddy bloody prints. An eyeball beside Mee-maw’s chaise lounge. I thought a fox had gone rabid until the hiss and tap at the side door. Such polite ones. 

Step IV.
Never open the door without first checking to see who is there. Even in rural Bear Creek. There is nothing so welcome or simultaneously ominous as the squeak and slam of a screened door. 
Step V.

Always have the gun locked and loaded behind the kitchen door. The babies have grown, so there is no good reason for it to be in the garage, disassembled and greased down. Nuts, bolts, defenseless clutter. Wolves and the occasional bear had been spotted slinking thru Bear Creek Swamp, so the gun should have been behind the door. It wasn’t. ***
Step VI.

I recognized cousin Susie, she was still wearing that stupid dotted bow which was bigger than her bowling ball head. Where it clasped was a dried maggot. A piece of brain on the left side of the bow messed up with pattern. The man behind her looked like Mike from two blocks over. The semi had not been kind to him at all. We had heard he lost his head over his cheating wife, drank himself into a stupor at the Beer and Bin, peeled out of the parking lot onto Highway 5, and then well, lost his head. 

Step VII.
It wasn’t mine to wonder how they all came from a garden that recently produced Big Boy tomatoes the size of my fist. A garden fenced to keep out rabbits and the deer. One planted in thyme, sage, lavender and the undead.

Step VIII.
Roger didn’t come down the steps to see what the racket was. Damn Fortnite. It wasn’t swift and it wasn’t pretty, but I guess it was quieter than the game he was immersed in. He must have been on Level 21. I shouldn’t have opened the door.

Step IX.
Maybe not. But now I don’t have to worry about the car payment or the past due mortgage. Roger will find cleaning the linoleum is a bitch. If he gets off his ass to clean it. He’s never been one to spiff up his own mess, and he certainly won’t cotton to my entrails road-mapping the fake green marble pattern that we picked out the year we got the good tax refund because of the twin’s arrival. 

Step X.
I don’t imagine they will miss me at Sunday worship. They may think I am hitting the bottle again or I ran off with one of the young boys with long lean legs and a tight ass from down at the caravan  like last time. It’s okay. I haven’t got the heart, it’s under the blackberry bramble near the corpse of last year’s volunteer pumpkin,  to tell them I won’t be coming back for preach or prayer.