Judith was rummaging through the seed tin. That always meant trouble. Mammy had already left.
She picked out a packet of peas and stared at the picture on the front of the packet. She flung it to one side and picked another. This was always a telling sign. If she treated the seeds gently she was more likely to treat him like that too.
The next one was different. It was some unusual variety of curly kale that her and Mammy had bought last Autumn. She had been waiting to sow them until the spring. It was the third of March.
Experimenting could go either way. He popped his head around the door.
“Are you ready?”
“We should get started.”
The tone was jokey and she flashed that smile of hers. The one that made everyone forget.
She’d been sitting on an old hard kitchen chair with her legs folded up under her. It looked so uncomfortable but she swore it was the best way to sit on these “crappy” chairs. Everything was always crappy.
She threw the packet at Daddy, “Catch!”
“What in God’s name are these things?”
He was skating on thin ice, but she didn’t mind. It was a beautiful day.
It has never been the same since that day. Nothing has been the same.
Daddy took the shovel. He started plunging it into the ground and turning over the dark brown soil. It was full of worms. This made her happy and she stared at it, enraptured by its beauty. The perfect condition of the soil filled her heart to bursting and her gurgling laugh filled the air. Daddy smiled at her. He began to dig faster, building up momentum. She hunkered down and started to work too. As he turned over the soil she whipped out the weeds and tossed them into the barrow. She was precise and nothing escaped her. Once or twice she came across a stray potato or two that hadn’t been picked during the earlier harvest. These were carefully put aside to present to Mammy later and Daddy was rebuked.
Soon the ground was cleared and all that remained was the rich soil and her beloved worms. She was glowing. Daddy exchanged the shovel for the hoe and they were off again. He pounded the ground and the clank of metal on stone disturbed the stillness. She came after, clearing the stones and smoothing the surface with the rake. They were making good progress; so far, so good.
“Daddy, do you think Mammy’ll like this stuff?”
“I’m sure she’ll give it a go, love. She loves a challenge, your mother! What’s next, anyway?”
With fierce concentration she called out the sowing instructions and he did what he was told. Mammy couldn’t do that. Sometimes she didn’t have enough patience, but Daddy was always well able for her.
The drills were prepared. There were strings and pegs ready. It needed to be perfect; she hated when things didn’t line up. Order was important and surprises were not enjoyed. She sparsely sprinkled the seeds into the drill; she did that so she didn’t have to thin them out. When the seedlings were overcrowded she couldn’t bear to pull up a few for the good of the others. It made her cry.
Daddy was behind her, gently brushing the soil over the seeds. He was relieved. There had been no outburst, no upset. She was getting older now and maybe things would change, improve. He winked at her and she tossed her hair out of her eyes and grinned up at him.
They went inside and he asked her to get his phone so he could ring Mammy. Just as she picked it up it rang.
“Daddy, a man wants to speak to Mammy’s next of kin.”
Deirdre Moran lives in Kildare and spends most of her spare time writing and gardening on an allotment. She discovered flash fiction in 2013 and since then has been published in Silver Apples Magazine and has had pieces chosen for Flash Bulbs, the Dublin International Flash Fiction Day event, and read at the Big Smoke Writing Factory Winter Literary Café.