Featured Review on this writing by Robert Helliger

So, This Is?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Love to Write
Used to love my old parsnips, didn’t you, Bethan?

Image by congerdesign at Pixabay

Re-edit: 31.08.19

Submitted: August 08, 2019

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Submitted: August 08, 2019

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So, This Is?

I used to keep an allotment in Aigburth between the deer wood and the cricket green. Rode there on my hybrid mountain bike, when the weather was clement. I had this basket fitted to my handlebars for my parsnips. For my darling wife to cook when I got home.

Used to love my old parsnips, didn’t you, Bethan?

This morning, I lifted my first plump parsnips of the season. They were rooted in the soil by ladies’ legs and hard to pull. Once I had filled my trog, I sniffed my hands and savoured their earthy aroma, the tang of ripe manure under my fingernails.

Then I prised out a lump of sticky fudge from my baggy trousers, sat on my kneeler, and chewed, enjoying the warmth of the rising sun on my ruddy cheeks. It was a beautiful, cold December morning. It felt good to be alive.

I stood up and cast my eyes over the allotments - blanched with frost, barren and deserted. That’s when I saw those parakeets, flocking and bustling around old Jim’s apple tree. Crazed with hunger, they were, beating their wings in a turquoise flurry, gorging on rotting russets, lying strewn, like broken hearts, on the ground.

Presently, a gardener appeared in their midst. I pulled off my fawn bobble hat and went over to say a friendly hello.

‘Lovely morning we’re having!’ I cried.

Those birds scattered in one fowl swoop I can tell you! The strangest thing is, the gardener didn’t once look up, or speak to me. He seemed hell-bent on his digging. Deeper and deeper he dug, shovelling wet sods of soil over his shoulder in a madman’s frenzy. I assumed he was digging out the dreaded bindweed.

Digging out the Devil, as senile Hugh always said before he kicked the blessed bucket. Hugh told me he found bindweed growing six-feet underground as he dug out the graves of the dearly departed in Aigburth churchyard.

I didn’t make the connection at first. Between the gravedigger, the gardener, and my angel.

Love it when I bring fresh red roses and lay them on your sacred mound, don’t you, Bethan?

The man toiled with his shirt off, streaming floods of sweat. He was built like an ox: short, stocky and well-honed. Paved with slabs of rippling muscle. Thick black hairs sprouted from his ears, nose, armpits, the oily cleft between his massive buttocks where his saggy cords and y-fronts had slipped. He sported a tattoo of a cherub firing arrows of love from a golden bow into a bleeding heart on his back.

I could tell, by the heavy way he leaned on his spade, he was exhausted. The crusty old dog paused to dab his wet brow with a polka-dot handkerchief, then beckoned for me to join him. Warily I ambled up and stared at his sallow face.

His eyes were opaque, without iris or pupil. He turned wispy white, pale as autumn fog. I was scared when he went wispy, I can tell you!

The sun disappeared. Dark clouds threatened an untold malevolence. The wind blew up a hurricane, wailing like a banshee. Rain spit-spat, spattered, splashed then teemed down on us in crystal stair-rods, un-sacred daggers in our black hell. Searing shards rent the sky asunder, showering us with fire sparks.

The cunning, wily, old gardener grabbed my trembling wrist, dragging me, screaming and kicking, to the edge of his hole. My pleas for mercy were lost on the howling wind. I looked down between my green wellies and said:

‘What in hell’s name’s that, then?’

You see, the hole was full of stars!

His sturdy hands pushed me away.

Then I was falling, falling, falling…

I keep an allotment in Aigburth between the deer wood and the cricket green. Ride there on my hybrid mountain bike when the weather’s clement. I have a basket fitted to my handlebars for my parsnips. For my darling wife to cook when I get home.

‘Love my old parsnips, don’t you, Bethan?’

‘Not nearly as much as I love you, darlin’.

‘I brought you red roses, Bethan, I know how much you used to like red roses on your grave.’

‘Oh, but they’re beautiful! I love you, Bryn, with all my heart. Come.’

‘Farther up and further in!’

‘So, this is Heaven…’


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