Ophelia’s Story – by Thaddeus Cwiklinski (Adult)

As the sun rose higher, the humidity of the garden, previously uncomfortable, made Ophelia feel downright persecuted. She considered going inside—throwing in the trowel, she thought with a slight smile—but decided that the heat and the mud clinging to her boots were preferable to encountering her three grandchildren this early. They were probably riding high on Fruit Loops and Saturday morning cartoons, and would cling to her, begging her to liberate the cookie jar from its insurmountable perch on top of the fridge.
Ophelia dug zealously, and uprooted a sizable weed with one deft swoop of her trowel. I always get my man, she thought with a satisfaction rivaling that of a gifted assassin. She worked methodically down a row of hyacinths, and then back alongside her roses. Halfway down a row of begonias, hydrangeas, and a handful of other perennials, Ophelia came to her red azaleas. This had been their year, finally. Two years prior there’d been an unseasonable frost. Last year she’d entrusted her bumbling neighbor, Earl, with the task of watering the garden while she and her husband were on vacation. Water them he did—with enough fresh water to sustain a family on a desert island for a decade, she thought. She returned home to a thick Italian Wedding soup of a front yard with bulbs floating like meatballs.
This year her bright red azaleas were perfect. Whereas the morning dew had made some of the other plants look like they were fighting a losing battle against gravity, it made the azaleas glisten brilliantly. She gazed at them wistfully, knowing that they only had a week or two left in full bloom. For now, though, their vibrant image was suspended in time, fleeting, yet eternal. Even a songbird seemed to hold a single note for an unusually long time.
Suddenly there came a thunk. Ophelia turned to see her grandchildren making faces squished against the glass of the window. She laughed and started to the house. She’d finish weeding if she had the time.
Learn more about the contest which inspired this story:  Fleur 2020-05 Azalea
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