Maybe in the Fall
By Sue Repko
It was July and I worried over the tomato blossoms: the Early Girls, Sweet 100s, and Mr. Stripeys, an heirloom. Then there were the bush crop cukes, the green beans, and the butternut and yellow squash, whose blossoms were the biggest. Was it true that each one would bear a fruit? I imagined their eventual sweetness, their crunch, if only they would make it. I imagined sharing them with my sons, impressing them with the way I could coax life from dirt.
It was the start of my third year in Maine, and it felt a little less like I was starting over, although the divorce was always a light buzz in the background, there among the goldfinches, bluebirds, and wrens zipping about the perimeter of the garden all morning long. I still couldn’t distinguish among their songs, but their voices had become familiar. Now, if they weren’t there, I’d miss them. Two white butterflies flitted among the plants, joining and pulling apart. I envied their coupling and uncoupling while remaining in each other’s orbit. I didn’t seem to concern them as I sat in a hard, plastic chair in the midst of all this, things alive and coming more into life. There, I had the luxury to contemplate blossoms, to weep for the whole of their lives, what I would give them, what they might give me, because you never know for sure how it will all turn out.
A month later I would weep again, pulling the last of the beans off the bushes that had grown sturdy along the trellis, gently lifting the bushes themselves out of the dirt to make room for radishes and more carrots and arugula, cool weather crops. The phone rang, then; I kept it near. One son—a seed planted long ago in soil far from here—would not be coming that summer. Work again. Another visit postponed. But maybe in the fall, he said. Maybe in the fall.
Sue Repko’s essays were named notable in Best American Essays 2016 and 2017. Her nonfiction has appeared in Hazlitt, Hippocampus, The Southeast Review, Tributaries at The Fourth River, The Common, Literal Latte, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Bennington College and teaches English at Phillips Exeter Academy in NH.
A Daughter’s Plea
by Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
For two years, my sister sterilized white gauze pieces in a pressure cooker to pack our father’s two-inch-deep bedsores. She shaved his face. Trimmed his nails and hair. Extracted gunk from his gums. Wiped and powdered his bottom. Inserted jelly-lubricated catheters while his fingers dug into her arm. Emptied brown, urine-filled bags.
When the time came for his burial, she heated water for his last bath. Then, she was led aside. Giving a bath to a body before burial is honorable and rewarding: anyone who does so receives an erasure of 40 major sins from their record. Yet Islam permits only males to wash a male body, she was told. My brothers and male cousins took over.
“They don’t know how crumbs collect in the folds of skin under his neck,” she kept on saying as aunts gathered her in their embraces.
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American. She was born in a middle-class family in India and will forever be indebted to her parents for educating her beyond their means. She is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee and her work has been published online in The Ellipsis zine, Lunch Ticket, Star82 Review, Cabinet of Heed, and also in print, most recently the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2018. She blogs at Puny Fingers and can be reached @PunyFingers.