On the Saturday They Discovered their Madness, Ruth Ann and Ira Agreed to Garden
Katy Gunn

Do you think it will age any further? Ira asked. Ruth Ann didn't look up from the tiny holes she was filling with seeds. You are putting too many seeds in, Ira said, and she heard in her voice Ruth Ann's type of patronizing.

Ruth Ann dropped a wet clump of six or seven seeds into another hole and covered it with a mechanical sweep of her hand. She had used the same movement to cover every clump of seeds she had dropped in every hole since she had begun to plant the carrot seeds, four rows ago. She used the fleshy pinky side of her left hand, and Ira might have found the move tender if she had not seen it replicated so many times.

You are putting too many seeds in, Ira said, have you thought about what could happen with that many seeds in such small spaces?

Ruth Ann looked up and focused her eyes a little above Ira's head. It says we will thin them, she said. There was a small check-mark of dirt above her left eyebrow.

Ira found the mark endearing, but she also felt ignored, and it was the snub that held her focus. With so many seeds, they might not grow at all, Ira said, or they might grow into one another and entwine themselves like little lattices of carrots and then we won't be able to thin them, will we?

We will eat elaborate carrot cakes, Ruth Ann said. Ira thought this was something she herself might have said, under other circumstances. Elaborate carrot cakes. It was probably even a phrase she had used before.

Ira said, Perhaps.

Ruth Ann wiped the check-mark off her forehead with her sleeve, as if she could see it and it irked her.

What if instead of growing into each other like carrot lattices, the seeds become so concerned with their touching skins that they forget to grow, Ira wondered, or what if they start to grow and realize they are in danger of becoming entangled and trapping themselves in each other? If they know we plan to thin them, they will stop growing as soon as they start, in order to avoid being pulled up with whichever stalk we choose to pluck. They might grow wary of one another. The distrust could alter their taste.

Dear, what if the carrots decide to avoid becoming entangled? Ira said.

Her lover snorted, reminding Ira of an anteater or another small animal that dug in the dirt, like her lover.

Ira smoothed over the dirt that Ruth Ann had just smoothed over, feeling herself an extension of Ruth Ann. Ira and her lover's carrots would want to become entangled. They would probably try to grow into one carrot, or one carrot lattice. She imagined all of the carrots wrapping around one other, orange seams to orange seams, soiled wrinkles multiplying, the carrots like a hundred identical old men necking in a dirt hut somewhere safe.

She imagined the madness growing into an old thing. She looked at the hundreds of seeds on the paper plate beside Ruth Ann's left foot.

How do you think it will age, Ira asked. Oh God, you don't think it will multiply?

It says we will thin them, Ruth Ann said, dragging the back of her hand over her forehead in a gesture that could have been love if the forehead were Ira's and Ruth Ann did not look so frustrated. She smoothed another row of holes with her sweaty hand.

Katy Gunn is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. She has writing forthcoming from Crazyhorse, Puerto del Sol and trnsfr.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of Thiago Fonseca.

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