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