Friday, January 11, 2013

FFF: The Watering Can

Every Friday Kurt posts a new bit of short fiction. This week...

The Watering Can
Word Count: 600

Darryl’s plants were dying. He went to the kitchen to repeat the ritual he had performed every evening since the funeral. He walked to the sink and reached out a hand to take the watering can from the window sill, fill it with water, and water the plants; however, he hesitated a few inches from the handle. He could go no further.

Darryl was sixty-seven years old. He’d been retired for three and a half months. The children were grown and they all lived out of state. It was just him, his big empty house, and his dying plants. The watering can had belonged to his wife—she had always watered the plants. And, now that she was dead, they were dying. His arm fell limp, and he went to distract himself. Maybe he’d watch the news or read a book. The plants could wait another day.

The next evening, Darryl went back to the kitchen, determined to water the plants. He put his hand on the handle of the watering can, but the grief came flooding back to him, and he was forced to walk away. He read the paper. He did the crossword. He went to bed alone. The plants continued to die.

Just three months. They’d been waiting years for him to retire. They’d put off traveling, vacations, almost their entire lives knowing that they’d spend Darryl’s retirement catching up. He had been married to his work, but when he was free, he planned to invest himself fully in his wife and make up for lost time, missed birthdays, missed anniversaries. And they’d only had three months.

The next day, Darryl resolved that he was going to water those goddamn plants; he’d put it off long enough. He was allowed to grieve, but he had responsibilities—he had plants to keep alive, dammit. He spent the whole day preparing for it. Every meal, he sat at the table and stared at the watering can, promising himself that the plants would get watered.

That evening, he went to the kitchen and rested his hand on the handle of the watering can. He willed himself to remove it from the sill. When the grief came, he gritted his teeth and fought back. And, when he had overcome the grief, he found something beneath it: disappointment. That empty watering can was every promise he’d made to her and then broken, every sin he’d committed against her but had hoped to atone for. He shook with rage—rage at himself for putting her off until it was too late.

He found the watering can in his hands, trembling as his hands trembled. He’d taken it off the sill. He’d broken the connection, moved it from the last place she’d left it. He’d proved to himself that she wasn’t coming back to water the plants for him.

More grief. More disappointment. More rage.

It wasn’t fair.

He moved to put it back on the sill above the sink, but what good would that do? It would just taunt him for the next few days, weeks, months, years. It would laugh at him, and his weakness, while the plants that his wife had loved and tended continued to wilt and die.

He knew what he had to do. He took the watering can to the attic and put it into a box of keepsakes. He’d store it away and forget about it. His kids would find it when he was gone, and be reminded of their mother.

Darryl went back downstairs and got a pitcher from the cupboard. And watered the plants.

Edited by Carolyn Abram.

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