By Meaghan Flokstra
It is midday. My grandmother plants arugula and soya beans, carrots and radishes, her forearms submerged in wet earth. We are caught in the delicious limbo between spring and summer, and the air smells fresh and reckless. I can almost see why she insists on staying out here.
From my vantage point on the porch, she looks so small crouched there in the garden, no bigger than the wire mesh cages she uses to trellis the tomatoes once it’s warm enough to transplant them outside. Her hands cup the dirt like a prayer as she carves out a cavern of space for a radish seed, but her lips are squished into a thin line; if she is praying, it is only in her head.
“Won’t you please come in? We can do the planting tomorrow.” Tomorrow is my mantra. Tomorrow we will wake up with the sun. Tomorrow we will have hearty oatmeal with nuts and raisins and blueberries for breakfast because we have a hard day’s work ahead. Tomorrow we will sow.
“There is no tomorrow.” Her hands are pale and ashy, spotted and gnarled with veins, like hard ribbons of sky pushing out against clouds. They pat soil back over the seeds with quick, practiced care.
“Please, just come down with me. We can play card games and eat the last of the raspberry scones.” I remember the first time we went down into the tornado shelter. I was afraid of the dark, but my grandmother insisted that we not waste the batteries in the flashlights. So we sat there in the pitch black, my head against her chest, her arms wrapped around my small body. I listened to her heartbeat and the wind.
Who am I kidding? I’m still afraid of the dark. I hate that shelter even while I want to be there more than anything.
“The shelter won’t help. Help yourself to a raspberry scone, and finish the lemonade while you’re at it.” It takes so many lemons to make a full pitcher of lemonade. I always saved the last sips, not wanting to have to make another batch so soon. Finish the lemonade. Max out all your credit cards. Serenade everyone you’ve ever loved. Go big. You’re going home.
“It might help.” I don’t believe it even as I say it. Maybe I just want to sit in the dark with her arms around me and breathe in sync.
“Total Annihilation” was the headline of today’s news. There is a meteor. Our planet simply cannot withstand the impact. We are all going to die. There will be nothing left. It is coming today at midday.
There must be no greater horror than to be a journalist facing the apocalypse. The world shuts down before it dies. People abandon their work in favour of huddling close with their families and wringing out every last drop of joy that lingers in our planet’s last breaths. People panic and cry. People travel as far as they can. People love and fight and curse and pray. At my grandmother’s home, far from the people, we only know they are doing these things because the journalists say it to be so.
Our local news anchor had held her three children in her arms as she read off the last few announcements that our world has to offer. I shut the television off at the sight. Go home, I thought. Live for your last few moments. It wasn’t fair of me. After all, had I not been watching?
“New life is the greatest gift we can give to a dying era,” says my grandmother. She scoops out another handful of earth with one hand and deposits a seed with the other. They say a person’s heart is approximately the size of their fist. She fills the negative space of her heart up with soil. “We cannot reap what we do not sow.”
It is midday, and the sunlight fades as a shadow overtakes it. I do not look up. I walk over to my grandmother and kneel next to her in the garden. It is getting dark. I can hear her breathing as she deposits another seed. She gardens with so much love that I know that these radishes will not go without a fight.
I scoop my own handful of soil the size of my heart. When I move to grab a seed, I accidentally nudge a wire mesh cage out of place with my elbow. I tug it back where it belongs so that it will be ready for when it’s warm enough to trellis the tomatoes outside.
Meaghan Flokstra (she/they) is a multidisciplinary writer and artist currently studying Creative Writing & Publishing at Sheridan College in Mississauga, Ontario. When not working on a creative project, Meaghan enjoys studying human behaviour, petting every animal she encounters, and advocating for the Oxford comma. Visit meaghanflokstra.com to read more of her work.