Sage

One morning she awoke to find workmen in her garden. They had already pulled up the sage bush, dumping it unceremoniously, root side up atop the rosemary, atop the basil so that it looked like a miniature baobab, or whatever they call those trees in Africa with the habit of growing upside down. She wished she could shrink down and scurry off into that diminutive landscape. She wished she could call to the workmen and tell them to get out of her yard, to tell them that sage could be burnt to ward off evil spirits. Instead, she let her teacup slip through her fingers. It greeted the floor with the expected crash, a hundred tiny shards singing and reveling in newfound freedom, tracing wet trails across the tile.

She stepped over the puddle and pressed her forehead against the kitchen window. One of the workmen was standing in the corner of the yard, conversing with the policemen she knew would be there. Another trekked slowly around the yard with a metal detector while two more stood waist high in the hole where her garden should be. Bending down, they hoisted up a large object and set it gently upon a bed of newly sprouted mint. It wasn’t until they had brushed nearly all of the dirt free that she recognized the object as her son’s tool chest. She wondered aloud how it could have found its way beneath her garden.

The men flipped the latch on the toolbox as the policemen, eager for a closer look, traced careful steps across the freshly turned soil. If she hadn’t known, she might have mistaken their concern over muddying their shoes for concern over the welfare of her seedlings. She realized suddenly how very precious her ignorance was to her. She would eventually be told of the box’s contents, she was sure of this. But being told and witnessing are not the same. Quite often they are opposites. While you can never trust what you are told, denying what you have witnessed requires delusion. Her son was a good boy. Quiet, polite, and helpful. She had witnessed this and could not deny it despite all she had been told.

Pushing herself back from the window, she slipped in the puddle and came down hard on her knee. She cursed the shards that bit into her flesh, even as she pitied them. Free and useless, she thought, are sisters. She wiped away her tears and wished she had remembered to harvest and dry just a few leaves of sage.

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