The Child In The Garden
by Joe Baumann 


The men in dark suits and sunglasses came while Father was sunbathing, naked except for the beach towel wrapped around his waist in a messy diaper hiked up high on his thighs. Mother was in the kitchen, crushing ice and mixing it with tequila and lime juice. Because of the whir of the blender, she didn’t hear the door fly open with a heavy crunch, and it wasn’t until she turned around, licking the sticky concoction from her fingers, that she saw them standing there, the largest, blandest three squatting just so, aiming guns in her direction. She screamed and dropped the glass from her left hand, leaving a greenish smear on the kitchen floor. Years later, when the house would flood during the storms, I would think of this moment as the first swamping of our house.

They led Mother outside and hauled Father from his lounge chair, and in the rough tussling and yanking his towel billowed away, and, from my place crouched in the garden, I saw my father naked for the first time. He was pale at the center, the skin almost white. He started screaming at them, demanding to know what was going on, but they said nothing. Two of the men, one on each side, hooked his arms in their elbows and dragged him away while my mother wept, pleading with them. I could hear the drunkenness in her wobbly sobs. They left her alone, and none of them even looked in my direction as she fell into a wet ball on the grass. I watched her cry, my knees sinking into the malleable dirt that my father had tilled only hours before. My skin was smeared brown, and I wondered if some of the tomato seeds he’d planted were embedded in my skin. Perhaps I could just stay there, rooted to the garden, clinging to the firm, moist ground, because, as I stared at my mother turning into a puddle that would slip away when it rained, I knew things would never be quite solid and steady again.

Calvin Jones

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