Professor S. outlined his garden on the opposite side of the path from mine. Our two freshly dug plots – his to the left of the steps and mine to the right – would balance the front of our building nicely. On his side there were three derelict azaleas reduced to twig and sparse leaf but unable to die. I did not offer to help him. Nor did I plant my own garden. Instead, I took a walk in Evergreen, where strolled through the older section and came upon Phoebe doing some weeding.
“This is lovely,” I said with some envy. I owned a solitary grave in Flushing that my parents bought when their first baby was born dead. My grandparents bought plots nearby and so did my aunt for her first husband, but no one thought to establish the kind of family compound Phoebe Moore’s family had here. Why, it’s got a black iron fence around it and two crepe myrtles. The daffodils were lovely, the iris mauve and abundant.
She didn’t have an iron bench in her plot, but kept a folding chair in the old Eddins crypt. “It’s been empty for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It’s never locked and Mrs. Stripland lets me keep my tools here.” Mr. Stripland is the owner of Evergreen.
“I didn’t know charm bracelets were back,” she said, noticing mine. “I haven’t seen one in years.”
“I found it when I was digging up the azaleas.”
“Did you?” she asked, looking at it more carefully.
Her fingers were beautiful. I don’t know why I was so taken with her. Most old ladies scared me to death. Old ladyhood scared me to death. I knew I wouldn’t have the money or the children or even nieces or nephews to take me in. I knew my entire boomer generation would wind up living together in old Kennedy high schools converted to the purpose. That’s why we all grew up in packs, so we could die in packs. But when I talked with Phoebe I forgot that fear.
“Do you have any idea whose it is?” I asked, fingering the solitary charm and thinking she must know. Doesn’t she know everything?
But she shrugged. “It could be anyone’s. I guess you could ask Veronica or Elizabeth. I’ve never seen it. You found it, though.”
“Finders keepers?” I had to admit. I’ve always been into “finding things.”
“Why don’t you go home and plant your garden now,” she said. “You’ve been playing with those plants long enough. They’re going to dry out.”
“Professor Sergeant is planting a garden, too,” I said. “He’s going to bury Astible and put a garden over her.”
“That’ll spiff the place up,” she said.