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They Grow Back

by bjlangley 

Posted: 22 July 2005
Word Count: 500
Summary: A late entry (an hour and a half!) to this weeks flash fiction contest. Week 56, isn't it? Roots. Apologies if I've left something grammatically shocking in there, I'm so close to collapsing on the keyboard here, that I may have missed the blatantly obvious.

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I always used to complain about helping you in the garden, didnít I? You know I didnít mean it, just couldnít admit to you that I was beginning to enjoy it. But it was only because I was with you. I used to love the way youíd talk so passionately about it, and it didnít matter that I had no clue what you were talking about. I remember sowing the foxglove seeds with you last summer. You told me they were biennials, so would bloom next year. I said, ďGood, then we wonít have to plant any bloody more!Ē

But now I wish you were out here with me.

The weeds are overrunning the garden. Quackgrass, bindweed, henbit, dodder, crabgrass and purslane have shot up and are sprawling all over the place. I did a bit of research on the internet, found out their names when trying to find out how to get rid of them.

At first I just yanked them out, and thought that would be the problem solved. But just removing what could be seen didnít work. It was growing beneath the surface, undetected for too long. Like the cancer inside you.

Remember when we sat out here after your operation? How we thought it was all over, and we talked about getting the whole family round. We didnít have a chance to plant this Spring, so you were thankful for the perennials. The Black Eyed Susan that wouldnít let you down. The faithful coral bells and the pretty peonies would do you proud, you said. They arenít doing as well as we hoped. Where the weeds have grown tall around them theyíre starved of light. When the rain falls the weeds fight for the water. All the advice says get the weeds whilst theyíre small, but we didnít even have time to look out here when they started to appear.

But Iím fighting back. I looked at some pesticides. Total Kill sounded like it would do the job, but I didnít want to lose what weíd planted together. The house is lonely and dull without you, I donít want death in your garden too. Zap It sounded just as bad.

Iíve got your little trowel though, and Iím getting right in there. Digging them up and pulling all the roots up. Not leaving a trace. Iím being careful too Ėthatís why itís the trowel and not the fork and spade. Youíd never forgive me if I damaged your hostas.

Why couldnít they get the cancer out, Sal? Pulled out the roots and sorted you out? Itís not right, me out here on my own, without you. But Iím not giving up. Iíll keep digging them weeds out, roots and all. Iíll make you proud of this garden. But, you know, they say you can never completely get rid of the weeds, that they keep on coming back, and in a way Iím glad. I mean, what else am I going to do with my time now?

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 09:58 on 23 July 2005  Report this post
Ben, lovely, touching. you've done a good job of using the weed metaphor. I'm wondering if you overstate it slightly.

I think you could cut this line: "Like the cancer inside you." as the reader knows something has happened to her and the weeds give us a big clue. I'm wondering if you shouldn't cut the c word altogether and just say 'get it out' in the last para.

Silly thing too but I didn't like him researching on the net. If she's a real gardener she'd have lots of books and he could pore over them to find the different weeds - internet seems too quick and simple.

The last line is a tear jerker but at the same time doesn't work with the cancer thing because you don't want it to come back. Maybe he should challenge them in a more aggressive way - he couldn't kill his wife's cancer but he'd lead his battle against the weeds instead.

Just some thoughts provoked by a thought-provoking piece

ps I thought from the title that this'd be a funny one!

Dee at 11:06 on 23 July 2005  Report this post
Ben, this is so sad, and lovely too. I tend to agree with Elspethís comments. At the list of weedsí names I stopped to wonder how he knew them. So the sentence about the internet looked as if youíd hastily added it in by way of explanation.

Perhaps if, after the sentence The weeds are overrunning the garden., you change it to something along the lines of I didnít know what they were, so I got out all your booksÖ I could imagine them having her fingerprints on her favourite pages.

I enjoyed reading this.


bjlangley at 15:38 on 23 July 2005  Report this post
Thanks for the comments Elspeth and Dee,

Elspeth, I couldn't think of a suitable title for this, and I don't think the one I have fits. Funny you should not like the internet aspect, as I ended up finding half of the info I wanted in my wife's books, so I guess thta would be more fitting. Taking out the 'c' word, leaving it only hinted at would probably work better, I agree.

Dee, I like your idea about green fingerprints in the books too.

With this one I had a list of different types of weedkillers, but in the end left most of that out.

Just managed to prove myslef very much a danger in the garden. My wife is away for the weekend, and I've been left with garden chores. One of them was trimming the connifers. Almost at the end I went through the lead, and tripped the power fuse. I'm lucky I didn't give myself a shock!

Thanks again,


Jumbo at 18:42 on 23 July 2005  Report this post

Lovely writing here - great use of the prompt. And I love the parallel between the weeds and the cancer.

I felt that the ending was a little overstated and wondered if you could end it on the sentence Iíll make you proud of this garden. To me it seemed the extra sentences didn't add anything to what you had aleady told us.

Great flash

All the best


bjlangley at 19:13 on 23 July 2005  Report this post
Thanks for reading Jumbo. What did those extra sentences do? Well, they got it to 500 words. ;o) I think you may be right though, I could put the words to better use elsewhere.

Thanks again,


Nik Perring at 01:33 on 24 July 2005  Report this post
I'm with Jumbo, great paralell. This was really good; really sad. Left me feeling a bit cold, to tell you the truth.

Great writing, Ben.



Milou at 12:44 on 26 July 2005  Report this post
Ben, although the subject of this was sad I felt you actually made it rather a positive piece, with the growth and beauty of the garden coming to symbolise life and memory for the narrator. I really liked the lists of plant names. They became almost a ritual he was going through as he grieved, as if he was learning them in her memory.

I liked "Why couldnít they get the cancer out, Sal? Pulled out the roots and sorted you out?" The sudden direct address was very effective and gave the character a strong voice and poignancy.

I agree with Elseth that the thoughts in the last paragraph may be slightly confused.

Great flash.

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