The apples in the garden all lay rotting on the ground, good only for the raccoons and rats to eat. Broken halves, tiny teeth marks, earwigs hiding on the undersides. A couple of weeks ago Carl had searched the tree for one without a hole or scab, but soon gave up, resigning himself to rake them all at once after they had fallen in the autumn windstorms. Now he was considering leaving them there, wondering if they fermented long enough he might have a chance to see a drunken deer.
"Are you going to rake those up?" the neighbor asked from his back porch, watching Carl staring at them strewn all around his feet on the other side of the low fence.
"Not today," Carl said without looking up. He picked one up and hurled it at the ground, watching it break in two, the pieces tumbling in separate directions. He did the same with another, until his neighbor disappeared back into his own house. "Asshole," Carl said softly to himself.
He wanted to go back inside. It was cold and felt decidedly like it would rain soon, and he hadn't put on his jacket before he left the house. But he could hear Samantha still slamming the cupboards in the kitchen, so he buttoned the top button on his shirt, turned the collar up, and sat on the bench in the back of the garden with his hands shoved into his pockets.
He tried to remember first moving into this house. The pizza eaten off paper towels on the living room floor. Changing in the bathroom and sneaking to bed in the dark because none of the windows had coverings yet. Sex in the basement TV room, for the same reason. They were still cash-strapped from the down payment and closing costs, and it would be three months before they had taken down the pinned-up bedsheets and hung proper mini-blinds.
They had a dog then. Earl Grey. A little schnauzer mix that chased squirrels in the backyard and dug two dozen potholes that Carl still tripped in to this day. He could see Earl among the apples now, sampling them for one that was not too rotten. How many times had he wandered there? He was buried beneath the forsythia, surely reduced to bones by now, four feet below the ground.
Carl sat on the bench, watching the ghost of Earl run through the yard, and a soft rain began. He thought about entropy. About the apples falling and rotting, and his dog in the earth, and the old dogwood that once towered over this corner of the garden but blew down three years ago in an October windstorm. The roof that he had replaced years ago was now curling and covered with moss. They'd be lucky if it didn't start to leak this winter. He looked back at the yard, and saw Samantha planting flowers through countless summers, in beds that were now grown over with blackberry vines and bindweed.
Everything just slides into chaos, Carl figured. They had been young and happy, now they were nearing old age, and he wasn't entirely sure of everything that had happened in between. A couple of jobs, a long stretch of disability. A whole lot of nothing. Entire decades had passed without anything much to show for them. They never had children—never wanted children. And he thought now that maybe that was why people had children. To stave off this feeling of death all around you—of the endless inevitable rot of the world. But would things have been different with children? They had hardly afforded life for themselves, in the end. Carl considered it, and decided that children only give someone a false sense of continuity. If you're lucky, you die before they do, and can pretend that they'll go on forever, from there.
"Goddamn it, Carl, you're going to get yourself sick sitting out here in this rain." Samantha broke him from his thoughts, her voice soft now, a steaming cup of coffee in her hand.
"I was just thinking," Carl said.
"Yeah?" Samantha said, handing him the coffee and sitting down beside him on the bench. "What about?"
"Do you think we should plant another dogwood?" Carl asked.
About Iowa Writes
Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.
In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.
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Garrett Nobbs studied Art History at the University of Iowa. He lives in the Seattle area, and is currently working on a first novel inspired by a few years' sojourn in New England. When not writing, he also works in pen and ink. He can be found on the web at
Garrett Nobbs's website
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on February 28, 2017