The Garden – Excerpt


“Are you sure it was the leaf?” Rahima asked, while stirring the pot of blue liquid to get the color evenly distributed through the fibers.

“I don’t know,” Cimmy scratched her head, unconvinced. “Maybe. It’s hard to tell.” She frowned and changed her mind. “What else could it be?”

“But why would placing a leaf on your wound make it better?” Rahima asked. “It doesn’t make any sense!”

“I know, I’ve been asking myself the same thing,” Cimmy pondered, working through her logical explanation out loud. Maybe some of the plant’s substance fused into my skin,” she said tentatively.

“That’s crazy talk, even for you,” Rahima shook her head appalled. “There,” she grabbed onto her friend’s arm and held on to it. “Am I leaving part of my substance in your arm too?”

Cimmy thoughtfully considered her answer.

“You are not actually going to answer that, are you?” Rahima protested, exasperated.

“Why would that be so hard to believe?” Cimmy asked, puzzled at the reaction.

“Because it’s crazy,” Rahima stated the obvious.

“Maybe it only works with leaves,” Cimmy walked back her hypothesis.

“Maybe it doesn’t work at all,” Rahima returned the more plausible response.

“Maybe not,” Cimmy relented. They watched the pot in silence, stirring occasionally to prevent the color from settling on the bottom. Cimmy eventually burst out.

“But, say, if it were possible, wouldn’t you want to try it? What’s it going to hurt? It’s not like you’re not hurt already!”

“Maybe I don’t want to spend three weeks delirious, hoping I don’t die from the fever. Who knows how those leaves might foul up your blood?” Rahima asked, concerned.

“How would they foul up my blood?” Cimmy continued the flow of logic.

“With whatever they might get inside your wound?”

“So you’re saying they can blend some of their essence into my blood,” Cimmy picked up the logical dissonance.

“Yes! No!” Rahima got all turned around inside her head. “You don’t understand!”

“How don’t I understand?” Cimmy continued, unrelenting. “Either it lends its essence to your blood or it doesn’t.”

“It’s not that simple,” Rahima protested. “We do know things that can turn your blood foul, but we do not know things that can heal your wound.”

“What’s the difference?” Cimmy went on, unperturbed.

“For one, I’ve seen blood turn foul, I haven’t seen a wound healed by a leaf.”

“Until now,” Cimmy corrected her.

“Until now,” Rahima agreed in principle. “If that’s what happened, that is.”

“What else could it be?” Cimmy restarted the logical vicious cycle.

“What if it’s not and you could have made it worse?”

“What if my blood ran foul if I didn’t use it?”

“What if your blood could run foul because you did?” Rahima offered the gloom and doom alternative. “Besides,” she continued, frowning, “there is no way to verify that. Unless you hurt yourself again.”

“I’m not going to hurt myself on purpose!” Cimmy protested.

“Well, then we’ll have to wait for the next time you do it on accident and try to see if the leaf makes your blood turn foul,” Rahima continued in the most natural tone.

“Rahima!” Cimmy couldn’t believe her ears. “Remind me not to get on your bad side!”

“I’m just saying,” the latter replied, trying to appease her. “How else are you going to find out?”

“Maybe we can boil the leaves and drink the water, see what happens,” Cimmy continued, inspired by the blue liquid brewing in the cauldron.

“You’re going to poison yourself!” Rahima exploded.

“So you agree that it will do something to my body,” Cimmy continued.

“So would a knife, but you’re not going to swallow that either,” Rahima retorted.

The logic had come to a stopping point, so they continued to watch the pot in silence. A few minutes later Cimmy couldn’t help herself.

“How does it poison me, exactly?”

“Here,” Rahima offered her a ladle of blue dye. “Try this!”

“No!” Cimmy shook her head.

“Why not? How is it different? It’s a boiled plant!”

“But it didn’t heal my wound. It stained my shirt,” Cimmy replied.

“Maybe the other leaf can stain your shirt too, you haven’t tried,” Rahima argued. Cimmy acknowledged her friend’s objection and put testing the leaf for dye pigments on her list of things to do.

“But it also healed my wound.”

“You don’t know that,” Rahima disagreed, stubbornly. “But say it did. How would you be able to tell apart the plants that heal your wound from the plants that stain your shirt?”

“How do you tell apart the plants you eat from the plants you use to make baskets?”

“I don’t know, you grow up with them, you get taught by your parents,” Rahima hesitated.

“How do you think they figured it out the first time? I mean, somebody must have figured it out at some point.”

“I guess starvation wises you up really fast,” Rahima frowned.

“So does blood sickness,” Cimmy’s eyes turned dark suddenly.

Life was harsh and cruel in their village, which had been visited by loss more times than the girl wanted to remember, and every time it did a deep sense of helplessness and inevitability set in, a sense that they were all slaves to an implacable fate. Maybe it was a fool’s errand, but, according to the widely held opinion, she was a fool already, it wasn’t like she had a reputation to maintain.

Reputation, Cimmy thought, was incredibly damaging to a person’s creativity, it kept one locked into a state of being one didn’t belong to anymore, like a tree whose growth is stunted so it continues to fit in a dish. What good is your reputation when fate comes for you? That said, she blessed crazy with both hands, wrapped the sky blue gossamer veil around her head in an even more eccentric manner, if that were possible, and planned to go out into the fields and figure out the plants that heal from the plants that stain your shirt like her life depended on it. She had absolutely no idea how she was going to do that, of course.

“Maybe you can go blindfolded and hope to stumble upon them,” Rahima offered, half jokingly.

“You think that would work?” Cimmy asked very seriously. Rahima shook her head in dismay and pulled out the blue cloth, which had finally achieved the desired hue, out of the cauldron.

“Do you think you can find other plants to get more colors?” she asked, pleased with the results, and went to spread the cloth on thistles to allow it to dry.

“At least we don’t run the risk of poisoning ourselves that way,” Cimmy thought.


(The Garden – Excerpt)