I needed a job, any job. My previous employment was temporary. I was holding on for someone who was on maternity leave. Then as that job ended, COVID-19 hit the world, and jobs became scarce. Then about six months later, I finally got a job at Sam’s Groceries.

I worked part-time as a Stockroom Clerk at Sam’s Groceries for the past two months. I work three days a week from one to five p.m. I didn’t think I would get a call back after the interview because three other people applying for the same position had more experience as a clerk than I did. I had none. Nevertheless, I got the job.  

It has always been my mom and me, and when she was diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer, I felt hopeless. However, with prayer, surgery and chemotherapy, there was some hope. Nevertheless, we needed money. The government covered part of the bills, and we needed to cover the other, and there were food and household bills. Our heads were above the waters, though, thank God.

Nevertheless, on my way home from work, I usually pass by a community garden enclosed by a chain-link fence. The garden has only been in the neighbourhood for about three years now. It’s the local government’s initiative, and apart from what I observed, that’s all I know about it.

One afternoon as I walked home, I saw the gardener in the garden for the first time, and he was hard at work. He was a man of average height with a dark complexion and looked in his early sixties. The brown fishing hat was secure with a cord under his chin and partly covered his face. He was dressed in a plain black t-shirt and faded blue jeans.  

As he worked, he hummed to music that only he could hear, and once in a while, a smile broke across his face. He also moved as though he had all the time in the world.

He was pulling up weeds from inside and outside of unattended plots and forked up the ground around the area. He then stopped to fill a white bucket with water from the standpipe I was slowly approaching. So, I decided to stop and ask him about the garden.

He explained that the twelve raised wooden framed plots, each belonged to one or two people in a household, and it was their responsibility to care for their plot of land. There was a small yearly fee and an awfully long waiting list, but he said it was worth it. I was about to ask him why it was worth it when he said goodbye and returned to his work, and I continued on my way home.

When I reached the garden the following week, a group of people, with masks covering part of their faces, gathered around a visibly excited and masked man. I approached the group and soon learned that the excitable man was a gardener in the community garden. He was a victim of COVID-19 and was sick for a few months. As soon as he got better, his mom fell ill. So, he was taking care of her at home and had not visited the garden for a while. So, he texted and asked another gardener to keep an eye on his plot.

However, now that his mom was doing better, he was anxious to see how the garden was doing, so he came.  

When he got there, he saw a man at his plot. At first, he thought he was a fellow gardener but immediately became suspicious because he had never seen him there. Therefore, he questioned him and soon discovered that the man had been jumping over the chain-link fence to enter the garden. Yes, jumping.  

Then, to the excitable man’s surprise, two cops on bicycle patrol were riding by, and he called them over and told them that the man had broken into the garden.

“I don’t understand some people. They wait until other people work hard, and then they come and steal from them,” the excited man said.

I looked around and saw the two cops talking to the only gardener I’d seen in the garden. Then, a few seconds after, he walked away from the cops, and the cops walked over to the excitable man.  

I ran to catch up with the older man and asked him what had happened.

He explained that he worked at the general hospital as a cleaner, and when COVID-19 hit, the numerous deaths he saw and many other things became too overwhelming for him. He needed help, and he found that gardening helped him a lot. He was on the gardening wait list but way down on the list.  

He was sorry about trespassing into the garden, but he was not a thief. He took none of the fruits and vegetables from it. He just did the work because it helped him and the other gardeners.

The cops let him go with a warning, and after he’d agreed not to enter the garden illegally.

The older man and I soon parted ways, and I glanced behind me to see that the group of people was also parting ways.

After that day, I still walked past the garden but did not see the older man. Once in a while, I saw other gardeners and the crops were growing bigger and riper. The weeds in and out of the plots were also increasing. Then some of the crops were begging to be harvested. Then they gave up hope of ever being eaten by dropping on the ground.  

I took a deep breath and slowly let it out in prayer while observing the garden.

Then one afternoon, as I drew near the garden, I saw a familiar fishing hat, and my heart skipped a beat. It was the trespassing gardener. He was pulling up weeds and picking overgrown fruits and vegetables from a plot; frankly, this plot was one of the worst-kept ones in the garden. I smiled and was on the verge of shouting out to him when someone, hidden from my view because he was bending, stood up.

It took me only a few seconds to realize it was the excitable gardener. He is the one who had called the cops on the trespasser.

“You’re back,” I called out to the older man.

He looked up and saw me; a huge smile graced his circular face.

“I asked him to come back and help me out,” the other man said sheepishly.

“Cool,” I said, giving them two thumbs up before waving goodbye and continuing on my way home.

“Thank you, God, for answering prayers,” I silently prayed.

I hummed all the way home.

The End

A. M. Linton is a wife and mother of two. She is also the author of Torn Between Love, Religion and Responsibility, A Little on Puberty for Boys and A little on Symptoms Associated with Menopause. A few of her short stories were also published in The Barbados Advocate Newspaper.

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