A Little Hot in August

by Attila Gyenis

It was a little hot. Maybe typical for an August day, but still hot. She sweated in the garden, and worried about the tomatoes which were still not red, and the cucumbers. The cucumber leaves were being eaten by some unseen insects, but so far the cucumbers themselves were not being attacked. She had hoped that her first garden would turn out well. Even though it was little, the garden still took a lot of careful attention. Hopefully it would provide a few vegetables to grace the kitchen table when her mother came to visit in two weeks.

She weeded the few rows using an old hoe, the one she had gotten from her mother. The wood handle was smooth from years of use. She was careful to get only the weeds. She had accidentally cut a cucumber vine the week before.

Afterwards, she walked to the back of the house to get the pail of water and carefully watered the plants, making sure it would get to the roots instead of spilling down into the bare earth.

She had always worked in her mother’s garden as a young girl, and now realized how little notice she had taken of her chores. She had simply followed her mother’s instructions, but did not take the time to learn the lessons that they would have provided. When her mother said to water the cabbage, she watered the cabbage. She would not notice on her own if the ground was parched and that the cabbage was dry. Now she realized that it was all important.

She had moved to the city last fall, against her mother’s wishes. Her mother had wanted her to stay and work on the farm, with her father being gone and all that was going on. But she wanted to work in the city, even if it meant working in a factory. After all, she had to do her part for the war effort, like many of her friends.

She felt lonely and homesick at times, but the garden helped. She imagined her mother giving advice about what to do, and that gave her a comfortable sense of continuity. But she was also happy not to hear her mother’s mild, but persistent, reprimands if a plant was stepped on or the peppers did not get enough water. Her mother claimed she could hear the plants cry if they did not get enough water.

She sat down in the shade of the house, leaning the hoe against the wall, and placing the empty pail down next to her on the other side. It was hot, but she felt good because this weather was good for the garden. The sun provided the essence for the plants to grow. The heat would turn the tomatoes red. A worried thought crossed her mind when she realized that now she was thinking like her mother. Her mother had always related everything in life to her garden. A carefully tended garden was the most important thing to her mother, because it reflected a carefully tended life.

She looked over her little garden, and wondered if it would meet with her mother’s approval. She felt good. She heard an airplane flying overhead and looked up, but couldn’t see anything against the bright blue sky. An instant later there was a blinding flash from the west, followed by a shockwave, which of course, she didn’t notice. The hoe’s wooden handle was burning.


(Written on the 60th Anniversary of the nuclear bomb being dropped on Hiroshima on Japan, August 6, 1945)