Winner Announcement: The Many in One

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Tagged As: identity, short story
Kent Moore

The Read Local committee is very pleased to announce that Kent Moore has won the Open Category of our The Many in One writing contest with his entry "Rooted and Grounded in Love". In it, our protagonist Grace, is caught between the conflicting identities of wife and mother. The complexity of those relationships adds layers to Grace that we, as readers, get to know, but her daughter may never understand. The physicality of an old woman working in her garden foreshadows her intimate connection to the land and Moore's skillful dialogue brings humor upon a second reading, changing the identity of the story itself.

Kent Moore is a senior strategist for physician payment at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). He has published extensively on the subject of physician payment in Family Practice Management, a journal of the AAFP. He is new to the art of writing fiction.

Rooted and Grounded in Love

Grace gripped her cane as she knelt beside a flower bed in her backyard. The effort reminded her of kneeling in Mass at St. Ann. Then again, gardening was also an act of faith, especially when she grew things from seed. Planting and caring for seeds required a belief in things not seen, the very definition of “faith,” according to the Bible.

The March sun shone unhampered by clouds. She grabbed a nearby trowel, shoved it into the dirt, and turned it over. She used to use a spade to make quick work of this flower bed and other tasks, but her strength and balance no longer allowed that. Now, she turned the dirt one trowel scoop at a time. She lifted a handful of the loose soil and let it filter through her gnarled fingers. She enjoyed the sense of connection to the land, even if the extent of her land was the small lot that she occupied in the suburbs.

She liked this bed the most. For one thing, it contained rose bushes, and roses were her favorite. For another, it was a manageable size. Most of the other beds around yard were longer and wider. Tending them seemed an endless chore.

After 30 minutes or so, drops of perspiration watered the soil as she worked. She did not notice her daughter, Melissa, approach her.

“Momma, what are you doing?”

Grace wiped the back of one hand across her brow. “I’m just puttering in my garden.”

“It looks like you’re aiming to give yourself a heart attack.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m only 75. Playing in the dirt won’t kill me. In fact, Dr. Brooks says I need more exercise.”

“Walking around the block is exercise. This is work.” Melissa bent over and began to help by clearing some weeds that had already begun to sprout.

They worked together in silence for a while before Melissa spoke again. “I’ve been thinking. You should sell this place and move into an apartment or townhouse that’s smaller, with maintenance provided.”

“Now, Melissa . . . .”

“Why do you stay here? You can’t keep up with the yard work, and you only use the first floor of the house anyway. Why do you need all this space?”

“If I leave, they’ll probably tear down my house and put up one of those new monstrosities I see popping up all over the neighborhood, and what’ll become of my flower beds then? My poor roses. Besides, this is where your father is.”

“He hasn’t lived here in 40 years.”

“I know that, but this is where I feel closest to him. Even after all this time, I still miss him.” Grace sighed and kept on digging. “Your daddy sure was handsome. He was a gentle man who liked to work hard and play hard.” Grace rubbed her shoulder and arm.

Grace exchanged her trowel for some pruning shears and began trimming a bush. She pricked her finger on a thorn.

“Oh, Momma, you’re bleeding.”

“Don’t worry about it. A little blood in the soil won’t hurt anything. Trust me.”

Later, Melissa said, “I wish he would have stayed, so I could have known him, and he could have been there when we needed him.”

“I know. I’m sure he would have had he known I was pregnant with you.”

Melissa reached over and gave her a hug.

“Thank you, Momma. If you want to live here a while longer, I can manage if you can.”

They worked together a while longer, until Melissa announced she needed to pick up the kids from school.

“You go ahead. I’ll be all right. I just want to finish up this last corner, and then I’ll go get cleaned up for supper.” She watched Melissa leave and resumed digging and weeding.

I hate lying to her, Grace thought, and mentally added that to her list of confessions for the week. Of course, she’d done a lot worse in her lifetime. And not all of what she said was a lie. Earl had swept her off her feet and treated her like a queen while they were dating. He did like to play hard – and rough. And he did have a temper. She’d seen glimpses of that temper while they were dating, but she didn’t experience it firsthand until they were married. Earl always apologized after the fact and swore it would never happen again – until it did.

While they were just a couple, she let his outbursts pass. After all, she loved him and had promised to do so – in front of God and everybody – as long as they both should live. She had kept her promise and always forgave him. She hoped he forgave her for the only time she struck him. She sought solace in that hope as she tended the soil in her rose bed.

Earl had prayed hard for a child, and she had prayed just as hard not to have one. In fact, she had secretly taken birth control pills for a time, even if the Church did consider it a sin. Boy, had Earl been mad when he’d discovered that. But, the day she discovered she was pregnant, she knew what she had to do. She loved Earl, but she loved her unborn child more. In the end, that love was greater than her love for Earl, and she had acted accordingly. She took some comfort in the fact that her action was rooted and grounded in love.

Grace prepared to head inside. Before she began the arduous task of standing with her cane, she ran her fingers through the dirt once more and then gave it a pat with her hand. “Rest in peace, Earl. Rest in peace.”