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Episode 1: It Is Fine
Raising the bed
Squirrel Tomatoes chronicles my attempt at growing tomatoes while battling squirrels.
It will also feature guest writers who are gifted $50 by me to write anything they want as long as it is at least 69 words in length. I do not edit them, and they retain all rights to their work.
Squirrel Tomatoes will always be free. It will also feature advertisers who agree to donate $25 to their charity of choice.
Helen’s ad reads:
Thank you to Helen Rosner for her ad.
EPISODE 1: IT IS FINE
I know I’m going to lose.
It is inevitable.
I built a raised garden in March. Maybe April. I cannot remember as COVID time stretches and drags and snaps, a shit-stained diaper carefully clutched in between the jaws of some ugly neighbor’s dog.
I’m not editing that line. It’s fine. It is fine.
I built a raised garden earlier this year. Assembled it really. Four corner metal pieces to hold the wood sides in place. Three 2x10s, one of them cut in half the short way, to form a lazy rectangle that made me feel like I had accomplished something.
This was during the time my left foot was good for absolutely nothing, twisted and tight with anxiety. I carry my stress in my left foot. And my vocal cords. My gut. The back of my neck. And in my brain, approximately two inches above my right eye.
But my foot was the problem this time. I did some deep breathing (three breaths exactly), looked at the Headspace app icon on my phone without opening it, and told myself I would collapse like my father did two times at work from exhaustion and stress. He was the superintendent of my public school and I would often walk to his office instead of riding the bus home and I’d sit in the waiting room with the receptionist and do my homework except the second time he collapsed I walked up to his office building and there was an ambulance with its lights twirling silently like something bad had happened but everyone was trying to be casual about it and then two people wheeled my dad out of the office on a stretcher and he told me he was fine and to walk to the bank where my mom was a teller (she can count paper money faster than any human I know and could not sleep if she was unable to balance her teller drawer at the end of the day) and go home with her and that he was fine. Everything was fine in the way that you tell yourself not to scream or cry for fear of making the terror real and you will walk quickly to the bank but not run and you will say hi to people you pass on the sidewalk because it was Indiana and this is what you do you smile and are polite because everyone knows everyone and you get to the bank and you will not cry. Do not cry. It is fine.
It was fine. My dad is fine. I did not cry.
My foot was getting worse, curling itself to the point in March or maybe April where I had to work to straighten it, casually like nothing bad was happening. And at that moment, I decided I needed a project. Something I could throw all my stress into without acknowledging the terror of quarantine. A victory garden, someone called it. My foot tightened.
I wonder, and I will not look it up, how people who planted actual victory gardens dealt with failure. Vines shriveling. Animals raiding the plants. Birds being real shit heads. Nature loves humiliation more than it loves life.
I’ve created raised gardens in the past. I built them with weird but not too large rocks the previous owner of our house had left. I don’t know why she had them. They lined the property on one side. Not beautiful. Creepy, like they marked the presence of a beloved pet down below. So many rocks, though. So many dead pets. Too many. I moved the rocks and outlined a four-foot by four-foot space. Everything was raided by rabbits and deer. Except for the mint. Mint is relentless with long weird runners for roots digging through the dirt to infiltrate a new space. I moved the rocks back to their original places, imagining the dead pets down below laughing at me. The mint still grows in that part of the yard.
I called a local…what is the right term? Dirt supply store? I called them and asked if they were operating. The woman on the phone, who clearly grew up here in New Jersey, quite proudly proclaimed her dirt operation was considered “eeee-SEN-chul.” She assured me, before I even asked, her driver would bring me my dirt (50% topsoil and 50% manure/compost) to dump in my driveway and that he would have a mask “and don’t come outside if you don’t have a mask, sir. I don’t want my guys getting sick from you.” I had a mask. Can I tip him? “Sure but put it in a plastic baggie so he doesn’t have to touch you.”
Before I hung up, I asked about the dirt mix. Will it be good for tomatoes? “Oh, they’re gonna be beautiful,” she whispered.
See you next time for Episode 2.