Sucker weather

February 3, 2010

The sun had pulled her out of bed. The warm rush of air had drawn her into the back yard.

Audrey moved her wheelbarrow so Carl could back his truck out of the garage.

Photo by Pam Wells ©2010

“Don’t go crazy,” he said, driving away.

“I’m fine. It was just the sniffles.”

She wheeled over the crocus—“dang it!”—which had bloomed under the leafless walnut tree, and stopped at the jagged, skeletal frame of a ‘Buff Beauty’ rose. She examined it from all sides, her pruning shears ready but her spirit unwilling.

“You don’t want to jump the gun,” came the old man’s voice. Felder crossed through the hole in the arborvitae hedge.

“It’s not what I want,” she said. “The roses want to be pruned. It’s this weather. Listen—” A lawn mower whined in the distance.

“Happens every year,” he said. “People get all excited thinking winter is over, and then—br-r-r-r-r!” he shivered. “False spring.”

“Well, maybe it’s not false anymore. You’ve heard about climate change.”

Felder laughed. “Oh, yes, I’ve heard.” He looked like he was going to say something more, but he turned toward the apple tree. It was a Liberty apple, semi-dwarf, scab-resistant, maybe five years old. A dozen waterspouts grew vertically from the older branches. “Now, why don’t you cut off those suckers instead?”

Felder was no good on a ladder anymore, but he was a good teacher. Audrey removed the suckers and shortened the main leader. She headed off the yearling branches and hung bricks from one of them to pull it away from the trunk. “You’ll get more apples,” Felder said. “Uh-oh—oh!”

• • • • •

Felder was cleaning Audrey’s pruners when Carl drove in.

“I hope she promised you dinner,” Carl said.

On the contrary, Felder had promised Audrey a pot of lentil soup. Her fever had returned about three o’clock in a whoosh of dizziness and a lost limb—tree, not human. Felder had enlisted Evan’s help in ferrying his mother back to the house in the wheelbarrow.

“I’m fine,” Audrey had protested.

“My Sara was like that,” Felder told Carl. “Never paid attention to the weather.”

©2010 Pam Wells

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