Rituals in the Garden

Flash Fiction from Argentina by Marcelo Medone

Every morning, when the first rays of the sun appear, Martha opens her eyes, takes a deep breath and smiles, grateful to be alive one more day.

She listens to her heartbeat for a full three minutes, leaps up and lands on the small Persian rug next to her bed. There, she flexes and extends her worn joints and stretches and massages her lean muscles.

Then she sits in front of the large mirror on the dresser desk and gently combs her long grey hair, contemplating her image and updating her wrinkle count. It is not because they bother her, on the contrary, she knows that each new wrinkle of expression indicates that her face remains vital. Her only regret is the increasing amount of brittle hair that gets caught in the old mother-of-pearl brush.

Then she goes into the kitchen and she prepares a breakfast of jasmine tea with almond milk, whole wheat toast with blueberry jam, papaya slices and a mango juice. She takes some minutes to enjoy these delicacies, without rush.

Only afterwards, she goes out into the garden, ready to soak her parched skin in the early dew. As the sun begins to cast shadows on all the shapes, she stands next to the scarlet rosebush that never stops blooming, a wide beam spreading over her face. She then gazes at the birds and insects that have risen earlier than her.

Soon she dwells on what treasures and that most visit her: her memories. Memories of when the world was young because she was young, life was carefree and love was everlasting. Memories of her mother combing her long blonde hair as she continues to do so, of her father presiding over the prayers at the table with a firm, baritone voice, of her husband Melvin holding her tenderly and of her son William saying goodbye over and over again.

Many years ago, she forgave Melvin and his absence no longer moves her. In fact, she doesn’t even know if he’s still alive on this planet that’s overcrowded with both good and bad people. Martha decided that her ex-husband belongs to another universe and even to another spiritual plane totally divorced from hers. She has only one or two pleasant memories of him left, embedded in her memory like tombstones.

The memory of her son is what hurts her the most, with a pain that has grown with her during all those years, not comparable to any other. A son hurts his mother when he grows up and makes her uncomfortable inside the pregnant womb, when he is born at childbirth, when he gets ill or undergoes some threat and when he leaves her side. Being a mother implies suffering eternally, in a way that cannot be renounced and cannot be delegated.

Martha knows what pain is first-hand. Nobody has to explain it to her.

Finding strength within herself, Martha chants an ancient mantra that is an epiphany of life and a litany for those who are gone. Her vocal cords vibrate with a magnificent, heavenly coloratura, rising in the breeze that sways the leaves of the poplars and maples that line the garden.

Martha has been at peace for a long time, in communion with nature and with life and death, which for her are only two sides of the same coin. She knows she will soon be transitioning from front to back, from the visible side of experience to the totally unknown.

All this is whispered to her through impertinent moans by her old bones and is confirmed by the latest report from the haematologist oncologist who has been treating her for a year for her leukaemia.

Then, she goes to her meditation corner in the garden, next to a pond lined with rounded white stones, where the water lilies grow under the watchful eye of a Buddha sitting in the posture of meditation with his eyes closed, who invites her to do her asanas and mudras. In those moments, Martha really senses she connects with herself and with the Universe.

The rest of the day finds Martha dedicating herself to small tasks at home, keeping her little world in order, engaging in nostalgia for the past and acceptance of the present.

When the sun starts to go down and the shadows grow long again, Martha returns to the garden with her weary stride and her eternal smile, goes to the evergreen willow tree and places a scarlet rose petal on the memorial of her son William who never returned from the war and still says goodbye to her every afternoon.

In her own way, Martha is happy.


Marcelo Medone (Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a fiction writer, poet and screenwriter. His works have received numerous awards and have been published in multiple languages in more than 30 countries.



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