Charlie and Marianne set their box of seed packets and empty starter pots down on the kitchen table with a thump. Isaac gave the stew one last stir and turned around to smile at his family. They slumped into chairs at the table. Charlie buried his head in his arms with a groan. Marianne grinned back at Isaac. “We did it,” she said. “The garden is planted.”
“Congratulations. I think this deserves something special.” Isaac took a pitcher out of the cupboard.
Charlie peeked over his folded arms. “Like what?”
Isaac took two glass jars from the cupboard and poured the contents into the pitcher. “Apricot nectar.” He rinsed out the empty jars and took out three tall glasses. He filled them and set them on the table. Charlie reached for a glass
“Wait. Your hands are all dirty,” Marianne said.
“It’s good clean dirt.” Charlie pouted.
“Come on, let’s put our stuff out in the garage and wash our hands.”
While they were gone, Isaac served the soup into bowls and set them next to the glasses. He added silverware to the table. Was anything missing? Bread and butter. Now it looked like a proper celebration feast.
Charlie and Marianne returned to the table. They ate quickly. “Slow down, you’re going to choke,” Isaac said.
Marianne sighed. “But it’s all so good.”
“And I’m so hungry.” Charlie wiped the inside of his bowl with the last of his bread.
As soon as the food was gone, they were tired again. It was sudden, as though someone had tripped over an invisible cord and unplugged them from their power source. Charlie was lying with his head on his arms again. Marianne kept dozing off and then startling herself as she woke again.
Isaac finished eating and gathered the dishes. “Let’s say prayers together, and then you both need to go to bed.”
“But I wanted to hear the next chapter,” Charlie said. “You promised.”
“I’ll read to you, but I can’t promise you’ll stay awake long enough to hear the whole chapter.”
Charlie yawned. “I’ll stay awake. I’m not that tired.”
Isaac laughed. “Of course not.”
Soon enough, two tired gardeners were tucked into bed. Isaac read three pages from the dinosaur book before he heard light snores coming from Charlie’s bed. He marked their place and put the book on the shelf. Then he turned off the light.
He paused, waiting to hear the light snores again. He could hear the snoring, but he could hear something else. He stood still, in the dark silent house and listened.
It was music. He couldn’t quite make out the melody, but it sounded like a lullaby. It was like a choir singing, or maybe the sound of a harp or a goose, if geese sang songs instead of just a few notes at a time.
Was it coming from outside? He stepped over to the window and opened it a little bit. The music was a little louder, but it was still quite faint. Isaac closed the window, and walked down the hall and through the kitchen to the back door.
Once outside, he followed the music to the back of the yard, near the fence. It was a little like playing the hot and cold game. Was the music a little louder here or a little quieter?
At the back of the yard, the scent of Miss Marta’s lilacs drifted over the fence in heavy invisible clouds of flowery sweet perfume that he could almost taste. The garden beds had rows of bare earth where the seeds were planted and tucked in under blankets of earth. It also had rows of little plants that had been transplanted and patted into place.
Everything had been given a drink of water and sent to bed for the night. And now, someone was singing a lullaby. Isaac looked around. He took a few steps towards the old apple tree nearby. The sound grew stronger.
Another step, and then a few more. The apple tree was singing, in a low quiet humming voice. The tune almost had words, but not quite. Why was he singing? Was it for the baby plants? Isaac had never heard the tree sing before. Maybe he only sang on the first night after the garden was planted.
The music was soothing. Isaac felt calm and peaceful. He looked up at the few stars he could see and the half moon. The world was a beautiful place, where stars shone and apple trees sang and children snored quietly in their beds. He would sleep well tonight. He turned and went back inside, ready to go to bed.