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by Sharon Telfer

“Plant by the moon!” you urged us. “She’ll do the work.”

You marked up the calendar, the crescents of your nails eclipsed by their usual load of earth.

The chemical brigade grumbled, the rest of us smiled. Our resident hippy, off on one again. But that was before the growing season.

“Beans should be planted on a fire day,” you said, leading us through rows thrumming like power stations with bees. “An earth day,” you said, brushing away cake-crumbs of soil, “that’s the time to pull carrots.” Their crunch was almost sweeter than strawberries. (You left most of those for the blackbirds.) You heaped our arms with cabbages, each as big as a toddler’s head. At dusk, pumpkins glowed across your patch like harvest suns.

You took home best in show. We swotted up on lunar cycles.

You laughed when you began to bleed again. “Thought the moon was done with an old girl like me!”

It took three of us, round the Kelly kettle, mugs of strong tea, a tin of your honey flapjack, to persuade you to make the appointment.

Holding the scan to the light, they outlined the dark seed germinating deep inside you.

You’d not paused for husband, children. “Too much to do!” So we took turns driving you to hospital, sitting with you. “My allotment family,” you called us, winding scarves bright as autumn leaves round your scalp. You pored over catalogues in those long waiting-room days. Two ticks for old favourites, a question mark for new varieties you were keen to try. “Might get you to start these off for me,” you said. “Remember, it’s a water day for lettuces.”

You never said, but you’d bought your own plot years before. We should have known you’d choose rich loam over ash. We buried you on an air day, lit by the winter sun. Two days before new moon. A good time for planting. You’d have liked that.


Sharon Telfer lives, writes and edits in Yorkshire, England. She won the Bath Flash Fiction Award and the Hysteria flash fiction contest in 2016. She currently has stories in A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed (2016 National Flash Fiction Day anthology), To Carry Her Home (2016 Bath Flash Fiction Award anthology) and Halo magazine. She tweets at @sharontelfer.

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