I work in the garden on Sundays, only stopping for a drink of water from the cooler. Once I start, I want to keep going. If I take a break, I realize how exhausted I am and find it hard to get back in the rhythm.
At 2:45, Rachel calls from the back door. “Mark, are you planning to visit your mother today?”
I’m bagging the clippings from the juniper bushes along the back fence. I shout to her, “Yes. I’m coming inside in a minute.”
On the deck, I sink into a lawn chair and remove my work boots. In the shade, my sweat is clammy and my T-shirt sticks to my back. My arms itch from the juniper branches. Through the open French doors, I hear the cooking show Rachel is watching on cable. She hits ‘mute.’ “I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I’m not forcing you to go.”
“I was ready to stop. Do you want to go with me?” I’d enjoy the company.
Rachel twists her mouth and shakes her head. “Have you eaten anything since breakfast?”
“I’ll make something for you to eat on the way— Oh, don’t bring that filthy T-shirt into the house.”
“It stinks too.” I roll the T-shirt into a ball to toss at her.
“Don’t you dare.”
I laugh and start climbing the stairs.
“You can’t work all day without eating. I’ll be taking you to the hospital if you don’t—” The TV drowns out the rest of her sentence.
The tepid shower relaxes me. I don’t have the energy to trek to the nursing home. All I want is a nap. I build up a froth of suds, accidentally flicking soap in both eyes. I pull down my lower lids to help flush my eyes. God, the soap stings like Hell! Clenching my eyes tight against the pain, I turn off the shower and grope for my towel on the floor. My feet slip on the soap scum and my knee bangs on the edge of the tub. Squinting out of one eye is painful and now I’m limping.
In the bedroom, I turn on the fan and let the air dry my body. I lie back on the bed burying my face in the cold washcloth. My eyeballs feel like they’ve been scraped raw. The sunlight through the window turns the inside of my eyelids a bright orange. I can’t go to the nursing home now. I’m tired, my eyes are swollen, and a rash from brushing against the juniper bushes itches along both arms. Plus, my knee is throbbing.
I try to convince myself to make the effort. I’ll relax when I return home. Or I can visit Mom tomorrow after work. She won’t remember I missed the weekend. The fan makes me cold and I draw the sheet up to my neck. The sound of lawnmowers and children playing in the street make me drowsy. I let go and sink into a delicious unconsciousness…
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