By Nikki Blakely

Dr. Lowry says the community garden is mandatory, not because they need the food  —they charge enough to afford any organic imaginable — but because it instills a sense of shared purpose. 

I’m assigned watering duties for the same reason an anorexic is forced to finish their meal, or a bulimic can’t go to the bathroom after eating. Trowels, spades and other such sharp objects present too much of a temptation. I’m not to be trusted.

Even though the day nears triple digits, as usual I wear a long sleeve shirt. Through the thin cotton fabric I feel the thick striations of scar tissue that carve a roadmap to nowhere over my arms. 

The first cut was when I was fourteen, after we won the CA state championship, when Coach did that thing, and then again, every time after. Another cut when I told my father I wanted to quit, and he said — but we didnt come this far. And then again, after, when the other girls had come forward and my mothers eyes narrowed and she asked — what did you do now? 

I explain to Dr. Lowry the pain is hot and viscous like lava that flows underneath my skin and when I cut, it dissipates. If I don’t, it hardens until movement becomes effort, and my bones threaten to break with the weight of it.

Near the tomatoes I see a glint of green flash brightly in the black dirt. I reach down, pick up the small piece of glass, cradle it in my palm like a rare jewel.  It gleams the color of the ocean in a travel brochure, the color of rolling hills in a far away country, the color of hope. I slip the jagged gem in my pocket, not to cut myself with, but to remind myself that a broken thing can still be beautiful. 

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Nikki Blakely enjoys writing all sizes and genres of fiction from her home in the SF bay area, CA. Her work has been published in Women on Writing, Sundial Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly, and the short story anthologies 72 Hours of Insanity – Volume 9, Dim and Distant Lamps, A Historical Fiction Anthology, and Under the Covers, by Red Penguin Books.

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