But if each man could have his own house,a large garden, and healthy surroundings—then, I thought, there will be for them abetter opportunity of a happy family life.— George Cadbury
The dirt covering the grave was still fresh, the damp brown contrasting sharply against the bright green grass of the graveyard. The headstone had just been placed the day before, and Seth bent and ran his fingers across his father’s name, cut into the cold stone. His father was gone, and Seth was the last member of his family left alive. His last conversation with his father kept replaying in his mind, over and over, and he could hear his father’s voice as if he were still right beside him.
“It’s been just the two of us for years now, Seth… ever since your mother passed. I’ll be leaving here soon, I can feel it in my bones. There is something you have to do, son…” Seth had waited for his father to catch his breath, grabbing his hand and leaning closer to hear his labored words. “You’re the last of our family, and I haven’t been able to leave you much… But there is a piece of land I have been saving to give to you. I had hoped to be there to help you make something of yourself, to give you this land and help you build a life on it… But my time is running out. There is nothing I can do now. Seth, you are a single seed that will grow an entire garden… You will carry on our name.”
A gust of wind brought Seth back to the present, and he held his arm up to block the leaves that were flying towards his face. He stared down at the grave, reading the inscription, and his eyes landed on his father’s name… Fray. His last name, the only thing he had inherited from his father, save for the massive empty field his father had left for him. He turned away from his father’s resting place and headed towards the taxi waiting for him at the gate of the cemetery.
The driver waited for him to get into the backseat, and then pulled slowly away from the curb, humming along to the quiet radio. He glanced at Seth in the rear view mirror at a stop light. “Where are we heading?” he asked, and Seth looked up at him. He honestly wasn’t sure yet. He knew where the property his father had left to him was located, but he wasn’t prepared to spend the night in an open field. He asked the driver to drop him off at the nearest supermarket, and then sat quietly for the rest of the drive, trying not to think.
The cab pulled up beside a small store, and Seth paid him and thanked him for his trouble. Twelve dollars for the ride, out of roughly one hundred dollars he had to his name. A quick trip through the store added a twenty dollar lamp and a thirty-two dollar sleeping bag to his short list of possessions, and he regretted having to spend money on the low-quality items. But he had nowhere else to go. The apartment he had shared with his father had been too much for him to keep up with without his father’s disability payments, and he had lost his low-paying job during his struggle to care for his ailing father. But he had been raised to deal with things as they came, and he could certainly deal with sleeping outdoors for a few days.
But it would take much longer than a few days to build a home. It would take months, years even. And the thought of struggling in a field for years was difficult to cope with. Seth carried his purchases to the subway station and waited for the train to come, feeling exhausted. The camping bag was bulky in his arms, and he struggled to hold it as he found a spot on the crowded train. It was five minutes from the supermarket to his field, and he spent those five minutes dreading the future.
He exited the subway and walked the short distance to the empty land, standing on the side walk and staring at the emptiness. One lone tree was growing in the front corner of the property, and Seth started towards it, tripping once over the overgrown grass. He rested his palm against the tree, feeling the rough bark under his fingertips. He stepped away from the tree and spread his sleeping bag out over the ground and set the battery-operated lantern up. With a sigh, he crawled into the sleeping bag and turned onto his side, falling slowly into a restless sleep.
3 days later
Seth sighed in frustration as he exited the supermarket where he had purchased his sleeping bag earlier in the week. He had been all around town, inquiring about jobs. He had literally exhausted every option. Nowhere was hiring, and the supermarket had been his last resort. He was slowly running out of money, and he had been taking showers at Jim’s Gym and picking up food at the local diner. But the subway cost money, the food cost money. All of it cost money. And he didn’t have the money to spend anymore. He needed to find something to do. A wave of desperation washed over him as he headed home, deciding to walk rather than spend the money on the subway. On his way home, he flipped a coin at a young child selling ice cold drinks on the street corner, and quickly finished the drink, which was surprisingly good.
He was chewing on the ice left over from the drink when something caught in his teeth, and he reached into his mouth to draw out the offending object, not sure what he would find. His fingers closed around the object, and he pulled it out, holding it out under the sun to see what it was. Between his fingers was a seed, small and dark. It was cold as ice, and for some reason, he tucked it into his pocket. His walk home was brief, and as he stepped onto his property, he discarded the cup and bent down in the grass.
Not quite sure why, he began digging a small hole with his bare hands. He didn’t have the money to spend on gardening supplies, and if he had, he wouldn’t have known what to do with them. He had never grown anything in his life, despite being raised on a farm. His father had tended to the fields, leaving Seth to care for the animals. But common sense helped him figure out the basics- Dig a hole, bury a seed, cover, water, wait. How hard could it be?
He dug about six inches deep, a tiny grave, and felt around in his pocket for the seed he had just pulled from his teeth. It was wearing a layer of lint like a coat, and Seth brushed the lint away and placed the little seed into the hole. It blended in with the dark moist earth, and Seth quickly brushed the dirt back over it, covering it completely. That was it. That was everything he could do. Now there was nothing left but to wait, and he had no idea how long he would be waiting before anything happened. If anything happened, that is.
His life began to revolve around the damp plot of dirt in the corner of the field. For weeks, he would check on it hourly, compelled by some desire to see a sprout, a stick, a tiny little speck of green, poking through the damp earth. Something. Anything. He knew he wasn’t being rational. A plant wouldn’t grow in a matter of days, no matter how often you watered it. But still, it had been three weeks, almost exactly, and still nothing showed. The thought occurred to him that perhaps the seed had been too dry, or not ready to be planted. There were so many different things that could have affected it before he put it into the ground, and even more things that he might have done wrong after planting it.
But all of that didn’t matter. Still, for three weeks, he couldn’t sleep. He would nod off every few hours, but the thought of the seed breaking through the soil without him haunted him. He couldn’t stand it now, at this point, if the seed never grew. He had placed all of his hopes into it, without meaning to. And he wondered how a seed had come to hold such an important part in his life.
Six inches below the soil, deep in its grave, the seed lay still. Its dark coat was split open, a stress tear. Beneath it, a root was beginning to unfurl, digging through the soil at a rate that seemed quite fast to the seed, quite steady and satisfactory. The dirt was moist, and warm, and full of nutrients. It was a perfect place, not too deep, not too shallow. The seed recognized this in its unconscious way, and was content. Above it, a green stem was pushing its way through dark soil, speeding towards the light it felt above it, racing towards the sun.