Sarah Mitchell Jackson

Wall and Fences and Wrought Iron

Walls and fences and wrought iron, she thinks. These are all expensive. She wants walls – high, impenetrable, leaving her hidden. She yearns for a walled garden where she can grow apple trees. Apple trees along the wall, espalier-style, crablike in their sideways stance, but not crab apples. She knows the necessity of companion-planting basil with peppers to keep pests at bay. No insecticides. She needs the coiled swirls of sweetpea and the dense purple heads of complicated varieties of lettuce. She desires frizzy greens that smell of aniseed. She wishes for huge, ugly leaves to hide sharp stalks of rhubarb. She requires colour and smell and sweetness.

She wants a kitchen garden, useful and pretty at the same time. Peas and radishes, corn amid the green beans, carrots with onions. She wants to dig herself in, isolate herself, hole up with her family – the delicious insulation of it. She wants the seasons, the weather, the sun to bless a patch of land that can be lent to her, so she can worship growth, pick carrots as needed, luxuriate in blackberry pie.

Woe betide the rabbits, she thinks as she stands at the open back door and claps so they will run away. The sharp barks from her slightly cupped hands explode into the air with a satisfying dullness. It’s all pantomime. Left to her own devices, she would probably be vegetarian, pescatarian certainly.

Ah, the sea! (But that is another story.)

It is not practical to live off the land. She is not practical. Her body is just a vehicle for her mind, a way to carry its fanciful, artistic, philosophical thought from place to place. The current definition of civilisation rewards her, suits her, enables her. Without it she would lose – be lost! She thinks of this as a strength now, but is ever-aware of the potential vulnerability. She dabbles.

She cannot change.

The rabbits eat everything. They are undiscerning. Whether something has been planted for beauty or food value, all is consumed. They have preferences; there is a hierarchy to the menu through which they nibble. They always shun the daffodils.

The rabbits leave their little marble-shaped offerings, making the grass darker, lusher in places. She is fuming, left with a tide-mark of deep loathing, her mind making small forays into vicious intent. How far could a thought push into action? How far will they push her?

She weeps for the expense, the futility of the hours of planting, the painstaking planning. Gone is the careful interspersion of tomatoes with marigolds. She rages against the very nature she wishes to encourage.

Sarah Mitchell-Jackson loves words and uses them copiously. Her work has been published in The Critical Pass Review, Conium Review, Gravel Magazine, Firefly Magazine, Atomic Flyswatter, Really System, and the No Extra Words podcast. Last month, she won the Channillo Short Story Prize. Her novel – Ashes – was published by Lorelei Press in 2017. Follow her on Twitter: @smitchjack