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Possumhaw: The flick of a hand


Shannon Bardwell



Jack, the deaf cat, knowing sign language, responds to the universal sign of flicking your hand. "Come on," I flick my hand; he comes. 


The day was gray and damp like most winter days but the temperature wavered at 63 degrees. Jack and I stopped at the greenhouse. The gauge said the temperature inside and outside was the same -- 63 degrees. The humidity sat at 78 percent. My clothes felt wet, even though they were not. The tomato plants were full of half-green tomatoes. With so little sun it takes longer for them to ripen. Sam would like fried green tomatoes and it would be a good idea, but I do hate to fry. 


The bougainvillea has been in steady bloom since before Christmas. Their bright fuchsia blooms are doing much better inside than when they summered in the perennial garden. One orange Gerber daisy peeks her head up; a begonia shows out beside her. There are a few blooms on the strawberry plants and, above them, are hanging airplane plants and half a dozen Boston ferns that shed everywhere. 


There's one green pepper plant that Nick Hairston gave up on. All winter it has produced small green peppers. I'm housing Lenora Hatcher's petunias and three gardenia trees. I fear to tell her one is not going to make it. I'm still bumfuzzled why three plants treated the very same will not thrive in the same way. Gardening can be maddening.  


While I fooled around in the greenhouse, Jack slipped over to the goldfish pond and peered in. I fed the goldfish and we watched five goldfish attack the floating flakes. The fish seemed to know that neither of us will bother them. I've done hand-to-hand combat with snakes over my fish. Well, I did have a stick. I fiercely protect my charges. The five fish have thrived over winter. The water has yet to freeze. 


While watching Jack and the fish, I noticed the garden greening. The sprouting of daisies has begun. The rose bushes and the jasmine are putting forth buds. There are a few pink blooms on the quince bushes that Kathy McCoy gave me. Kathy is my resource for all things that will and will not grow in the Prairie. 


The forsythia has two yellow blooms and a host of buds. Lilies from years of church Easter services are about two inches high. On the way back from our chores, I ran into two yellow daffodils that had already bloomed out. Usually I resist picking the flowers so I can enjoy them in the yard, but with the uncertainty of the weather I picked them and brought them in, sticking them in a Pepsi bottle Sam brought me on our first date. It had held a gardenia. 


With all these signs of an early spring, I wonder if it will be long in coming. I wish to flick my hand to springtime in that universal sign that says, "Come on."


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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