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  • It began with drought, began on the tails of a winter so snowless the tulips refused to bloom, sent up dry buds without color. All of June we debated to water or let die. I kept alive two-dozen cauliflower and broccoli plants while the rest of the garden refused to germinate, even with daily watering the seeds getting the gist of the situation. Meanwhile the hollyhocks raged. They absorbed the heat and laughed at lack of water, sending their spires up inches every day and blooming a full month early and in colors rich enough to eat. Varieties of yellow jackets burrowed shamelessly into the blooms, making them selves drunk. This while most things suffered, the grass turned crunchy, and I tried to be happy, as is always the case in summer, each day fettered away, spent lamenting that the season would one day be done. Our 13-year-old son went to camp for bright students and called home to find out his zip code. The 11-year-old boy stayed home and played baseball, the outfield. He made catches and got hits. We all floated in life jackets on our pond. Then it rained. And rained more. Dark clouds hulked their way over the mountains every day and dropped what they knew until it made mud. The hollyhocks didn’t mind this either, chose to go on thriving. The broccolis and cauliflowers doubled their growth, then one day were eaten off, all of them by ground squirrels who must have found their way to the garden somehow because of the unusual weather pattern. This had never happened before. I discovered the remains while my daughter was hanging from rings on the swing set, grown finally enough to do flips and backflips there. Don’t be sad I told myself, that things grow and change. It is cheaper anyway to buy broccoli at the store. I saw that my daughter’s legs had muscled, I heard her voice say words she didn’t used to—like topic and arrival. I saw how the plant stems looked like tiny green bones. A few days later the ground squirrel population had eaten everything, and chipmunks scampered all over creation like tiny cartoons of themselves, chattering from the woodpile, the chicken house, the garden, the fences. My husband who is mostly against killing, told me that he was thinking of ordering a BB gun off Amazon. I said that I didn’t think BB’s would kill rodents, although I wasn’t sure. We discussed the meanings of killing and deterrence. We discussed the ramifications of vermin. The hollyhocks went wild, wild. Every day I talked to them for solace, tried to believe the metaphors they offered, kneeled down and asked them to stay forever. In the end my husband ordered a BB gun. It has not arrived yet. Swallows have gone crazy for some insect hatch on the pond. One serviceberry bush has flowered two months late. I still wish I could have the broccolis back, and everything else the rodents ate. I am sure I would be O.K. then, that the summer would be different if only. My husband did order the gun, and I wanted him to. It has not arrived yet. He ordered the pink one so the boys will be less likely to use it.
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