He can hear the storm coming up the valley, up the hills around him. The thunder rumbles and grumbles like an old
man complaining that his bones hurt. Like his bones, like his grumbling. Lightning illuminates the heavy clouds from behind.
He has picked some late vegetables from the garden he planted this year. As he bends to pick one last tomato, he remembers her last year, at this very spot, surveying her garden. He had watched her from the porch that afternoon. He saw her hair, loose even at this late age, long and shimmering in the late autumn sun.
After she picked the tender heart of a tomato, she had risen to face the lowering sun; her breath shining in the cool air of the evening. That’s when she noticed him watching her. She smiled at him, came right towards him with the same intensity he remembered from their early years together. He remembers her now, coming up to the porch of the house, grabbing his hands and pulling him out of his chair and his reverie.
“What are you looking at old man?” she had asked. And then they kissed like teenagers, like they always had. “Don’t use up all that love in one spot,” she had said. At the time, he remembers thinking that sipping at the wonders of her lips, kissing her as if his very existence had depended on it, never lost its delight. He remembers her dropping the basket filled with vegetables right where they stood, taking his hand in hers and pulling him down onto the porch swing. He recalls being embarrassed they might be seen from the road, and then not caring. He can still hear her laughing at the chill of the evening on their skin. Afterwards, they gathered up the discarded vegetables and headed indoors for a late summer meal of tomatoes, corn on the cob, fingerling potatoes and an apple crisp she had made that morning.
She left him this past spring, at a time when the snow melted and streams wandered down the hillside behind the house. She left him in a late spring snow storm that had closed the roads and left him helpless to get her to the doctor. She left him with the garden to plant and the neighbors to tell of her passing.
Now he sits on the porch, holding in his calloused hands an heirloom tomato grown from seeds she had kept in a mason jar in the pantry. He feels the wind shift and sees the first drops of rain scatter imprints on the porch steps. He should bring in his laundry from the clothes line, he thinks, but he continues to sit, holding the ripe fruit. He
imagines seeing her nightgown blowing next to his flannel shirt, storm-tossed in the damp air.