Oliver's Garden

Oliver's Garden

A Story by Kaliope

An icy gale howled through the iron gate, heralding Oliver's return to his family's garden. The young man, clad in a purple parka and a yellow woolen cap, pulled a key from his pocket and grated it against the rusty lock. He pulled at the ring handle, but a leafless thorn hedge, tightly wrapped around the bars, fought bravely to keep the gate shut. A forceful tug, however, sent bits of branches fluttering to the ground and the portal to Oliver's childhood realm swung open with a wretched wail.

The hedge still denied him entry, as if bound by knightly honor. More of its spindly arms, woven into a spiky lattice, blocked his passage. A gentle smile on his lips Oliver took out his hedge clippers and cut a gaping hole into the sapless guardian. He whistled a merry spring tune as he slipped through, trailing a large bag behind.

Over the years the stone path through the garden, once roofed by a rose trellis, had crumbled away under an army of weeds. As a little boy Oliver had helped tearing the brash offenders out from between the slabs. He had loved the sound of stems snapping and the grassy smell of sap, streaming over his fingers.

"I want to be a gardener," young Oliver had proudly announced to his mother. She had been trimming the roses.

"Pulling up weeds is only half the job, Oliver," she had answered with a silvery laugh. "A good gardener needs a gentle heart. You have to show your plants love and care as well!"

The wind chased rust-colored leaves through the passage under the trellis, which had long since been conquered by rampant vines. The loose foliage sought refuge in the branchlets but vines and leaves fell alike to Oliver's hedge clippers. The withered twigs cracked under his soles and the leaves crumbled to dust as he dragged his bag over their corpses.

At the end of the trellis Oliver paused and blew into his hands. His breath bloomed into the freezing air like a ghostly flower. He looked around and scowled at the straggly shrubs and creepers, claiming former flower beds. The garden had been so beautiful, so vibrant when he'd been a child. When he closed his eyes, he could almost see the daisies, violets, dahlias and lilies wafting in the morning wind, their heads bowed in deference until the sun prompted them to show their pretty faces. Then young Oliver would stride through their ranks like a fairy-tale prince, showing himself to his enchanted subjects. He would climb the fruit trees to oversee his magic kingdom and graciously accept their juicy offerings. Oliver smiled at the opulent image in his mind. He deeply inhaled the memory of fragrant flowers and tasted imaginary apples, pears and cherries, mellow and sweet.

An eerie tune whistled through the air and from afar the hoarse caw of a raven sounded. Oliver opened his eyes and frowned. It would take time to restore his magic realm to its former glory but he was patient. Tender shoots, colorful flowers, sweet fruits - they would all return to revere and regale their legitimate prince. Oliver laughed. No longer prince - he was a king now! Before he could claim his rightful throne though, Oliver had to be a gardener, just as his mother had taught him. Loving. Caring. A gardener carrying a gentle heart. A winter-withered thistle jabbed at his leg and he crushed it under his boot.

The delicate flowers had all died a long time ago but most of the orchard was still standing. Two apple trees marked its entry and Oliver sighed at the dreary sight of his old friends. He remembered how they'd stood tall and straight, competing for a young boy's love of heights and sweet apples. Now, clinging to each other with their knobbly branches intertwined, they resembled frightened, old men holding gout-ridden hands. Their gnarly roots, clawing into the ground, forced Oliver to shoulder his bag and carry it over their crippled toes.

As he stepped over the roots, his foot got caught in a wooden snare and he stumbled. A sharp pain shot up his ankle. The bag slipped from his grip. He flailed his arms, desperate to regain his balance. Oliver finally managed to tear his foot free and leaned heavily against one of the furrowed trunks. Rubbing his ankle he scowled up at the apple trees; they could have broken his leg. He would have to cut them down. The thought pained him but Oliver couldn't afford to shy away from harsh decisions if he wanted his kingdom back. However, he neither had the tools nor the time to execute his verdict, so he hobbled on to the plum tree alley, his heavy bag in tow.

The meager plum trees bowed their bald boughs. As he passed under the last one, Oliver heard a cracking sound from above. A snapped branch, hanging only by a few fibers, dangled over his head but the tree held on to its broken limb as if afraid to harm its rightful sovereign. The plum trees had always been cowards, Oliver thought with a chuckle, surrendering their fruits to every passing vermin and presenting nothing but either sour or rotten offerings to their ruler. He had never particularly liked them, but he'd decide their fate later. He was close to his target now. Across the duck pond he could already see the old willow tree, awaiting his return. Its hanging branches glistened white with frost and swayed majestically in the chilly breeze.
 
Oliver reached the verge of the pond without any more obstacles. An apparently thick layer of ice on the water's surface invited him to take a shortcut but he didn't trust the offer. It would be too easy to trap him in the freezing water or to snatch his bag away from him. Obviously, his subjects were in a foul mood today, so he took the safer route around the pond.

As he reached the willow, Oliver cautiously lowered his bag to the ground. "I brought you another present old friend," he whispered and affectionately patted the willow's wrinkled bark. The tree's boughs creaked in the wind.

Oliver pulled a pickax and a shovel from the bag's side pocket and got to work. The frozen ground fought boldly but he knew how to break its resistance; he had done it many times before. Once the hole under the willow tree was deep enough, he knelt beside the bag and opened its main compartment.

The girl's murky eyes stared up at the murky winter sky. Her name was Rose. The cold had made her even prettier, Oliver thought as he gently stroked the girl's cheek. She looked like a fairy-tale princess - her face white as snow, her hair black as ebony and the gaping hole in her chest rust-red as dried blood. Oliver gathered her in his arms and eased her down into her frigid bed. Then he dropped a few rose seeds into the girl's open heart and covered her body with soil.

Oliver stood and clapped his hands clean. "Take good care of our new princess, make sure her sleep is not disturbed," he warned the willow good-naturedly and smiled. His gaze swept over the other flower beds he had laid out during the past months. In spring he would return to see the Daisys, Violets, Dahlias, Lilys and Roses bloom. He had a good feeling that this time he'd succeed. And once his realm would be restored to its former beauty, surely his subjects would love him again. Then he would truly be king - King Oliver, the Gentle Gardener.

© 2016 Kaliope



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Author's Note

Kaliope
30.8.15 - v2 - edited version, hopefully with better narrative flow :-)

26.8.15 - v1 - Not sure this is quite finished, it still feels a bit rough in some places. So all thoughts and suggestions are most welcome!


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Featured Review

Now this is very well written. Firstly I really enjoyed this just because of the slow moving walk through the garden. Until the end. Then my mouth was wide open. So did he actually open her heart and put in rose seeds?

Is that his mom? I got bamboozled into thinkning that this is a nice guy. Wait is he? Now I want a next part or something!

Also you said that english is your second laugange right? If so WOW you really got good at it. Hope you best! Maybe you should write a novella as an experiment? I'm sure you could deliver something great!

Posted 4 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

3 Months Ago

Thank you very much for kind words! Indeed, Oliver opened his victim's heart to plant roses, but she.. read more



Reviews

So so so good
Very descriptive
Loved it

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

2 Months Ago

Thank you so much!
' The wind chased rust-colored leaves through the passage under the trellis, which had long since been conquered by rampant vines. The loose foliage sought refuge in the branchlets but vines and leaves fell alike to Oliver's hedge clippers. The withered twigs cracked under his soles and the leaves crumbled to dust as he dragged his bag over their corpses.' - Your second language could so easily be your first, such fluidity!'

No sure of the genre of this tale, horror, fantasy, horticultural, mystery. what, what!? One has to ask because it could be any or all. Having read through a couple of times, in spite of typos, the language is incredibly fine and flows invitingly.

My now feeling is that Oliver wanted - albeit inappropriately/evilly, to do what he needed to do: . took advice from his apparently unsuspecting mother.. and used the girls as his means of fertilising his garden! Maybe too simple an interpretation but the final digging and planting thrust that thought into mind.

There is far more that i could say about the story itself.. but would be snatches from your writing which of course, you already know, own. So am left to say that i find your writing incredibly sharp yet in some areas, more like poetry than prose. Your imagination flies, even to the way the garden responds, lives, fades, fights, surrenders.. Now i'd like to know what might happen when Oliver succumbs - would someone else become the Gentle Gardener?

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

2 Months Ago

Thank you so much! I guess I have to work harder than a native speaker to straighten out my stories .. read more
Now this is very well written. Firstly I really enjoyed this just because of the slow moving walk through the garden. Until the end. Then my mouth was wide open. So did he actually open her heart and put in rose seeds?

Is that his mom? I got bamboozled into thinkning that this is a nice guy. Wait is he? Now I want a next part or something!

Also you said that english is your second laugange right? If so WOW you really got good at it. Hope you best! Maybe you should write a novella as an experiment? I'm sure you could deliver something great!

Posted 4 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

3 Months Ago

Thank you very much for kind words! Indeed, Oliver opened his victim's heart to plant roses, but she.. read more
This is great writing. The reader is sucked into the story unsuspectingly. The way that you have described the plants resisting his return is superb. You level of description is excellent -for example the apple trees resembling 'frightened, old men holding gout-ridden hands'. The finale is unexpected which is just what you want. I wonder - earlier you have the mother saying that the good gardener needs a gentle heart. Does this presage Roses heart at the end?
Great work!
regards,
Alan

Posted 6 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

6 Months Ago

Thank you very much Alan! I've been away for a while, only sporadically stopping by this site but wh.. read more
alanwgraham

6 Months Ago

Great Kali. Would you like to read my story ' The Watchers'. It's fairly topical and I it seemed to .. read more
I really enjoyed this macabre little tale. This is exactly the style I love to write in.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

1 Year Ago

Thank you very much :-)
This one was a surprise! Skillfully handled. You give us clues something is not quite right with the scene and Oliver throughout, making to twist not only startling, but plausible.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

1 Year Ago

Thank you S.Mi, I'm thrilled you liked this one! :-)
Aaaaahhh! Beautiful twist ending. My mouth was hanging open the whole time I finished reading. I mean, yikes! Excellent descriptions throughout, I loved the personification of the garden, and when Oliver opened his bag the whole thing gained new depth. Very nice work! Smooth read too, for all its intricate language. In your bio you say that English is a second language, but you use it more effectively than most native speakers.

I have one minor issue, but maybe you can rationalize it for me. If Oliver has been "planting" over the last few months, why is the gate overgrown when he enters the garden?-this doesn't take away from the story for me, but I did ponder it on my second read.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

1 Year Ago

Ah yes, you brought up a very good point about the overgrown garden. Well, the idea behind it was th.. read more
This truly was creepy. I never would have guessed where this was going. I love your style and descriptive language. You have a great talent.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

1 Year Ago

Wow, thank you very much for your kind words!
This was a very vivid narrative. I could picture myself walking through the garden behind Oliver, watching him do these things. The garden seemed to come to life. After having read it through, including the shocking ending, the way the garden seemed to ruefully greet its "king" made so much more sense. He was not the kind, playful, innocent person he had been when the garden was beautiful and well-tended in his youth. He was a monster, and somehow the garden "knew" it. Well done.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

1 Year Ago

Thank you so much, the foreshadowing took a while to get it right and I'm glad it all made sense in .. read more
I sincerely don't think any part is rough. few negligible mishaps, that's all. but then you're probably a perfectionist, so go for it. this is brilliant. wonderful description and narrative that do not prepare the reader for the unexpected twist. I enjoyed the read tremendously.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kaliope

1 Year Ago

Haha, you're definitely right about me being a perfectionist. Thank you for your kind words, they ar.. read more

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Added on August 26, 2015
Last Updated on June 12, 2016

Author

Kaliope
Kaliope

Vienna, Austria



About
Hi, I'm a nerdy IT specialist in my forties, writing for fun and to keep my sanity. Feel free to friend me and to send me reading requests. I'll give you honest feedback and appreciate honesty in re.. more..

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