SmokeLong Quarterly
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by Antonios Maltezos

art by Marty D. Ison
art by Marty D. Ison
She splayed her fingers and slipped her old hand into the earth like a fork, feeling for beets. She touched one of them—two, each as big as her fist, and still growing because the black earth hadn’t squeezed them to the top yet. The earth was the key, and the only way to maintain it was through hard work. There was the earth, but also the sun, the water, the ritual pruning and shooing of pests. You prune just to get close to the plant, just so the plant knows you’re there. She had the best garden, the best grass, her flowers were impeccable—a perfect mixture of old and new, annuals and perennials.

She didn’t mind that her neighbors kept their compliments to themselves. She knew that they knew. She’d caught the movement of a curtain, the nervous rattle of blinds on many occasions. As long as they knew, she’d accepted long ago, then that was good enough. Besides, they were too busy with their topsy-turvy lives, their fighting and yelling, to notice the broccoli, the specimen tomatoes, the bell peppers. The earth was black beneath her vegetables, one color and soft to the touch up to the elbow. But they didn’t care.

She’d thought about moving to the country, even discussed it with her husband. They could get a satellite dish, find a home with a big porch and hang an extension wire so he could bring his TV outside. She let him get excited, and then took back the idea. What if something happened to one of them, or both? A heart attack? What if there was a fire, or a snow storm in the winter? Settle back, she’d told him, we aren’t moving anywhere.

When they first bought the house, they’d been the youngsters. But it was a different time then.

They did what they could to fit in, pretty-up the house, and they beamed with pride whenever they’d get a friendly nod from a neighbor.

“We talked tomatoes. We talked flowers. We washed our faces and brushed our teeth before coming out into the yard. We were people then.” She pulled on a tuft of carrot green, stared at the lone filament of root, the colorless worm of a carrot, and quickly stuffed it in her mouth, tuft of green and all.

She listened carefully for the rustle of a curtain, the rattle of a blind, and then shook her head. What did they care if her carrots weren’t ready yet?

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.

Antonios Maltezos has stories in Pindeldyboz, NFG, Night Train, Verbsap, The Shore, Slingshot Magazine, Thieves Jargon, and Musings: An Anthology of Greek-Canadian Literature. He also has work forthcoming in Ink Pot, Ghoti, Mad Hatter's Review, and Skive Magazine.

Read the interview.
Issue Ten (September 15, 2005): Capsicum by Anne Marie Jackson «» Donat Bobet's Halloween by Bruce Holland Rogers «» The Arrival by Nathan Leslie «» The Law by Edgar Omar Avilés, translated by Toshiya A. Kamei «» Five Fat Men in a Hot Tub by Jeff Landon «» Hoover by Cally Taylor «» Are You Okay? by Joshua Hampel «» The Kindness of Strangers by Otis Brown «» Mrs. Krishnan by Kuzhali Manickavel «» Crossing the Orinoco by William Reese Hamilton «» The Elements of Summer by Laura Stallard Petza «» Closer to Paul by Patti Jazanoski «» Hawesville, Kentucky by Nance Knauer «» He Stayed for Breakfast by Astrid Schott «» Gardening by Antonios Maltezos «» Outer Space by Tom Saunders «» Blind Love by Robert Bradley «» Arks by Alan Girling «» Chitlins by Bob Arter «» Strange Fruit by Suzanne Lafetra «» Interviews: Anne Marie Jackson «» Bruce Holland Rogers «» Nathan Leslie «» Toshiya A. Kamei «» Jeff Landon «» Cally Taylor «» Joshua Hampel «» Otis Brown «» Kuzhali Manickavel «» William Reese Hamilton «» Laura Stallard Petza «» Patti Jazanoski «» Nance Knauer «» Astrid Schott «» Antonios Maltezos «» Tom Saunders «» Robert Bradley «» Alan Girling «» Bob Arter «» Suzanne Lafetra «» Joseph Young «» Cover Art "The Creation of Time and the Plagiarism of Bosch" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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