The man sat in a ratan chair in the shade of the oak tree. He wore a gray cardigan and long pants, despite the heat. His daughter knelt in the grass, just outside the freshly turned circle of dirt.
“Where do you want to start?” she asked.
“The impatiens,” he answered, curling a shaky index finger toward the flat closest to her knee.
She wet a small patch of dirt and pulled the flowers closer to her hands. She brushed hair from her eyes before rocking forward to dig.
“The butterfly bush is coming in.” He looked out over the yard where green cones were just starting to form. “The monarchs will be here before you know it. Then it takes three generations for them to fly back home.”
He tracked closer to the edge of the property and the barren grape arbor, splintery and brown with neglect. For a moment he was back in the icehouse, with the full of bottles of wine and jars of jam. He felt the cool on his face, the soft give of the wooden door, the way its jagged edge no longer met the floor. Smelled the mustiness in the stone walls.
“Do you remember how you used to hide under the grapevines when you were a kid?” She turned toward him and nodded. She pushed her hair with the back of her hand, this time leaving a mark on her forehead.
“How about when you weren’t a kid? I bet you didn’t know we knew about that.” She went back to her work.
“First hole is ready. Pick a flower,” she said.
“Can you help me down there with you?”
“I don’t think, dad. I’m not strong enough to get you back in the chair.”
He cupped his hands together. “Fill them,” he said. “I want to feel it.”
She turned a spade of earth into his hands. He rubbed it over his face, forehead, and through his hair. He packed his ears and nose. Lapped at it with his tongue. Streaked it on his teeth. It spilled between his fingers.
He looked again to the butterfly bush. “The purple one,” he said.
After three generations, they fly back home.
David J Hersher is a writer from Massillon, Ohio. Find him at www.davidhersher.com or @davidjhersher on Twitter.