His Bed of Dirt

 

There is a man at the bottom of my garden where the trees grow low and the ground seems upturned. He is far below, buried deep, he tells me. I know he’s a man and what he says is true as I listen to him speak. I came across his humming one day while scratching lines into the mud to make small rivers for my toy figures to sink into. Mother does not let me into the house when her friend comes over. Often I find myself waiting for hours in the cold. It was a day like that did I hear the humming, pleasant at first, coming from the bottom of the garden. Crawling under the scratching twigs I saw where the melody was coming from. It felt like I had heard it in a dream. Sitting down I listened to it until I heard the back door latch unlock and my mother call out. I did this everytime I found myself out in the garden. Happy to listen to the singing come from the dirt. Sometimes the humming slowed and I found that if I stomped my feet on the ground it would pick up again. Maybe he was delighted he had company. A week later I found a small red root risen from the dirt. Flicking it out of curiosity I heard a whisper. I leaned in closer and to my surprise the root had a voice. It was like mine when I would not speak for a day. Croaky and garbled like a stone being smoothed on the road. “Hello?” I said, “Who is this?”

I am the one who hums and sings.” the root replied.

You are a funny thing. A root that sings.” I replied.

I am not a root. I am a man. The root is just a part of me now. I made it so we could talk.” For a moment I wondered just what I could ask a man who lived underground. The root curled out slowly in the breeze.

Are you still there?” He called out, still a whisper against the rustling leaves over my head. Boom. Boom. Boom. A thumping against the back doors window pane startled me. Three times she knocked against the glass – it was time for dinner.

I have to go. I’m sorry.” Rubbing the dirt from knees I heard him call out once more.

What is your name child?” I hesitated. There was power in a name. Mum had said it to her friend once, I had heard it without her knowing. Creeping down onto the stairway to listen to the music my mother was playing. I had never heard her scared before. But there was no strength in or soul being sapped from learning a name. But it felt too personal, like knowing someone’s phone number – they could call you when they wanted.

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His Bed of Dirt Extract

There is a man at the bottom of my garden where the trees grow low and the ground seems upturned. He is far below, buried deep, he tells me. I know he’s a man and what he says is true as I listen to him speak. I came across his humming one day while scratching lines into the mud to make small rivers for my toy soldiers. Mother does not let me into the house when her friend comes over. Often I find myself waiting for hours in the cold. It was a day like that did I hear the humming, pleasant at first, coming from the bottom of the garden. Crawling under the scratching twigs I saw where the melody was coming from. I didn’t have my cardigan yet the noise filled me with warmth. It felt like I had heard it in a dream. Sitting down I listened to it until I heard the back door latch unlock and my mother call out. I did this every-time I found myself out in the garden. Happy to listen to the singing come from the dirt. Sometimes the humming slowed and I found that if I stomped my feet on the ground it would pick up again. Maybe he was delighted he had company. A week later I found a small red root risen from the dirt. Flicking it out of curiosity I heard a whisper. I leaned in closer and to my surprise a voice came out from the hollow center of the red strand. It was like mine when I would not speak for a day. Croaky and garbled like a stone being smoothed on the road. “Hello?” I said, “Who is this?”. “I am the one who hums and sings.” the root replied. “You are a funny thing. A root that sings.” I replied. He laughed. “I am not a root. I am a man. The root is just a part of me now. I made it so we could talk.”