I was sixteen the year our garden went away, which sounds mystical and all but really just meant that the empty lot behind our house that we’d been using for the last couple of years was finally sold and they plowed everything up to put in a couple of houses. That was the way it went, two houses on a plot that wasn’t large enough for one when we moved in. They were right on top of each other, with no space between, or anyway none to speak of, just a little strip of grass running down the property line, about the width of a lawnmower. Neither of them owned it, or both of them did; I made a fair packet of money charging both neighbors to keep it short. It didn’t take me more than a couple of minutes to mow it, but they were both happy enough to throw their money away rather than lose any time away from their grills on the weekends.
I missed our garden. Nothing I ever planted grew worth a damn – even my radishes were stunted, ugly things – but my kid brother had a real green thumb and a pretty good sense for what looked good. It wasn’t a very fancy garden, since we had to keep it more or less hidden from anyone driving by, but anyway it always smelled good and you could go there and feel pretty safe from anyone coming around. It was his garden, really, I just sat out there and watched him working away with a trowel or whatever and thinking about nothing in particular. We hardly said three words to each other any time we were out there, but we were together. Once the houses went up we kind of drifted apart and that hurt. At sixteen I was wise enough to feel the separation, but not enough to know what to do about it. I guess I still don’t, not really. How do you get back a summer?