(photos by me, of my wife)
by David Cain
I leaned on the long handle of my shovel and pulled a cloth from my back pocket to wipe my sweaty brow. The descending sun washed the sky in orange.
“I can’t believe this weather,” Beth said, crushing a clod of earth in her gloved hand. “Feels like we’re jumping straight into summer.”
“Not much chance of another frost,” I said. “I think we’ll be ready to start planting tomorrow.”
“I really appreciate this, Lou,” she said. I smiled at my wife, as I felt the ache in my back, the sting of torn blisters on my hands.
I always swore I would never have a garden. My grandparents were farmers. My father took a job with the electric company, but eventually converted our back yard into a vegetable garden. Half my youth, it seemed, was spent hoeing the beans and tomatoes he grew, a task I could not enjoy. I don’t like beans or tomatoes. It never seemed fair to make me work a garden producing foods I didn’t eat.
But it had been almost ten years since I had snapped my last bean when Beth asked me to help her dig a garden plot in the west end of our yard. Between my eagerness to please my wife and even a twinge of nostalgia for the peppers and strawberries I actually had enjoyed growing, I agreed to break my vow.
“No green beans,” I had insisted. Beth happily agreed to my condition. She doesn’t care for beans, either.
The unseasonably warm spring day gave us ample opportunity to prepare the ground Beth had chosen for our garden. My muscles ached with the long day’s labors, but as the sun set, the earth had been tilled. I sat down on the soft dirt, feeling it give beneath my weight. A cool breeze shook the budding branches above my head.
“It’s too late to go to the nursery,” said Beth, looking at her watch. “Is there anything else we need to do before we plant?”
I smiled, remembering a conversation I once had with my grandfather, when I was very young. I told Beth the old farmer’s tale.
My granddad told me that when he was young, some of the old folk said that in the old country, on the night before a farmer planted his crops he would take his good lady wife into the fields and they would make love.”
“In the dirt?” Beth wrinkled her nose and gave me a wry smile.
“I guess so. It was supposed to inspire the earth, or something. Granddad said the old farmers claimed it gave them better yield, drought prevention, all sorts of good luck. Babies, too, probably.”
“Participation mystique,” said Beth.
“That’s what they call it. ‘Do as we do.’ She is the earth and he is the rain and new life is born of their union. Every primitive culture practiced some form of the same fertility rite.”
“More fun than spreading manure, I guess.”
“Rather,” said Beth. She sat down beside me and gave me a kiss.
“What a day!” I said. “I need a hot bath.” Beth laid her head against my chest. I plucked a twig from her golden hair. “I can’t believe I’m planting a garden of my own free will.”
“You don’t hate it, do you?” asked Beth.
“No, it feels right. I didn’t like being a farm hand, but there’s something different about doing it for yourself. Especially in doing it for you.”
“I love the idea,” said Beth. “It makes me happy.”
“I’m glad,” I said, squeezing her arm tenderly.
“Oh, my” said Beth, stretching. “We’ll sleep soundly tonight.” I laid back into the soft dirt. Beth began to unbutton her shirt.
“Do you think it matters if there’s a cloth underneath us?”
“Hmm?” I said, my eyes growing heavy.
“Do you think we have to be, I don’t know, touching the earth directly, or can I put my shirt down, to keep the dirt away from . . .” I opened my eyes suddenly. Beth smiled naughtily as she pulled her blue cotton top off her shoulders.
“Beth!” I said as she reached back to unsnap her brassiere.
“It seems right,” she said. Her creamy breasts shone in the darkness.
“What are you doing?”
“I want a fertile garden,” she said. “You promised to help me.” Beth spread her shirt on the dark soil beside us and then stood to unfasten her blue jeans.
“But what about . . . ” I hissed, looking at our neighbors’ houses, attacked by modest shame.
“Call it religious freedom. Now hush up and get your pants off.”
“Beth,” I pleaded. She pushed her jeans down and quickly sat in the center of her splayed shirt. Leaning back, she stripped her panties off.
“Come on,” she whispered, smiling. “I don’t think this works if I just masturbate. Probably ruin our crop.”
My heart pounded hard, but I managed to push my trousers down to my ankles. I tried to unknot my shoes.
“Leave them on,” said Beth, playing with herself in the dark. “Just a quickie, for good luck.” I heard a twig snap and jerked my head to look into the shadows. A bird sang a pretty note and my blood raced with fear. My dick shriveled, with little intention of participating in the fertility rite.
“I always wondered if my grandparents ever did this,” I said, letting go of my shoe string and turning to gaze on my pretty wife, lying in the garden.
“I’ll bet they did. I’ll bet all good farmers do. Now, come here,” said Beth, reaching out her arms, pale in the dim moonlight.
I gently took my place in Beth’s warm embrace and kissed her anxiously, trying to forget the world around us in the familiar touch of her sweet lips. I love her with a burning passion that pulses in each beat of my heart and with her bare thighs pressed against my hips, I soon felt the urge fertility demands. My hand touched her pale cheek, smudging it with the rich soil we had worked. I sank between her damp lips.
We made love in the dirt, oblivious to the warm spring night, pulsing with desire to live the recreation. I sucked at her breast, drove hard inside her. She moaned my name in a bouquet of wantonness. I pulled her hard against me, whispering devotions. I could feel the storm rise within me. Beth was my whole world.
As I stroked my staff within her, I felt a tear drop well within my eyes. I wanted more from Beth than she would dare to give, than she could afford, just yet. The passion raged and I spoke my pleas.
“Yes,” she said in a fit of giving, “I want to bear your child.” The words let loose a flood inside me and I came with every drop of me inside her. Beth cried with shudders of pure love.
We paused in the dim still night, covered in dirt, sobbing in each other’s arms. A wind rose up behind the trees. I kissed her dusty brow.
“I’m sorry,” I said, not knowing why.
“No,” she said. “I’m sorry that I made you wait. But when you promised me this garden, I knew the time was right. I really want this. I want to bear your child. Besides, we could use some farm hands.”
“I love you,” I said. She repeated my words. A soft drop touched my back. Another raindrop fell. “Let’s go inside before someone calls the cops.” We picked up our clothes and ran inside.
The rain fell down in torrents that night. It proved a very fertile year.