Poison ivy spread throughout the backyard. Over rocks and flower pots. Onto bricks that were laid to make a patio. Between cracks in the walking path from the back door to the garage. He took some kind of toxin to kill it. Make it turn brown and weather away.
The old man spent hours in the backyard. Everyday he’d be out there playing in the dirt. Planting hibiscus in pots. Pulling weeds from the garden. Building a fence to keep it all enclosed. He didn’t want to share its beauty with anyone. Especially his neighbors on either side. Young people. Thinking they know about gardening. Not having the sense to kill poison ivy. They thought it looked pretty. They wanted it to climb on their home’s brick exterior. They itched all the time and wondered why?
He was a loner. Had been most of his life. Never married. No kids. Not any family. Brothers and sisters had passed on years ago. Now it was just him and his backyard. He watched it grow in the summer and die during winter. The old man watched the sun come up on it. Saw the moon glow down on the leaves at night. He’d be out there all hours. Tending to it. His great love. His backyard.
In the winter time his basement would be filled with plants and short trees. Under a special light the painting grew. Lemon trees, wildflowers, hydrangeas, elephant ears, greens, yellows, pinks, red, all preparing for summer. Tended by his worn leather hands. Lines ran across his palms. The gypsies told him he’d have a long life. He believed them.
And one year came when he could no longer tend to the backyard. Age had caught up with him. The old man looked on from inside his house at weeds and poison ivy taking over. Green then brown. The backyard was his painting. Now, that painting was gone.
Dedicated to Floyd Shock