Pablo Michael’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: Tending the Garden
Standing on the twelve inch width of the pressure treated, wooden walkway, Clark, Turner as Todd, his partner, nicknamed him, clicked his retro shoes together, hoping this jaunt through their untended Japanese garden would bring him the peaceful resolution he had sought for nearly fifty years. His throat gurgled as a controlled laugh burst out at the sight of his skinny, crippled feet, covered in a pair of trendy, striped, colored socks. Todd had given them to him on his sixtieth birthday a week ago. Withered leaves danced on the cobble beside the path from a hot summer wispy breeze, reminding him of the day he made his choice, objecting to his draft status to serve in the army during the Viet Nam War. He had no grounds for CO status, like his straight friends had sought, especially since his draft board was comprised of the most narrow-minded, war-mongering men in the city, who had always denied that status. Every other teenager and young man he knew had served in at least one branch of the military. Even Todd fulfilled his stint in the Air Force, but he was stationed in Europe tracking flights of the Soviet Union’s airplanes, ships and submarines. He had fought in the Cold War, making observations vital to the decision if the Button should be pressed.
Turner walked, carefully, down the plank between the plantings of overgrown deciduous shrubs, conifers and Japanese maple trees. He had chosen to adapt to the underground lifestyle of gay men who claimed their sexual preference to love a man, entirely, rather than kill, which prevented them from being drafted. His decision, the life he led, and the deeds he practiced since that day were him; he and no one else could deny that. He fought for many causes as alternatives to all the wars that kept erupting since Viet Nam. But had he lost his self-identity? Before Todd, Turner kept starting the pages of a new chapter of his gay lifestyle after relationship after another ended just as the wars drug on. Whenever Turner was about to stop everything he was doing, Todd had reminded Turner he was turning the pages of his life much too fast. His partner taught him to look a little deeper, even laugh at what he couldn’t control.
Over coffee in the morning, Turner agreed to put on the shoes and socks and walk in the garden when he started complaining, wanting to start his life from the beginning again. He remembered when Todd helped him plant the garden, the symbolic reminder of their initial attraction.
Stepping over a rickety bridge, Turner stopped and gazed in the deep blue hue of the pond’s water, the pattern of ominous stratus clouds reflecting the eclipsed sun on the surface. Suddenly, he saw the brilliance of the sun’s image. His life’s journey became clear again. Objecting to too many wars, emerging since Viet Nam, and dedicating his work for improving life, he decided to tend to the garden, bringing its aging appearance more reverence. After all, Todd had given him the love he never counted on when he started his journey many years ago.
Clark stopped turning the pages, content with his life with Todd as their lives merged into one, the process of peace and their fulfilling love. He leaned over, pulled a weed, and sighed.
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Pablo Michaels writes LGBT fiction and has published with Naughty Nights Press, http://naughtynightspress.blogspot.com You can follow him at @bell2mike