My Father's Garden

The same writing prompt, a somewhat more obvious take on it:

Depending on how you view such matters, today was either the first or the last day of my natural life. I will leave it to you, the reader, to judge which best fits my peculiar situation. I trust your judgement more so than I do my own for reasons which I intend to make clear in short order.

This being the summer prior to my senior year in high school, my parents permitted me to choose the destination for our family holiday. I had always been fascinated with the vast, mysterious caverns of the American west, but my experience with them was restricted to what I had read in books. These books told curious tales that whispered of sights that would challenge the sanity of even the strongest man. On the cusp of manhood, I had come to regard these stories as superstitious hokum, but they still held no small amount of lure for me. My mother felt that this was a marvelous idea and, although he protested, my father eventually relented and we booked our passage.

On the third of June, we arrived in Carlsbad, New Mexico to take in the fabled caverns nearby. The caverns were indeed vast and impressive, but they somehow failed to spark my imagination in any way. The enormous hollows under the desert felt inviting and warm in a way that my books never described. I chuckled naively to myself when no strange figures appeared where the lasts rays of the electrical lights failed and the darkness loomed. Perhaps science and civilization had chased the hobgoblins of my childhood completely out of this Earth!

We boarded the Cumbres and Tolec to visit some of the lesser-known caves north-eastern New Mexico. We stopped in Dulce on the sixth amid a storm of dust such as I have never seen. I saw what I was sure were enormous buildings whenever the storm would clear slightly, but my father insisted that I was being foolish and I was just seeing the top of the nearby mesa. My mother merely smiled quietly as father continued to lecture us on the local topography as he read it from the tour guide.

The crude, hand-painted signs directed us out of the small town and down deep, lifeless gulch. We approached the entance to the caverns without the escort of a clutch of tourists as we had in Carlsbad. Curiously, even with the obvious lack of visitors, there was a shack, presumably a shop, on the path to the cavern mouth. I thought it would be fitting to bring back a memento of some sort, if only out of sympathy for the poor fellow whose lot it was to maintain this shop in vain hope that a traveller might wander by.

The store was, much as I expected, dusty and still and only half-lit as though even the little bulb was weary of being here. I regretted my decision to enter almost immediately. I quickly scanned the small, wooden room for anything that I might purchase to discharge my presumed duty to the shopkeeper.

I almost didn't notice the gentleman who was presumably the owner of the shop. He was settled on a rough wooden stool, perhaps asleep, and looked as dingy and old as everything on his display shelves. If he moved even slightly when I entered his store, I was not able to discern it.

My eyes played quickly over row upon row of toy wooden cabins, horses, pipes, mugs and even just slabs that appeared to exist solely to display the inscription "Dulce Caverns" on their sides. I wanted something other than the banal curios and looked over at the gentleman behind the counter and thought better of it. It was then that I noticed a bin of green-grey coins on a shelf on the wall .

Expecting to find them stamped with "Dulce Caverns" or something of that sort, I picked one of them up. I nearly dropped it immediately as it was cold to the touch even in the southwestern heat in early summer. I squinted and examined it more closely. The large, sand-dollar sized coin had non-sense words scribbled on it, but when I flipped it over, there was an inscription of what appeared to be a starfish, if a starfish were somehow elongated into a tube and festooned with cilia or something.

It looked strange, even sickening, but it was also familiar.
Immediately, I was reminded of what my mother always called "father's garden." Behind our home, where the back lawn slopes down to a creek and a dark, wooded area, we have a garden that is surrounded by a white-brick wall that is, at a minimum, fifteen feet tall. There is a solid iron gate on the front of it, and the gate is locked at all times when mother is not tending it. My father being a strict man of puritan upbringing, I was forbidden a great many things. However, it was my mother that insisted that I not visit father's garden.