Open 2023 Stories - Michael Gigandet


I Lived
By Michael Gigandet

Nobody can make you go to a nursing home, at least not without a court order, and your persecutors can only get one of those by proving that you’re mentally incompetent.

That’s what Martin told his son, The Stockbroker. That stopped him. Stopped him so good he’d not mentioned it in his last two weekly visits to check up on his old man.

“It’s not a nursing home dad. It’s an Assisted Living Center.” He said it like the place ought to be capitalized.

No thanks. Martin didn’t want to wait around with a lot of decrepit people who have nothing to do. He had lots to do here on his farm. Besides, he’d visited a friend there once, and he smelled like a blanket which had been stored in the attic too long.

These weekly visits were never long, just time enough for The Stockbroker to walk through the house on inspection, engage Martin in enough conversation to determine if he could talk in coherent sentences and confirm that he was not planning on marrying one of the widows who brought him casseroles during the week.

His son is standing in the driveway next to the orchard where Martin is clawing in the holes he dug that morning for the new apple trees he is planting.

“How long do you think it will take for them to bear fruit?” his son asks, implying that Martin might not be around to enjoy the apples.

“Years.” Martin doesn’t bother to tell him that he’s planting apple trees for a future he knows he will never see. Considering his age though, Martin knew his son was right. When you plant fruit trees you are planting them for future people, future pies, future jams and jellies. When Martin took them out of their shipping carton that morning, he did so reverently, with care and contemplation. After all, these may be the last fruit trees he would ever plant.

When Martin and Em bought the long abandoned place 40 years ago, trees covered the old house while vines grew in through the open windows. They quickly spent all of their money on the things you must have but can’t see—new plumbing, electrical wiring, floor joists and other structural repairs. People told them how much they admired them when they really meant that they could not imagine themselves living in the old shack. Martin fought the encroaching forest with a weed eater and a chainsaw and shoved it back a few yards every year. Meanwhile, they started their family.

Back then, I worked in the present.

“You think you’ll ever sell this place?” The Stockbroker asks which was a valid question. The 150-acre farm was surrounded by commercial and residential developments and desired by men with hungry eyes and too much personality who periodically visited him when they drove by and saw him working in his garden or pruning his fruit trees in the orchard or mowing his lawn.

“Never,” Martin says. “Never so long as I’m alive.” That answer is nonsensical; yet it is perfectly clear. “At 75 what do I need with all that money?”
“When you do sell the place…” The Stockbroker began.

“When I die,” Martin interrupts, and his son ignores him.

“…I hate to see your hard work wasted when a developer gets it.”

Clearing ground and fencing in acreage and digging ponds became the symbols of Martin’s dominance over Mother Nature left unrestrained. The work was hard, but he was young and able to contend with nature with brute strength. He made nature submit to him. That’s how it was at first.

The Stockbroker was right; Martin knew it. Considering the number of people moving to Nashville each year, the farm was ideal for a subdivision. His kids will make a fortune.

A developer will buy up the place, bring in bulldozers and scrape everything my wife and I ever did into a pile and burn it, house, outbuildings, fruit trees, all the landscaping, all of it. You can’t blame anybody. Nobody needs a farm.

“This sun is too hot for you.” Martin can tell by the way his son is standing with his hands on his hips that he is exasperated. “You should have planted them this morning, so you could rest up in the heat of the day.”

“I’m fine, really,” Martin says. He doesn’t tell him that he had to soak the roots for hours before the trees would be ready to plant nor does he mention the time he devoted to studying the placement of the trees, weighing potential sunshine and drainage patterns and the proximity of neighboring trees.

The Stockbroker offers to help him place the trees and pack the soil in around them, but he is wearing a suit and tie, and Martin urges him not to get dirty. “I have to mix the soil I removed with the compost and fertilizer to plant them properly,” he assures him. “I have all day.”

This is the kind of project that Martin liked to take his time with.

Somewhere back in time, somewhere in between school plays, cub scouts, his trial practice in Nashville, his vegetable garden and Em’s flower beds, Martin learned to live with nature. He continued to impress his vision on the acreage around their home, but he began to work with nature. He learned to set aside habitat, to grow plants desired by butterflies and bees, to plant things for the pleasure of watching them grow and to stop cursing the deer who raided his vegetable garden.
“Promise me that you will think about what I said,” his son says, and Martin knows that he is leaving.

Martin waved goodbye and leaned on his shovel, watching his son’s car stop at the end of the driveway while The Stockbroker sent the required text to his sisters out of state.

The water in the 5-gallon buckets is heavy, and Martin has to stoop while walking to keep from sloshing it out.

On his second trip from the faucet, Martin dragged his right toe through the grass and fell. He lay there for a few minutes to catch his breath and get over the shock of hitting the ground chest first without his hands to brace against the fall. He took stock of his bones and began summoning the exertion he would need to get up. For a moment though, he ran his fingers through the grass like it was a lover’s hair and smelled the musty wholesomeness of the dirt and the pungent greenness of grass growing from it.

Beats the smell of an old blanket any day.

His son is right about him leaving, but Martin knows that. He thinks of that television commercial about a guilt-free woman searching for a “Place for Mother”: a place, some place to put that parent long past her expiration date.

I have a place; it is here. That may change someday, but that’s the future. For the present, my place is here.

Martin got up off the ground; it wasn’t pretty to watch, but after the wallowing, the grunting and the lurching, he up righted himself.

There is something else he did not tell his son. He planted time capsules down deep in three of the holes he dug. Each capsule contained a crisp $20 bill and photocopies of articles he’d shrink-wrapped about the country’s pervasive political corruption, mind boggling social absurdities and McCarthyite censorship of political dissent. He included a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Somebody ought to know, he told himself. He threw in assorted old stamps, trinkets, coins, foreign and domestic, family photographs, some stone spear points and pocket-sized King James Bibles. Just in case they kill religion. And in case he was not reaching into the future hard enough, Martin wrote a letter to the finders of his time capsules describing what he’d learned about his farm and himself.

To make sure the capsules were not readily discovered when developers put their dozer blades to the top soil and began their ravages, Martin buried them extra deep.

Because of the limestone, they don’t dig basements in this part of the state if they can avoid it. I can work with that.

He dug the hole for each tree deep and wide with a shovel. Then, he used his posthole diggers to dig down much deeper in the center until he had a narrow shaft almost three feet deep.

I will surely be long dead when these are found, but I know this; the person spilling the contents of my time capsule onto his table top will be forced to recognize, as I said in the last line of my letters: “I learned to live. And, I lived.”


Michael Gigandet from U.S. is a lawyer living on a farm in middle Tennessee. He has been published by the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Reedsy, ActiveMuse, Spelk Fiction, OrangeBlushZine, Transfigured and Potato Soup Journal. He has published stories in collections by Palm Sized Press, Pure Slush and Down In The Dirt.


Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occasionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.