SOIL: The Sacred Soil of the Argyle Gargoyle By Maggie Robertson

Maggie Robertson
Week 2: Soil
Word Count 497

The Sacred Soil of the Argyle Gargoyle

Sarah was eager with anticipation in spite of herself. She was at that age between child-like enthrallment and adolescence-fueled embarrassment with her family. Today was the day for the family’s spring ritual. Her father, Kyle, was doing the first tilling in their large market garden, the tractor moving slowly along as the rear-mounted tiller woke up fragrant, rich soil.
Sarah, her seven siblings, and her parents stood at the heads of their respective loam runways. The noon church bell rang up from the valley, and with the first chime the ten family members pitched full speed down the three-hundred-foot rows, their bare feet reveling in the soft, cool soil, their rhythmic strides adding a muffled backbeat to the music of the Earth. On this particular day, Sarah thought that music sounded like banjos. She ran faster.
She was confused by her conflicting emotions. These moments of family ritual brought joy and a sense of fresh-air freedom, but she was mortified to be seen in public with her parents.
Sarah’s mother, Katherine, refused to wear a bra. Her clothes were usually splattered with her latest project, and had holes in unfortunate places. She sang out loud in public, and talked to the canned goods in the grocery store.
And her father, well, it wasn’t so much his hunched and gnarled features (the result of an unfortunate accident somehow involving a reticent llama and a grain drill), but he insisted on wearing garish argyle sweaters, loud enough to wake the neighbors. Once in a town meeting, someone arguing with him referred to him as “The Argyle Gargoyle” and Kyle adopted the moniker for himself.
Still, they commanded respect for their remarkable talent to grow vegetables. Sarah could not understand the success of her parents’ crop rotation. Rather than rotating families of vegetables to avoid disease and pests, her parents planted peas with parsnips, potatoes, and peppers. They planted their turnips with tomatoes, carrots with cauliflower and corn; their beans grew alongside beets, broccoli, and Brussels Spouts. It defied any sense of logic Sarah could fathom.
She recalled how people came from miles around, and even neighboring states, to listen to her father talk about the sacred nature of soil: “that from which all things come, and into which all things go.” They seemed to hang on his every word as he expounded on sound soil structure and Earth elements. He talked about managing manure, micronutrients, and marvelous minerals. He cited copious compost combating clay concerns. Kyle told of tender tilling, loving life and loam, and much about marvelous, magnificent mycelium. (At which point Katherine remarked that he was a fun guy with a keen sense of humus.)
Sarah’s thoughts shifted to her seven siblings running in the adjacent rows: Samantha, Samuel, Stephen, Stephanie, Susanna, Sophia, Seth… and something clicked. Her reverie broke.
She reached the end of her row as the last chime sounded and the terrible truth dawned on her. Sarah was the child of alliterate farmers.