The Caretaker

There was, once upon a time, a garden.  It had the loveliest flowers, born of a time when the air was sweeter, the rain purer, and the magic deeper.  A time when, of course, the flowers could talk.
            For such a garden, a caretaker would reside in a nearby house, whose work it was to weed and water, plant and prune, and generally hear what it was the flowers had to say.  And all went well, until the caretaker decided he was uninterested in the words of flowers.  The purpose of so exquisite a garden, it came to his mind, was for looks and accolades from passing acquaintances—and there was nothing that could be learned from listening to the flowers.  And though he did not notice, the flowers, in being ignored, began to droop.
            Until, that was, a young girl happened upon the garden one moonlit night.
            The child was sickly and pale, courtesy of a home of cruel words and harsh beatings.  And when she came upon such a beautiful garden, she lay amid the flowers on her back, and let herself rest, for it was between their stalks and petals that she felt safe.  When day came, and the caretaker began his duties, she hid in the shrubbery, ducking out after he passed by to pull weeds that he had missed and healing branches that had been pruned too severely.  This she did day after day.  And by night, she earned the flowers’ friendship, for she listened to their words, and repaid in kind with stories she had learned at the knee of a mother, now in the company of the angels, who had loved her long ago.
            As the days passed, the caretaker noticed that the garden was blooming better than it ever had before—and his work done faster, too.  He began to take his ease, until one day, he did nothing.  Seeing that the flowers were just as beautiful, he decided he had done enough gardening for a lifetime; and at long last he could take all the credit for the beautiful garden without any work at all.
            All the while, the child performed his gardening labors, and went about her work tending and conversing with her flower friends day in and day out.  And such was the magic of the garden, that the longer the girl worked in it, the stronger and healthier she became.
            But so too was the garden’s magic that with each passing day the caretaker, who did no more work, grew more and more faint.  Until, one day, he had faded away entirely and was no more.
            Then the job and home of the caretaker fell into the hands of the child, all of which she and the flowers relished with great joy.  And all was well and full of small, wondrous moments, for a long while, until she grew up… but that is a story for another time.

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