Copyright Steve Emery - all rights reserved
The shovel, hung high on the wall beside the sleeping rake, looked down in the gloom at the trowels.
"Shhhhh, young ones," he hissed softly. "You'll wake your elders."
The trowels fell nearly still, with only an occasional muffled giggle to betray their location in the shadows.
"I wish I'd been properly cleaned before being put to bed," complained the spading fork for the hundredth time.
The shovel rolled his eyes. "If it's any comfort, the only clean tool in the shed is the unused Dutch bulb planter."
"And at least we're dry," added the fifty year old edging tool.
"Thank goodness they found me and cleaned me up before the snow set in," added the hedge shears, which had been left out for weeks beside the beech thicket. "I can still taste the sharpening stone and oil. Mmmmm."
The trowels all giggled at this, and mimicked the shears' sound of delight followed by a quiet belch. This set half the tools in the shed chuckling at the crude humor.
"Shhhh," said the shovel again, cautioning them all to whisper. He gestured towards the old rake.
The rake continued to snore softly, dreaming of small potatoes caught between her tines. The earth was warmer than the air, and smelled of the complex commerce of worms and microbes. Above the bed the wind whistled in the nearly bare maple branches, but below the rich loam it was still summer, a dream of warm days past, a dream within a dream. With a start she woke, and began to cry.
"Don't cry!" "What is it, dear." "Tell us your troubles, old woman."
"It was such a lovely dream," she said, drying her eyes.
Outside the winter wind whined over the shed roof. Inside, in the gloom, the rake told her dream. Then each tool reminisced in turn about their favorite sensation of the previous year. The axe spoke of the first bite into the sour flavor of walnut wood and the startling explosive feeling of splitting tulip poplar logs. The shovel mourned the loss of another quarter inch of edge, rubbed off on the concrete drive while moving tons of dirt and manure. The trowels compared all the different hands which had used them that summer, and what those hands had worn. The mower growled about grass which had gotten too thick and tall, remarking that more frequent mowing would have been better for everyone, including the gardener, who had often ended up holding his back and groaning. All the tools agreed that the gardener had done a deal of moaning, complaining and cursing in their midst.
"As if there were no one listening," sniffed the red handled trowel. One of the others made a rude noise and did a perfect imitation of the gardener's spluttering manner, running on about the shovel which had broken a third handle while digging up day lilies for dividing.
"Shhhh!" said the shovel on the wall. "Don't remind him."
On the potting bench was the head of the other shovel, with his neck still choked by the butt end of the broken handle. None of the tools knew whether the gardener would try a fourth handle or give up on the shovel altogether. It was a sobering thought, and they all pondered it in silence.
Eventually they all drifted off to sleep, the old rake snoring softly, the trowels restless as children, and the tree saw grinding his teeth. They dreamed of spring and the gardener's warm hands and warm words when he reached for them for the first time in the new season. The watering cans dreamed of cool water sprinkling hopefully on rows of newly planted seeds and into holes in preparation for perennials. The work gloves drifted in and out of dreams of mulch and wheat straw. The shovel fell asleep last, looking at his fellow on the bench. He dreamed that the gardener fitted a smaller handle and gave the other shovel over to his children, to start another generation of gardeners. His smiling snores joined the others in the earthy cold of the wintry potting shed.