The shovel stood in the corner of a small room. It was not a new tool. In fact it was quite old and warn. But it was still quite strong and serviceable. A well kept working shovel. Oiled regularly to keep rust at bay. Kept indoors so neither harm or thievery should come its way.
It stood waiting for work again. Many tools stood idle in the little village these days as fever swept through cottage after cottage.
The shovel had been left there when the man it belonged to fell ill. And as with most good tools, work would come again. Slowly at first but soon back to strength.
Days later, the man sat bent over the table eating his evening meal. The man was, thou not young, still quite strong. As with most folks he suffered little from the illness now that it was past. The lone candle on the table flickered for a moment and the fire in the fireplace breathed.
“Must be windy out tonight.” the man mumbled to the seemingly empty room. He resumed eating his meal and thinking of the next days work ahead. “That patch by the elm tree in the side yard needs digging for a special planting. I found a lovely sweet rose bush in the woods I‘ll be moving it tomorrow.”
An old tired cat uncurled from her place on the hearth rug. She looked at the man so obviously disturbed from her sleep that the man laughed.
“Old Thing,” For the cat never did have a proper name. “You are the only thing left in the world that brings me joy these days, but I’m not going out of my way for you tonight. My muscles are sore now from those idle days in bed.”
He got up from the table and said to the cat, “Here, have the rest of my stew. I’ve a lot of work waiting me in the morning.”
The cat slowly worked her way to the table top and ate what was left to her as the man made ready for his well earned rest.
The man, a day worker who was well known to be very good with plants and his tenderness to the village’s children, worked the tough old patch of ground. He broke up the clumps of sod and weeds with his pick ax and went about prying out the larger stones with his pry bar. He placed the stones on the barrow to later add them to the back stone wall surrounding the chapel grounds on the other side of the lane from where his cottage stood. He looked up for a moment and saw Joseph Winston coming toward him at a goodly pace.
“Not good ground for planting much, Jake.” Said Mr. Winston as he approached.
Jake didn‘t look up from his work. “Still, it suits the propose.” was Jacob Mathers reply.
“Lily or Rose?” Mr. Winston barked rather than asked with little interest.
“Well, see that its finished right quick and with little fuss. There is another patch needs tending over by the chapel door. And be sure to give that one your best attentions. And mind you do not bruise the lily bulbs there. Parson Rankin will show you the spot.”
Jake nodded and continued to pry open a hole in the ground.
“Well, see that you are smart about it.” was Mr. Winston’s parting remark.
Old Thing came out of the dappled shade of the trees behind the cottage, shuffling through the autumn leaves collecting on the ground to sit by and watch Jake work.
“You don’t like that man much either, do you?” Jake asked the cat. “Treats most folks like his most unworthy servant.”
The cat made a face, yawned, and resumed watching.
“This patch will get every bit of attention that I give the chapel patch if I have anything to do with it, even if it is smaller and less significant to the likes of him.” And Jake bent his back into his work as he shoveled out the earth to make room for the towns sweetest little flower.
With his barrow full of stones Jake moved to place them on the wall and then he rolled his barrow and tools round and up to the chapel garden patch. There were no children playing about at the moment to give a small ride to on his barrow. The children were still sick he supposed. He sighed and looked for the parson so he could get on with his work. Jake would finish the patch on the far side of the wall later, once the day cooled again.
Parson Alan Rankin was a dull and pompous old fool of a man. But with him came prestige and money so he was welcomed into the town and treated as a long standing member. Parson Rankin was overseeing Jake’s work by the chapel door path at the moment. Something he had never done before.
“Could you make the line on the right a little straighter. The bishop is coming to the memorial.” The parson squeaked like a rusty hinge. No one slept through one of Rankin’s sermons. His voice kept all but the deafest parishioners awake. And the hearing kept the deaf awake to suffer along.
The parson continued, “His Eminence is a relative of the deceased. Distant I believe, but still a relative. I must look up the family connections before he arrives. Don’t want to irritate a good man of such importance as the bishop by not knowing the facts.” He turned to go, but then turned back adding. “Nice straight lines.” again for a fourth time since he arrived.
Jake was glad to see the parson’s back retreat into the chapel moments later.