Only the small snow piles at the street corners were still witnesses
of last winter. It was typical spring weather and the yet weak
sun rays would soon have melted the remaining snow too. The meadows
were shining with fresh green and buds sprang from the bald branches
of the trees and bushes. Crocuses and snowdrops rose in strong
colors from the ground of the yards in a suburb of Detroit.
Let's turn to the frustrated hobby gardener Edward Vandel whose
house was located in said suburb and whose garden didn't want
to host the splendor of the spring flowers. The trampled lawn
was more brown than green and he was embarrassed because everybody
who went down the street also saw his yard.
Mr. Vandel sat in his armchair in the living room and read a magazine
about gardening and plants that he subscribed too. He was hoping
for useful tips inside. He wasn't interested in the advertisements
for lawn mowers, electric hedge shears and other inexpensive gardening
tools. What plants should he have planted with those anyway? There
was an article about seedlings that can be planted in the current
season. Well, then in the center of the magazine was the "Tip
Of The Month" column by some experienced, former gardener
which caught his attention. Specifically one paragraph caught
his eye, it said: If one's plants don't grow quite right, one
should use ashes as fertilizer because ash, regardless what kind,
contained important nutrients and would be more efficient and
better for the environment than commercial fertilizer.
Unfortunately he didn't own a wood stove or a fireplace or something
else that would produce ashes on a regular basis. In the basement
though he still had some leaves stored from last fall. Next to
the compost pile he made a fire. It smoked so intensely that he
feared complaints from his neighbors but after a quarter of an
hour a nice pile of ashes remained from the smoke and leaves and
he distributed it across the flower beds right away. It was enough
for starters and hopefully he success would show in two or three
days. He planned to produce a good supply of ashes the next day
as he intended to fertilize his beds every other day.
In the coming days he asked around for yard clippings and the
like. He offered to be the voluntary taker of their garbage so
as not to give them the idea to charge money for it.
After a week there still was little success. At least here and
there a green tip peeked out of the ground. Edward Vandel needed
more ashes to supply the demand of his protégés.
His own and the neighbors' yard waste was all used up. According
to the saying "it costs nothing to ask", he remembered
a shady great-uncle who, yes, who worked in a crematorium. Although
it seemed a little far-fetched to him, he reached for the telephone
and dialed a number in Winnipeg. A Bertrand Vandel picked up at
the other end. In the background was the sound of machinery, more
exactly ovens... Edward described his problem and asked for the
delivery of ashes. After a few silent seconds the called suddenly
broke out in laughter. As he had composed himself again, he joked:
"You are kidding, aren't you?" He must have laughed
tears because he sobbed and then giggled slyly.
"No, I am serious about what I'm saying. It just might be
that every once in a while you have a dead deer or run-over rabbit
to cremate. Or maybe a useless bum that bit the big one. I'm sure
know one will care about someone like that. Just send me the ashes.
I'm sure you still have my address." And since Bertrand Vandel
was what was called a sly old devil, he agreed willingly and hung
Already four days later a large but light-weight package from
Winnipeg arrived. Edward Vandel opened it outside, already in
his gardening clothes. The gray-black ash spread an unpleasant
smell and he sprinkled it on the flower beds immediately. It was
just enough to cover each bed. Happily he returned to the house
and read a magazine.
The next morning, after a warm and humid night, green tips poked
through the gray layer. Edward was perplexed and hope for a quick
follow-up delivery from his great-uncle. It arrived in the evening.
A note was attached; it read: "Milly Potter and Amy Potter."
The meaning of it eluded him. He sprinkled the ashes right away.
As he went outside the next day, the little flowers already had
developed small leaves and he was pleased. All day long he worked
in the garden that got increasingly beautiful. The people who
walked past his yard now would be surprised. The next package
arrived Saturday. Again, a note was attached. "Richley Hoggin,
Joseph Harrison and Ethel" was scribbled in black ink. Edward
was only interested in the flower food. After his coffee break
he went to work. With an old shovel he spread out the ashes. When
he was done he watered the flowers. He threw away all of the various
water-soluble fertilizers that never were any good. Now he left
for the station of the regional train and boarded a train to Detroit
in order to go shopping. He visited several gardening stores.
In each one he picked up brochures about almost anything that
was related to gardening and plants. With a heavy bag under his
arm he returned home. He even bought a bag of pansy seeds. At
home he believed that the flowers had already grown a little more.
Wednesday, when there already were buds on the flowers, the next
package arrived. This time the attached note was longer and written
in regular blue ink and an easy-going tone: "Your wish is
our command! I'm sure you have already figured out that the names
on the little notes are the names of the people whose ashes you
pour on your plants. Some were bums and hobos but other people
too, ha, ha! Today I give you Jane Canes and Evan Ferrier. I am
not taking any responsibility because it all happened on your
request. Have fun taking care of your garden!"
Edward Vandel grew pale after he had read the supposedly humorous
note. The way he remembered his great-uncle he believed every
word of it. He ran outside where the buds had already turned into
shiny red, blue and yellow flowers...
A resident reported that he suddenly saw his neighbor burst into
flames and roll around in a flower bed. He had called the police
and fire department immediately but by the time they arrived Edward
Vandel was already dead and halfway cremated too. His ashes laid
on the flower bed and the next day wonderful, black-blue flowers
grew. Why he had set himself on fire, no one knew.
Copyright © January 1981, Wasty, Dung For The Flowers
German title: Asche
Reading time: approx. 6 minutes
Last updated February 12, 2001 by Martin Mathis, e-mail lastbandit.com