It is something new; something inchoate and precious. Mary does not want it but Lia does, so they keep it, nestled in a shoebox lined with items from the rag bag that Mary had planned to use to bind the tomato truss to the fence. Lia wants to call it Charley, but Mary thinks it is bad luck to name something that may not live. Lia says that everyone deserves a name. Mary says its mother may have already named it before she was crushed beneath the rear driver’s side car wheel for all eternity. Lia wants to say that animals do not name their offspring, but she is not sure so she says nothing.
Charley’s breath is like a rusty gate. It is like Mary’s grandfather’s breath before the machines took over breathing for him and he wept like a child, clawing at the endotracheal tube every time he came out of sedation. Lia thinks Charley is looking better. The way his tiny eyes shudder open every couple of minutes, she says this is a good sign. Mary wants to hold Lia, to force back the world with the wrap of her arms, but she knows she can’t do this any more. Instead, she makes them both tea, milky and lukewarm the way Lia likes it. Lia places her mug near Charley as if the ceramic will radiate love and restore his tiny quivering body.
Charley does not live long. Only Mary cries, which embarrasses them both. Lia says deep down she was expecting this and this is why she has no tears but Mary can tell she is startled by her own stoicism. They bury Charley in the corner of the backyard, not far from where Mary will fix the tomato truss now that the plants are beginning to shoot. After the burial, Mary rinses the dirt from the trowel while inside Lia continues to pack her half of the world into boxes.