Excerpt from The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Garden of Small Beginnings

by Abbi Waxman

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman X
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
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    May 2017, 368 pages


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I answered the question calmly. "We're going to learn how to grow a garden."

"I already know how to grow things." Clare was excited. "We do it at school."

I looked at her, quickly, over my shoulder. "You do?"

She nodded. Annabel confirmed. "The little kids have a garden in the playground. We see them out there digging in the dirt."

"I kissed a worm." That's the thing about Clare, she's shy.

"Did he kiss you back?"

She laughed. "Mom! Worms aren't he's. They're both girls and boys!"

Huh. Score one for the Los Angeles public school system.

"Yes, they're hermaphrodites." Annabel clarified.

"No, they're boys and girls." Clare wasn't going to let her sister one-up her.

We were nearly at the street. "Well, anyway, we're starting this weekend, and it's going to be fun. Aunty Rachel is going to take the class with us."

"Can I get back to you?" Annabel apparently needed to consult with her people.

"Well, I'm doing it." Clare didn't need permission from anyone.

We parked in front of the house, and I let the kids out, stepping back to avoid the small cascade of car crap that fell out when the door slid back. You could always tell where I'd parked: granola-bar wrappers, a small, bent straw from a juice box, a grubby wipe. Mommy droppings. I imagined a Native American tracker crouching low on the sidewalk: "Middle-aged, plump woman, heading south, surrounded by young." He would straighten and shake his majestic head pityingly. "Moving slowly."

As I shut the car door, I noticed broken car-window glass in the gutter and instantly wondered if it had been there since my husband's accident. It hadn't, of course, but images of that day often flickered into my mind without being invited. Broken glass. A car door slamming suddenly. Coffee spilled on the street, still steaming. The sound of emergency voices distorted by static.

They had come very quickly when Dan had been killed, although I hadn't heard the sirens. I was standing in the kitchen, replaying the argument we had been in the middle of, as it happened, saying all the things I had meant to say. It had been a hissing morning argument, where we'd gone to bed angry, woken up still angry, and then had to put it on infuriating hold while he took the kids to school.

"I'll be back," were his last words, but not in a pleasant, don't-worry way, but more in a Terminator, this-argument-isn't-done way. Not that it mattered. It wasn't true anyway, and never would be.

I cut back to today and watched the kids get out of the car in that jumping-falling way little kids do, then I reached into the backseat to get backpacks, art projects, and stray shoes. I could hear our Labrador, Frank, barking as I walked to the door, and he greeted us enthusiastically, checking the kids for food, then scooting his fat butt across the rug.

"Frank has worms again, Mom," announced Annabel, Child Veterinarian, turning on the TV.

"Maybe he just has an itchy bottom," suggested Clare. "It happens."

I sighed and started emptying the dishwasher. The dog has worms. Clare needs a filling in a baby tooth because I'm a bad mother and give her sugar. My sister wants dinner. Meanwhile, I haven't had a haircut in five months and have started to resemble Cousin Itt. Cousin Itt was a blonde, of course, whereas I am more of an indeterminate brown, but still. I caught sight of my reflection in the kitchen window and for a minute thought I was my mother. Fantastic.

An hour or so later, my sister walked in. "You're starting to look a little like Cousin Itt, did you know that?" She put the grocery bags on the counter and picked up Clare, who was squealing about the dog and his worms. "Wait, who has worms? You have worms?" She looked at Annabel. "Do you have worms, too?"

Excerpted from The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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