We’re excited to announce the publication of a new Ploughshares Solo: “The Trench Garden” by L.C. Fiore. The Ploughshares Solos series allows us to publish long essays and stories in a digital format. Recent Ploughshares Solos include “This Blue” by Aurelie Sheehan and “The Outside Passage” by Brendan Jones. Visit our website to see all the Ploughshares Solos.
As the Second World War rages in Europe, two undergraduates in Tennessee work a summer job for a celebrated poetry professor, W. T. Harlan, as he supervises the clearing of a ravine to make a garden. At their side is a German POW, watched by a military guard, who has been sent to help them with their task.
One of the boys, Benjamin Mason, is from a wealthy family and aspires to be a poet; the other, Steven Darby yearns simply to escape his corner of America and explore the world. As they work, they will get to know the German soldier next to them and the brilliant, unhappy W. T. Harlan.
By the end of the summer, through the experience of war, poetry, and tragedy, all of their lives will be transformed.
An excerpt from the Solo:
He and the German were transplanting flowers that had been driven up from Cowan. They knelt beside one another, the prisoner separating and stringing out the roots of primrose and iris while Darby dug shallow holes. He reached for the spade, leaning, and the German grabbed his arm.
“Was ist das?” the soldier asked.
He tried to recover, but the German gripped him tighter. Torben turned his arm and studied the inflamed skin, the cracked blisters, the hideousness that he had taken to calling, only partly in jest, his leprosy.
He made a sound like horse trainers make to coax their steeds. “Das ist Giftsumach. Er ist sehr schädlich.”
“It’s just poison ivy.”
The soldier maneuvered to his feet. He knocked dirt from his knees and tucked his shirt in tight behind his belt. Then he plunged into the nearby thicket. Darby followed, and found him crouched at the base of a black locust. Torben uprooted a tall, green plant with orange flowers. He pulled two more and then led Darby back into the clearing.
At the stream, the German laid the plants across a rock. Using his fingernail, he split each stem down the middle. Their centers oozed a sticky fluid. He gestured, and Darby presented his arms. Holding the stem apart, Torben rubbed the gooey substance across the rash. It took all three plants to cover the parts of his arms that burned. But Darby felt instant relief.
“Thank you,” he said.
The German flashed a smile—the first time Darby had seen him express an emotion of any kind. Thirty yards off, in a covering of trees, the MP stirred. Torben glanced past Darby’s shoulder, brushed his hands against his knees, and returned to work.
About the Author
L.C. Fiore’s debut novel, Green Gospel, was named First Runner-Up in the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards (General Fiction); short-listed for the 2011 Balcones Fiction Prize; and long-listed for the Crook’s Corner Book Prize (2013). His fiction has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, New South, storySouth, and Wascana Review, among many others, and has been anthologized in Sudden Flash Youth: 65 Short Short Stories (Persea Books, 2011) and Tattoos (Main Street Rag, 2012). An award-winning short-story writer and editor, his work has also appeared on NPR, TriQuarterly Review, and in various baseball publications. He is the communications director for the North Carolina Writers’ Network and lives in Durham, NC, with his wife and daughter. His website is www.lcfiore.com, and you can also follow him on Twitter: @lc_fiore.
Interested in submitting a story for the series?
If you have a longer story or essay — roughly 6,000 to 25,000 words — please read our guidelines and submit online. Make sure you select “Pshares Solos: Long Story/Novella” from the drop down box under “genre.”