The Monkey and the Fish

At the new house, I’ve had the pleasure of keeping a small garden. It’s therapeutic for me because it’s something that’s easy and rewarding to take care of.

Recently, I had overwatered the basil and it was getting a little droopy. So I opted to let the soil dry out for a few days.

guilty monkey

I think the monkey looks guilty, don't you? (image from

On this hot, sunny day, I come home to find the topsoil freshly moistened. I think that I must be imagining things, but I see that the seedlings were neglected (when I water, I really get those little guys), and the soil near the hose is also moist. I have not watered the garden in three days.

Who watered it? T doesn’t deal with the garden–the only person who could have done this would be a neighbor or passer-by who might have thought that the droopy plants were dried out instead of soggy, and took it upon themselves to help out by watering. On one hand, this is considerate, but on the other it is prideful and a bit controlling. This person thought that they knew my garden needed watering, and acted upon that idea. I appreciate the gesture, but in the end I had to do extra work because of it.

I’m irked, but it’s hard to be mad at someone who meant well. The overwatered plants were easy to transplant, and they’ll probably survive. All this fuss reminded me of an Eastern parable I picked up from James Shea while I was studying poetics. The translation varies, but it essentially goes like this:

Here, let me help you,
said the monkey
as he put the fish in the tree.

About abi nighthill

Abi has a BA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago.
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4 Responses to The Monkey and the Fish

  1. Tom DeRoma says:

    Just the other day I busted out “O snail / climb Mount Fuji / but slowly, slowly!” That is the second time I have used that haiku in the past year — James Shea, touching lives. I hope the basil survives; life is better with pesto in it.

    • abi stokes says:

      I forgot about that one! I keep returning to “Don’t worry, spider– / I keep house / casually.” (of course)

      I hope the basil survives, but if it doesn’t I have several more basil plants. I took a few leaves the other day for cooking, figuring that I might as well make use of them in case it does die.

      And the mintlings are doing well. I really want to see those do well because I rooted them myself.

  2. Becky Knopp says:

    I hate to think about it…but sometimes people walk their dogs and let them “water” whatever they want to…I can only hope that wasn’t what happened.

    • abi stokes says:

      Nah, It’s a raised bed and it was clearly directed at all the plants there. I think we figured out whodunnit though–turns out our maintenance guy dropped by this morning while we were both out. That’s far less weird/invasive if it was him.

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