Lucy was determined to thin out the daffodils, or weed them, or whatever one does to two solid acres of ancient bulbs suffering from years or even decades of neglect, but it was still too soon for her to fully realize the scope of this project, an epiphany that might have dissuaded her from starting it to begin with. The yard around the house looked at least respectable now that she had procured a sturdy enough mower at a tag sale, but the grass was so overgrown that the first time she tried mowing, she could push the rusty little machine forward only a foot or two at a time, backing up each time before redoubling her efforts and moving forward another foot. It stalled out again and again, but this job was simply too big, in all fairness to the mower; Lucy swore every time it choked to a halt, and then ripped and ripped at the pull cord before the motor finally sputtered and engaged again. Thus far she had encountered two sizeable black snakes, a single rat, one nest of yellow jackets (she managed to reach the front door before they did), innumerable bunnies covered in bloated ticks, and an endless supply of beggar’s lice that clung tenaciously and vexingly to her trousers and socks: As far as Lucy was concerned, beggar’s lice came from a plant that must have been about the most useless and bothersome in all of creation.
Charley stayed inside on these occasions, but now that Lucy was working on the bulbs, came outside and stayed by her side, attached to a tether anchored in the ground nearby: Charley thought this was about the best imaginable avocation in the world, a sentiment written all over her silly face. Sometimes she carried a cow femur outside with her to gnaw on, although Lucy rarely noticed this until they were a little ways down the hill, and other times busied herself digging the earth around her, a thing Lucy tried to discourage. In the end she finally relented to Charley. “Dogs will be dogs,” she said aloud; Charley wagged her tail enthusiastically.
Today was sunny and hot, the first day that truly felt like summer since Lucy arrived at Bran’s cottage, even though it was still spring. Puffy white clouds moving against the deep azure sky were a harbinger of the afternoon storm, an inevitability this time of year. Lucy started sweating in the cloying humidity almost the same instant she stooped down to her task, fondling the stout green jonquil stalks with one hand while she weeded with the other. The dense clay could be stubborn, but heavy rain the night before helped the soil yield to her sinewy arms without much fight as she yanked out weeds by their roots. She had not worked long before her trowel hit something hard in the clay, but this time instead of the smooth, round river rock she expected to find, a tiny object in the ground shimmered an iridescent blue-green as it caught the sunlight. Lucy used the trowel’s sharp tip to gently loosen the clay around it and worked it back and forth a few times before she could grasp and extract it.
“Oh!” Charley looked up and tilted her head quizzically, but then resumed the important work of femur gnawing. Lucy stood and brushed her hair from her face with the back of one hand, turning over a tiny, intact bottle in the other. It looked like an old pharmaceutical bottle, with a perfectly round lip and a maker’s mark that resembled a Greek letter, on the bottom . She rubbed away the damp soil to get a better look at it, and resolved to identify the mark later. “Huh.”
It was not too many minutes longer before she caught another sparkle in the soil, just a tiny flash, and again poked gingerly around it with her trowel. This thing was stuck tight, and vertically, and would take more effort to remove. It was not glass, but wire. Gently and methodically Lucy continued to nudge and cajole it from the ground, and soon held in her hands a pair of ancient spectacles—tiny oval frames, with lenses miraculously intact.
“Well I’ll be damned.” This time Charley stood up and stuck her nose high in the air get a fix on this remarkable little artifact, but soon lost interest in it and stretched her lean body in a perfect downward dog, holding her scabby rump high in the air. Lucy unclipped Charley from the tether and beckoned her inside the house, where she would stand at the kitchen sink for some time, rinsing more soil away from these two curiosities before finally settling in front of her laptop, with one small bottle and a pair of men’s eyeglasses at her elbow.