The Parsley Garden

A boy, a hammer, an everyday herb create a coming-of-age story

| February/March 1999

  • Illustration by Ann Sabin Swanson

One day in August, Al Condraj was wandering through Woolworth’s without a penny to spend when he saw a small hammer that was not a toy but a real hammer, and he was possessed with a longing to have it. He believed it was just what he needed by which to break the monotony and with which to make something. He had gathered some first-class nails from Foley’s Packing House where the boxmakers worked and where they had carelessly dropped at least fifteen cents’ worth. He had gladly gone to the trouble of gathering them together because it had seemed to him that a nail, as such, was not something to be wasted. He had the nails, perhaps a half pound of them, at least two hundred of them, in a paper bag in the apple box in which he kept his junk at home.

Now, with the ten-cent hammer he believed he could make something out of box wood and the nails, although he had no idea what. Some sort of a table perhaps, or a small bench.

At any rate he took the hammer and slipped it into the pocket of his overalls, but just as he did so a man took him firmly by the arm without a word and pushed him to the back of the store into a small office. Another man, an older one, was seated behind a desk in the office, working with papers. The younger man, the one who had captured him, was excited and his forehead was covered with sweat.

“Well,” he said, “here’s one more of them.”

The man behind the desk got to his feet and looked Al Condraj up and down. “What’s he swiped?”

“A hammer.” The young man looked at Al with hatred. “Hand it over,” he said.

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