Fanny by Michael Beadle

It was sure to be a punchline at neighborhood parties if they ever found out what she unearthed in her backyard. Newly divorced, Mrs. Lillian Thompson was now Miss West, as her students would soon learn to call her. Lily to her new friends at the yoga studio. She’d moved into a brick ranch house on a cul-de-sac one cold Friday morning in March. By Sunday, she’d stuffed the last of her packing boxes in the recycling bin and surveyed the backyard.

The previous owners had left a garden in shambles, but the raised beds were still intact. A short plastic fence held back dead weeds and vines. Like an archeologist, she worked meticulously sorting out the original intentions of the space. With a rake, shovel and trowel, she scraped and dug up pot shards, plastic sheeting, rotten tubing that looked like bits of moldy macaroni. A thatched metal fence buried under wet leaves. Rows of earth where vegetables once grew. Lily imagined cheery signs in chubby letters: green beans, carrots, tomatoes and squash.

Beside a patch of thistle she’d wrestled up in a spray of loose dirt. The earth bulged with something hard she couldn’t dig out. A ceramic bowl? Turtle shell? Wiping away the leaves and dirt, she found a cleft in stone, a slight part down the middle, sculpted curves that gave her pause. A butt? Yep, two cheeks, sunny side up.
Who would leave such a thing? Part of a statue? Where was the rest of it—buried in some shallow grave?

Lily thought of painting each cheek a bright color or maybe spray-painting it with a golden sheen like those Buddha statues in her old neighborhood. No, she’d leave it in the original gray, polish it off and buy a bag of shiny pebbles to place around the mound with a half-circle of new pansies.

It became her garden shrine. A place to meditate, to call upon the Feminine Divine. Lily had been reading so much about the Mother Goddess, her many names and powers. Surely it was no coincidence she’d found this stone, an homage to the female form. Demeter’s derriere in the dirt. Hecate’s holy hind. A gift from Rhea, titan goddess of fertile soil.

What would she call this sacred stone? Lily never cared for ass (too much a reminder of her ex-husband, his snarly tone). Gluteus maximus, sounded like some pompous Roman senator. Not heinie or tushie. Those were names little kids gave stuffed animals. Keister felt awkward as well, the sort of word your uncle used to describe a piece of junk. Lily settled on Fanny, a soft word, gentle even, with a little old-fashioned charm.

By spring, the garden was lush with crisp leaves and bright flowers. Herbs bursting in abundance. Raised beds full of parsley, lavender, sage, oregano, basil. Signs noted sections of kale, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans. A hand-painted post read “Fanny’s Garden.” Cleaned and tended regularly, the sacred stone in the middle was more than yard art, she would tell neighbors who cared to comment.

It’s not some random piece of ass, she would tell them. Not the tail that gets chased or laughed at by men who never outgrow boyhood. No, this Fanny was a seat of power. Bold and bare, round and firm. Its beautiful curve shone in the wet dark earth like a new moon rising. Some nights, Lily would sit beside Fanny, whisper to her, place a hand on the weathered stone, and kiss each cheek.

Michael Beadle is a poet, author and touring writer-in-residence living in Raleigh. A former journalist and magazine editor, he is the author of nine books, including Beasts of Eden (Press 53), which was a finalist for the Roanoke-Chowan Book Award for Poetry.  He recently won first place in the 2020 Ruth Moose Flash Fiction Contest.