Derrick Rose wandered a garden which he had never seen before. Where was he? How did he get here? It looked nice enough, with well-trimmed hedges around its perimeter, paths paved by flagstones winding through its wide array of botany, and an ornate fountain at its center. But there appeared to be no entrance or exit to the place, as if it existed as a singular entity in an otherwise void universe.
Finally, after walking down a path lined with willows that he was sure he had traversed before, he came across an old bearded man sitting on a bench. Happy to have made human contact in this place of unsettling tranquility, Derrick sat down next to the man.
“Welcome to my garden,” the man said in a quiet, gravelly, yet stout voice. “Do you like it?”
“It’s beautiful,” Derrick replied. “But I don’t understand…did you bring me here?”
The man chuckled and nodded, then got up with a swiftness that belied his apparent age. His tunic billowed behind him as he walked down the path. Derrick, having more questions for the man, followed. “Who are you?”
“I think trilliums would fit perfectly here, don’t you?” the man asked. “Oh! You asked me a question. Sorry, I am always thinking of ways to improve my garden. I am Father Injury, the forgotten cousin of Father Time.”
“I’ve never heard of you,” Derrick said as they took an unexpected left down a different path.
Father Injury shook his head in disappointment. “My cousin gets all the attention, and I get none,” he replied, before sighing. “Perhaps it is best. This way, nobody bothers me, and I get to work on my garden.”
“Why did you bring me here?”
Chuckling again, Father Injury answered, “Isn’t it obvious? Injuries have taken your career away from you. Or, one could say, I have taken your career away from you, for injuries and myself are one in the same.”
“But I’m injury-free and feeling great,” Derrick protested. “I don’t belong here!”
“Nonsense!” the old man barked in a voice much louder than before. “Father Injury does not make mistakes.” He took out a battered-looking, leather-bound notebook and began flipping through its pages. Leaning over to get a closer look, Derrick saw it was a list of names and their corresponding injuries.
“Rose…Rose…Rose…,” Father Injury muttered, dragging a wrinkled finger down the page to find the correct entry. Derrick didn’t remember ever telling the man his name, but remained silent on the matter. Finally, not finding Derrick’s name in his book, Father Injury shut it with impatient annoyance. “Fine! You may go.”
Remembering that there was no apparent way to leave the garden, Derrick was about to ask what the process for leaving actually was. However, just as the words were about to escape his mouth, he noticed the character of the garden changing: the trees above were losing their leaves, becoming more bent over and sickly; the petals of the flowers were graying and withering; the grass was turning brown; even the sky above became overcast. When Derrick next looked for Father Injury, he was nowhere to be seen, even though he couldn’t have moved fast enough to walk out of sight.
The light was dimming now; night was coming to the garden. In a surprisingly short amount of time, everything was black.
“Derrick! Derrick! Earth to Derrick!”
“Huh? What?” Derrick mumbled, suddenly becoming aware of a hand being waved in front of his face.
“Man, you really zoned out there,” Tyus Jones said. “Get your stuff. The bus is leaving.”
“Oh. Got it,” Derrick said, still feeling like he was in a daze. What had just happened to him? Had it been real? Then, he remembered how his name had been missing from Father Injury’s book, and smiled. It didn’t matter if it had been real. His health was real, and that was all that mattered.