Titus was a poet, a good one, or at least a fair one. He spent his time arranging themes and meters, he crafted his lines, he adjusted his syllables. He tended continuously the flowers of his garden, which was a simple folder filled with pages and scraps of paper scribbled with the substance of his soul, if there was such a thing. Titus labored over his words as any stonemason would labor over blocks of marble; he struggled as any artist would struggle over any particular shade or hue. Most importantly, Titus loved his garden like a lover, for it completed him—or at least he convinced himself that it did.
It was a secret garden of flowers and blossoms that Titus alone could appreciate, and this was a struggle that lasted the duration of his life. Titus felt, on the one hand, that he wanted to share his poems with all the world, to proclaim them from the tops of all the mountains on the earth. He believed that poetry should be shared, that it should be given freely for the joy of others and for the inspiration it would lend to their endeavors. And he understood the value of a word—enough, at least, to feel his poetry would not be mocked, which would break his heart.
On the other hand, Titus wanted none of it. He wanted neither the recognition nor the attention, and found it laughable and embarrassing that anyone would ever want to read his sloppily-cobbled poems. Besides, nobody cared about poetry anymore, anyway. Who did he think he was?
Fortunately, these latter moods did not descend often to embrace him in their gloomy manifold appendages. They stalked just outside his door, pacing, listening, waiting patiently for the occasional invitation to come in and warm themselves by the embers of the dying fire.
Regardless of his spirit's condition at any given moment, the poet's folder—which, incidentally, bore the title The Garden—remained untouched by both the sunlight and the spirits of others.
The Garden grew thicker as the years grew thick upon Titus, and as he matured, he continued to toil over his phrases and his stanzas and his quatrains and his sestinas. Surely, I must be a better poet now, he thought to himself after many years of assiduous practice, and he had a similar thought after many years more.
Titus had a secret, and he took it with him to the grave. It was nothing vulgar or obscene or cruel. He had committed no crime. In fact, for the length of his days, Titus had never so much as torn a branch from a tree or trampled a flower. It also wasn't as much of a secret as it was a secret wish. Titus wished that when he finally did succumb from whatever it was that would one day introduce him to gaunt, hooded Death, someone would find The Garden and publish it posthumously. Titus wished that the right person would have the right reaction to reading its pages, and make it their own labor to organize and publish it as a volume, bring it to the people. He didn't even mind if they changed the title. Titus spent a great deal of time meditating upon this, and finally decided that it would be the best way for him to both offer the fruits of his labors to the world, and to not be present to suffer the criticism that would surely follow.
As the years continued in their endless rolling, and Titus began thinking more and more of the shadow looming outside his dirty window—scratching now on the glass as the old man shuffles across the cold floor to fetch another blanket—he began to consider his secret wish more and more. Titus moved The Garden, which was now overflowing with the abundance of his life's work, from the middle drawer of his desk to the top of the desk. He thought of leaving a note, but was afraid that by doing so he would hasten the inevitable; and Titus had more poetry yet in him, more tales to tell. He was not ready. So he waited.
The inevitable finally did occur one rainy day in June a few years later. Titus left without kicking or pounding or complaining, and though he had never gotten around to leaving his note or his letter petitioning the finder of The Garden to release it to the world, the bulging folder was just as Titus had left it: on the center of the desk beneath a paperweight lest some evil wind creep in and scatter the pages to the four corners of the earth.
Indeed, someone did find it: his sister, Anna, when she came to the grim task of going through her deceased brother's things. She recalled affectionately that Titus had always loved to write as she tossed the folder into a box alongside the other contents of the desk drawers. She wondered for a moment if any of it was any good as she taped the box closed and carried it out to her car alongside the others. Anna drove home, debating whether she felt like cooking tonight or ordering take-out.
The inevitable followed Anna into oblivion after a respectful time, and the pages of The Garden yellowed and curled at the edges in her hot, dry attic. Anna's widower decided soon after that he could not remain in a house stuffed full of memories, so he moved down to Florida. His daughter helped clean out the house when it was sold and ended up taking the box labeled “Titus—Desk” unopened.
A small fire started in her basement some months later—some oily rags left out by her idiot husband. Don't be alarmed. The fire was put out before it could do much damage. Only a few things were lost: a couple of boxes that came from Uncle Titus' house, part of a moldy couch, and a box of Christmas decorations, but nothing important, thank God.