When I became an adult I got married, bought a house with a yard and learned to garden. I joined a gardening club. My husband says I’m desperate in everything I do. I left the house one day to go see the garden of one of our club members. She was retired. Her garden was beautiful, and she was teaching us about pruning. We all brought our hand pruners and got to try out everyone else’s. In broad daylight, I lopped off two branches of hydrangea before realizing my mistake. “You have to cut above the bud,” Anna said. “Don’t worry. Hydrangeas grow on dead wood.” I watched her trim the same branch down to the next bud and she said to me, “Like this? Now try on that other cane.” I did it and felt a little better. We went next to a row of Buxus sempervirens, shaped like balls along the ground. Anna showed us how to use gloved hands to feel for the shape, distinguish the new growth from the old, shear back the new growth from the top down to the correct shape and step back after every cut to check the overall form. We all got to feel the plant and its denseness, and touch the leaves and branches. She said not to be afraid of pruning because plants always grew back. I knew that since I was young, but could not believe it when even the carrot head I used to place in saucers of water would only grow briefly before dying. I knew that was because of a lack of nutrients. Anna’s carrots would always grow, I thought, and her hedges and bushes, trees and flowers. When I went home and struggled again with the dandelion roots in my garden, I thought that perhaps my carrots don’t grow, my bushes look spindly and half-dead, and my flowers bloom late because I am not fully adult yet. I told this to my husband when he got home from work. He said I was probably thinking too much and he could call a weed control company to come on the weekend. He forgot though, and I didn’t want to remind him.
I thought that to be a parent one has to learn first to love unconditionally, like we are told that parents must, towards their children. When I was young and stupid I asked my father: Dad, who do you love most. He said, Your mother of course. No, I said, me or Christa. How could I choose between you two, he said. I knew he could, though, because I had seen him give Christa a five-dollar bill when he thought I wasn’t looking, and grin and roll his eyes at her after he’s made a joke about how slow I always am, or complain to her about how he can never understand me and how I never make sense when I talk. At the time Christa said I was just being sensitive and I’m sure he says stuff about me, too, that’s just how he is.
It was Christa that Dad liked best, and it was Christa who Dad hated most when she started dating Ben. Ben was not rich, not from a good family, not trustworthy, the wrong height, the wrong job, smiled too much, social climbing bastard son of a bitch. Dad was wrong. Ben was kind, hardworking, attentive, everything good for Christa. Christa knew this, so she married him and they moved to Seattle where Ben’s new job was. She’s still there now. Because there was no one else, I became the favourite.
I got married to a nice guy that my dad liked. Two years later we’re divorced now. Between Jeremy and Olivia I can’t help but like Olivia more. So I give them both five-dollar bills. Dad also likes Olive more. I see Jem looking when Dad gives her a treat when he thinks no one is looking. I say to him, Don’t worry Jem, Mummy loves you very much. He said to me once, No you also like Olive better. Whenever I say that now he says nothing and runs to his room.
A girl grows up differently from a boy. While the boy is memorizing the names of dinosaurs, the girl goes to the grocery story with her mother who teaches her how to choose ripe, unblemished fruit. Later, as the girl’s husband picks apples without checking them for bruises, she will get angry and as he asks incredulously why it even matters, she will cry back, It matters, without fully understanding why.
Michael and Spider lived in a small house on Maple Street, two blocks from Kin’s Farm Market and four blocks from the bus stop for the number 7 going downtown. Michael had a little garden in which he grew tomatoes and radishes during the summer. Spider preferred the indoors, settling next to Michael’s bookshelf and lamp. She had a vague memory of living outside once, in some past life, but she could not remember how she had done it. Michael would leave the back door open to let in flies, and Spider would happily catch them. In the winter, Michael would sit in his kitchen, staring at the rain outside, while Spider wove snowflake shapes into her web. When Michael made coffee, the scent would waft through the house and make Spider’s feet itch. Spider sometimes had to resort to centipedes in the cold weather, but if Michael left fruit out until it began to rot, flies would breed in it. This made Spider happy, but not Michael. He would sigh at the molding fruit, let the stinking pile sit for a day or two as though it would disappear on its own, then throw it out reluctantly.
Michael liked spiders. He let other spiders live at his home if they came in, but Spider hated that. They were always small, black specks, or gangly thread-legged types that had no talent for web-building. They only made the house seem dirty, which caused their occasional guests to make remarks about cleanliness and housekeeping, and threaten to kill Spider, whose web was the most beautiful. So Spider made sure to push out all the other spiders whenever she could. That way, their house would always look tidy.
There was nothing she could do about the dust, though, which stuck stubbornly to Spider’s web and made it look tacky and old. When this happened, Spider would climb up on top of Chambers Dictionary and watch as Michael lugged out his heavy vacuum cleaner and swept through the whole house, making grunting noises as the vacuum banged into the walls and furniture in its path. When he was done, Michael would collapse onto the sofa as Spider climbed back to the lamp and began to string up her web again. Michael would watch with the sweat clinging to his back and neck as she set up her support threads and wove her hypnotic spirals, becoming drowsier and drowsier. After that they would have a little conversation, Michael half asleep on his sofa, muttering about what to make for supper, and Spider on her web, gesturing delicately about what a nice house they live in.
When I was young, there was a boy. He and I swam in the cold waters of Maligne Lake. The waters made us strange, so cold no sensible person would dare to swim in them. I was young and stupid. I told him that I would marry him, and he smiled at me with his big bright eyes and gave me a kiss. My father said I was stupid. I shouldn’t be thinking of marrying yet, and later when I’m older, I should be looking for a sensible man. My mother told me that I’ll later forget him. And when I became older, and my daughter began visiting every Saturday to keep me company, to make sure the nurse was treating me well, I began to see him again. So clearly in front of me: his deep brown eyes, always laughing and kind, shaded by dark little lashes under heavy, creased lids, and above them two indents below soft eyebrows, thick with youth and happiness. His forehead was not too wide, and his cheeks were framed neatly by a proud jawline. At the centre, a rough, angled nose struck defiantly against the sun, the indentation below it, as small as the tip of my pinky finger, and red lips, inviting and warm, under which lay his round chin. As his face pulled away from me, I recognized his whispering brown hair, tossing carelessly in the cold summer air, dry from the swim we took an hour ago. His shoulders were just as strong and wide as I remembered them, his hand just brushing against my bare knee. His rough elbow leaned against mine. I breathed in the scent of trees and wild grasses, felt the sun against my bare feet and the prickle of twigs underneath my legs. And I saw the sun setting past the mountains, wondered what life would have been like if we had run away that day. Where we would have lived, who our children would be. If we would continue to swim in cold lakes together, or if we would live in a small house together, or if we would have eventually fallen apart because the world would not hold us upright. But we were children then and we did not run away.
As the sun set, his warm, smooth back against the cold air, and I rested myself against him, feeling how strong he was compared to me. In the end, neither of us proved strong. All I have left, of anything, is the images of our few days in summer spent together before both of us grew up.
I’ve been carrying this idea around in my head for a long time. It was supposed to be a longer story, but I’m tired of thinking about it.
His younger brother was going on a trip with their mother. It may be forever until they see each other again. He always hated his brother, but today he thought that he will miss him. With one hand, he held his younger brother’s shoulder. With the other, he placed it against his brother’s chest and pushed very, very hard.
“Ouch, that hurts.”
He pulled out a piece of heart. It was small with rounded corners, shined as though it were wet.
As his brother was leaving the next day, both pretended that nothing had happened. Many years passed before the youngest finally remembered the piece he left behind. He returned and, miraculously, each brother recognized the other.
Written for a friend. Her challenge was, “Write about inanimate objects with feelings” (or something like that.) Unfortunately, I’ve been lazy. I gave it to her weeks late, and I’m posting it here weeks after I gave it to her. (And I’m a little embarrassed because it’s shorter than the cute little story about fuzzy spiders she wrote for me.)
Mom’s old vase was white with a long neck. Christine had inherited it from her mother after she died and it was so full of her memories that she was afraid to throw it away. On Saturday, when her boyfriend brought flowers, she told him, “Wait a bit. I’m going to put them in Mom’s old vase,” even though it was already full. The red flowers and the pink and orange flowers looked the best in the vase. Continue reading
Well, didn’t I just write this in a big puff of procrastination? While trying to rouse myself up to doing one more load of laundry, I decided to write this cooking story, because I’d been dreaming recently about how nice it would be to bump elbows with someone in a kitchen while attempting to cook together. So now my laundry isn’t done, and I still have other work to do. Thankfully, this story isn’t too long.
Samuel woke up at six that Saturday, as though it was any regular working day for him. On his right, he checked his alarm clock and saw that it was not set. On his left, Adelaide lay with her back turned towards him, warmly breathing in her sleep. So she did get home last night, he thought to himself. He had forgotten what it was that kept her out all night. It was Saturday. They used to spend Saturdays together, alone, he thought. Continue reading