Beneath the yellow dog roses – B G Rogers
Māra Tīkōuka Cabbage Tree Garden – Teoti Jardine
Jacaranda Uprising – Sue Barker
In the New Homestead – Zebulon Huset
Douglas is Dead – C M Fitzgerald
Garden of Paradise, Redux – Alex Reece Abbott
Love Lost and Refound: Two Micros – Yuan Changming
Scapegoat – Hayden Pyke
Cyclamen – Marjory Woodfield
Companion Planting – Ellen Creed Branham
At the beach – Diana Burns
Life doesn’t always give you lemons – Rachel Collier
Isn’t life– – Caroline Masters
Tree – Tytti Heikkinen
Garden Sanctuary – Jane Shearer
Wind whistle – Sandra Arnold
Tea on the verandah – June Pitman-Hayes
Regenesis – Deb Jowitt
Feature Artist: Tabatha Forbes
Editors’ note: The stories this month are in honour of Katherine Mansfield as we celebrate her birthday. Some of these stories are inspired directly by works written by Mansfield, and as such they use phrasings from her in their lines. We hope you enjoy spotting the references. Take your time strolling through these gardens…
Tabatha Forbes, White, Purple
Lilies for Mr Scott
All set to take the basket of food, the lilies banked up either side of the porch catch Laura’s eye and her plan changes. She gathers as many as she can carry, and walks back through the house to her family, presses a lily on each of them. The florist has not removed the pollen-containing anthers from the stamens, believing no-one else will come into contact with them, so they stain. Oh, how they stain. The others look at each other, unsure what to say. Pollen is scattered on fine dresses like fine dirt thrown on a coffin.
Laura continues through the house, drops lilies in each room, then does the same in the different areas of the garden. She mumbles to herself, ‘Mr Scott will be remembered.’ How she wants the pollen to fly on the wind and cover this place, so that it will look different, and people will no longer look at things in the same way. How she wants the scent to carry, to stop people in their tracks and make them think. She wants them to think about the white flower being a symbol of purity and the transience of life.
Of course she knows little will change. Tomorrow’s breakfast will be slightly embarrassing. All the flowers will have been removed. Any stained clothes will have been sent away or discarded.
The smoke from the widow’s house at the bottom of the hill will be even poorer than usual.
Beneath the yellow dog roses
B G Rogers
And there, amongst the shit-smelling dead leaves and spiky twigs, is a caterpillar in delicate green flesh. Gifted a sickly tinge by the streetlights’ fluorescence.
They come past, in black. Heavy boots, heavy equipment going dunk-dunk-dunk. There are shouts. A door splinters.
As they take aim, the caterpillar rears. Prolegs contract to grip the ground and true legs sway like the violet lady at Church when the choir’s round voice washes through her thin body.
A gun’s discharge splits the air. Bullet strikes flesh. The sounds become one, a sort of ba-thunk.
The caterpillar falls.
Māra Tīkōuka Cabbage Tree Garden
Kia ora, my name is Tī, my brother is Kōuka. We, Tīkōuka, were left when they cleared our māra to build that house down there. Gifted with matakite, I knew this was coming. We called on our manu brothers and sisters to spread our seeds to safety.
Knowing that I’m Matakite, Kōuka asks every morning, “What’s up today, bro?”
“Well today, Kōuka, is going to be a celebration of life and of death.”
“The big house whānau are preparing for a celebration of life, while Scotty’s whānau of those brown houses down there will be celebrating Scotty’s death. His horse is going to shy from the noise of the Traction Engine. Scotty will be thrown off and land on his head.”
“Auē! I wish I hadn’t asked.”
“It’s not all that bad, Kōuka. See the wahine talking to those men who have brought the marquee, which will be placed by our Karaka cuzzies? Years from now she’s going to write about today.
“When it comes out will you read to me?”
“We’ll be gone long before then, cleared away for more houses. You know me, I already know it. It will be called ‘The Garden Party’. I’ll tell you as today goes by. Look very carefully, Kōuka, and you’ll see it all as it happens.”
“The Garden Party.”
“And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden party…”
The seedlings had had enough.
Wizzle-grizzle-stump-stomp-slop, they grouched. One hundred day in the tray was more — more roar than enough. It was drownage, ablomzinashon — just not on.
They used their feathery true leaves to push out of the dirt, clumping together to form a leafy crown. All twenty-six of them took a communal fazzle — in through stomata … out through stomata, then delicately tripple-toed across the moonlit planting table on gossamini roots.
With a united shout of Jacaranda — Mimosifolia
they floated to the deck below as a parachute wreath.
Naturally, Maud-the-forgetful-fraud, had left the sliding door open. They marched right in, across the carpet and with commando precision webberated, laddermar-izing upstairs — toward the gentle snoring.
They surrounded their not-so-goody-goody-gardener, entwining her in lacey radicles
as they slid her off the bed — slump gentle dump-bump, undulating her down the treadicles — soft thumpzie-wumpzie, across the lawn to the growing patch.
Maudie woke from her best sleep ever, nose full of musty smells, ears full of bird song, soil under her fingernails. She stretched, sat up surrounded by her babies, planted all around — she’d dreamt of a gardener, of earth and passion.
In the New Homestead
The man with the scar around his wrist said fate had spared his life — saved it, really. He’d tried to duel destiny and saw it draw while his hand was still on his holster, whatever that meant.
My dad said he was an oaf that fell on his own engine while changing the oil, but I think that too was a metaphor. Some quote from a book long ago burnt for warmth. Besides, he had lived in our new homestead for longer than us, and it was either be friendly with him or risk exile back into the dustbowl with only blankets to ward off the looming haboobs.
Things had changed since he was a child, my dad said, but things always changed. Even in my lifetime. When I was six we lived in a dome with a family of fat men and a cistern and strawberries — no one had an ounce to spare now, nor even spit to waste. I had heard the word war once in a while before, but now it was burned from vocabularies with other words better left unremembered like lake, ocean, birthday.
I turned twelve yesterday — but didn’t dare tell anyone.
Janina Aza Karpinska, Succulent Boots
Douglas is dead
C M Fitzgerald
“Take off that ridiculous hat, girl. Take it off right now.” “And get these sandwiches out to them at the front. Now!”
Suzie glares at her mother and unties the bow under her chin, savoring the feel of the red silky ribbon, then gently lifts the big wide brim and puts it carefully on a shelf up high. Most beautiful thing
The neighbor was all upset because their boy had been killed.
“Been out boy-racing, hooning – spoilt brat,“ she’d heard her mother whisper.
Her mother was fixing tiny bits of parsley onto the plates. They were at Jane’s next door. It smelled and was messy and dirty. Strangers hung about, looking dour and angry.
Suzie started silently offering up the sandwiches to the adults. It was late afternoon, getting on for five o’clock.
Her mother was not good at much but she did make a good egg sandwich. Crusts cut off, moist bread, egg chopped up fine with chives and parsley out of the garden. The eggs from their own chickens.
Finally, it was time to go.
Just as Suzie got to their letterbox: “My hat!”
“I left it,” Suzie squealed.
“Where’d you get it anyway? It was just plain ridiculous.” Her mother, sharp and suspicious. Such finery was not allowed – not anymore, not for years.
Suzie could feel the flash embarrassment of tears. She couldn’t go back into that house on her own and she knew her mother would not come with her.
Garden of Paradise, Redux
Alex Reece Abbott
She went back. She went back, remembering a verdant, fertile garden, an echo of her nurseryman ancestors, nothing they couldn’t grow. Dark volcanic soil tilled, scoria sifted, the tang of blood and bone and mulch sugared with musky tea-roses and cloying stocks. Old Venetian slats woven like flax into fences to protect precious vegetables. Glaucous, lanky, spiny cardoons. Runner beans conquered trellises. Creeping ironbark pumpkins lurked, alien pods, their fleshy vines kissing sweetcorn regiments. Beside pendulous, cerise tamarillos, passionfruit snaked tendrils offered plump purple eggs to be picked. Worn-out stockings supported gladioli, butterscotch blossomed beside fiery vermillion, lolling against the house. Elegant violet irises jostled magenta dinner-plate dahlias. A blowsy hydrangea, blue bloom-heavy. Sweet-tongued, nectar-guzzling tūī dined on harakeke borders. Over the concrete-block wall, peppery nasturtiums dangled, flashed orange and yellow. Jerusalem artichokes, propped with wooden stakes, towering tekoteko overlooked this sprawling, bright patchwork that was always tended, never tamed. And she remembered tempted days, playing among bountiful, expertly pruned fruit trees, munching warm apples straight off the trees. And tales of her grandfather replacing scented pinks, shrubs and a generous lawn with sensible edibles – typical in a country where Yates Garden Guide regularly outsold the bible. All hen-shed and horticulture, entrusted to her grandmother’s care, sprouting for victory until he returned from The War. He didn’t return. She went back. She went back looking for paradise …found it razed … Yet, eyes closed, carpark tarmac tacky on her soles, breathing rank Rotoruan factory fumes, her grandmother’s banished garden refused to vanish.
Love Lost and Refound: Two Micros
The Tuner: for Helena Qi Hong (祁红）
In Mahyuhe, she gave me a mystic tuner, which I’ve treasured as a love-token for the past five decades (when we remained totally lost to each other on Earth’s opposite sides), but now as my shadow-wife she told me, “I just meant to help set the tune for your erhu.”
Lotus Village Revisited: for Zhou Yeqiong (周业琼)
He buried his heart like a dead tadpole long before he heard of her obituary. Under the village tree they used to cool their bodies & dreams in the summer heat, but never thought of making love, let alone a baby who’d grow up to sing like a real frog.
He’d heard a rumour that the Taukeiahos had a pig in the garden. A gluttonous thing apparently, devouring the family’s leftovers and anything else it could get its mealy mouth around. Still, he imagined it majestic and standing tall among the taro plants.
After school one day, he spied Vea, the youngest of the siblings walking ahead and ran to catch her. Vea was quiet but let him natter on about his brothers and the upcoming school play. He asked about the pig.
“I just want to see it bang slap in the eye.”
Vea frowned. Her mother didn’t like unexpected visitors. But he whinnied and cajoled until Vea gave in and they walked home arm in arm.
Mr Taukeiaho was directing the school play, a predictable plot where a bunch of rag-tag kids win a rugby game. Vea played the heavy of the team with monosyllabic perfection. He played the part of a goalpost.
When pressed, Vea admitted that Mr Taukeiaho planned on cooking the pig on closing night. It would be something between a celebration and relief. He couldn’t bear it. The king of their garden butchered and put on a spit seemed like a betrayal.
He lay awake that night plotting how to free the pig. He imagined he could put a leash on it, like a pup, and walk it home. He imagined the pig in his garden fossicking about. He imagined Vea coming to visit the pig and they would hold hands and feed it leftovers.
We met next to her ward. They talked about a plan of action. Called it non-specific geriatric frailty, and we couldn’t help wondering how all this had happened so quickly. Find a place, they said. Higher level of care.
We visited Azalea Court. Damp air. Small rooms with gray linoleum. Ashworth House where the residents wore track pants and tops. It makes things easier, they said, and we thought of our mother. Her voile blouses. The cameo she loved. The story she told of buying it in Venice, a small shop beside the canal. How it had caught her eye in the window.
We found a place where they understood. Cyclamen Neapolitanum. Pink unfurling beneath her windows. Where my father visited, bringing the biscuits he’d baked that morning. And the cameo. How my daughter wore it on her wedding day.
David Boyle, Eerie Woods
Ellen Creed Branham
It’s as if he’s levitating 20 meters above a glorious expanse of lush emerald highlands. Close enough to taste the heathered air but far enough to feel free. Anything is possible.
The grey light of a sunless morning goes unnoticed. Thoughts of the woman sleeping beside him, thrill him. He had wandered into the concert at a little stone church to escape an afternoon rain shower, he’s only supposed to be in Scotland for a week. But this! But now! He has never felt so sure of anything in his 21 years. This place. This long moment. He wants to stay in the present. To dwell. He moves his body deeper towards hers, savours the warmth.
She wakes, he’s still there. Beneath auburn curls, she watches the hairs on his arm ripple as she breathes.
This is new for her. She had put her violin in its case, turned. The first things she noticed were eyes the color of cobalt, and a little mole that winked when he smiled. Then his voice, American. Could I buy you a drink?
Their fingers intertwine. She wonders if he’s noticed the stretch marks penciled along her obliques. He rolls toward her, props his head up with espaliered fingers. She runs her thumb across his brow as if furrowing a row. Let’s get married, he says.
At the beach
All December, Kirsty dreamed about lying in warm sand, and swimming in the sea. In her mind the days were always golden, the sea translucent turquoise. She saw herself, tanned and tantalising, stretching in her skimpy new bikini, ignoring the panting boys who paraded past.
She was allowed to bring a friend, and Amy was loyal and admiring. They’d plot and plan together. Amy was pretty, but Kirsty was prettier. Perfect.
But here they are, under scudding grey clouds. The sea is choppy and it’s too cold for bikinis.
Kirsty pulls up her hoodie and slumps on the porch chair, watching Amy giggle into her boyfriend’s ear. Could things be any worse? Amy has a boyfriend first, and he’s not even at school.
“Jack’s an apprentice,” Amy says. “He’ll have his ticket in two years.”
“Ticket to where?” Kirsty reddens when Amy laughs.
This is all wrong.
“I’m bored,” she says. No one replies. Mum’s reading, Dad’s gone fishing at the river mouth. And Amy’s showing off.
She huffs out of her chair, down the creaky steps to the sand. Grains blow into her face, but she strides to the log and tears off her hoodie and shorts.
The cold water makes her gasp, but she breaststrokes out, keeping her head above the irritating waves.
Her feet can’t touch the bottom, but she keeps going, out into the bay.
Life doesn’t always give you lemons
I have a navel orange tree in my garden. The fruit is long harvested and plump white buds are starting to appear along with Spring. The new foliage reaches up through a blanket of darker leaves for the radiant mother in the sky.
My next-door neighbour has lemons so ripe they resemble oranges in all but shape. The branches of her tree are decked in lichen and most of the leaves have fallen in the grass. I’d hazard a guess that she prefers supermarket lemonade.
The change of seasons always gives me a scratchy throat and wheezy chest. It has nothing to do with allergies or pollen, more the change in temperature and a reluctance to listen to the vigilant mother-voice in my mind, demanding I put a cardie on (in any weather).
Mother’s garden had an assortment of citrus, all pickable from our front deck. When I felt like this, she’d tuck me into bed with a hottie and a pitcher of warm lemonade with honey.
The jug clicks off and I make my way into the kitchen.
From the kitchen window I have a bird’s eye view of my neighbour’s garden. I spot a splash of gold nestled in the long grass, much wider than the dandelions encircling it.
After tightening the hottie plug, I place it on the bench and head downstairs.
I check for twitching curtains before reaching through the wire fence.
“Sorry about my hat,” said Elizabeth, but her large black hat, trimmed with gold daisies, seemed just right. Faint winds toyed with its long ribbon. Except for a magpie rummaging in the red silk roses, the cemetery was all ours. The day was warm and cloudless. Even the freshly cut grass seemed to shine.
“Actually,” I said, “it’s perfect.”
In the hazy gold sun, a row of pinwheels, spinning and ticking like prizewheels, tempted the magpie.
“What’s with magpies and cemeteries?” asked Elizabeth.
The magpie eyed the pin in the centre of a wheel, where the sun had made a silver star.
“Shiny things?” I guessed.
“Bizarre,” said Elizabeth. “Like a vampire choosing cupcakes.”
“O-oh!” Elizabeth came to a stop.
Surrounded by pink lilies – real lilies – was Nan’s headstone.
“Dad must have picked them from her garden,” I said, crouching down as if to warm myself in the blaze of pink; the heat glowed in my fingers, on my lips, bloomed inside my chest.
Nan was far away – what did real lilies, hats with gold daisies, and magpies matter to her? But the idea of her was wonderful, beautiful. Nan was a marvel under the cloud of lilies, lying still, given up to her dream, while the earth hummed around her.
Janina Aza Karpinska, Cherry bell
The wildfires had burned Rhodes, Hawai‘i, Canada, and now Norman’s house. The latter wasn’t actually a wildfire, just an ordinary domesticated one, like an indoor cat that had proved it wasn’t that far from its feral relatives.
Norman paced around the garden. He had to, despite the sight and smell. Same as with rodeo: get back in the saddle immediately, or you never will. But how much can one man take? He had lost his wife to another man and his son to the world. Now this, with an extremely annoying insurance inspector, who gave a perky slap to the charred tree. “It just looks dead.”
Like you then, Norman thought.
“If the inner parts survive, it survives. A miracle of life, growing from the ashes,” the inspector philosophized, satisfied with himself. Then he left. Norman could tell he was disappointed: from what he had seen, case Nº 324 wasn’t an arsonist after all.
Norman’s phone rang. A familiar yet strange voice said, “I saw the news. I’m coming home.”
“Was it even the right channel?” Norman asked desperately. “There is no home.” Never was.
“There will be.”
After the call, Norman told the tree, “That’s my son. That’s him alright. Nothing like his old man – luckily.”
The tree stood silent, but Norman sensed a warm glow under the dead bark, the roots still alive.
“Stop it,” Norman said. “I’m not gonna turn into some treehugger.” And he didn’t, but he listened to the tree and heard the sparkling veins.
A picture of a pile of poplar tree rounds punctures my heart.
I bat the image away from my eyes. It’s only an image, messaged by my brother. Only an image of childhood memories cut to ground level. The heady feeling of riding the thinnest branches that bear my weight, suspended above my eight-year-old world. A rough-barked trunk, warm against my cheek when adolescent traumas overwhelmed me. Green summer leaves becoming a brown autumn carpet, assiduously raked from the lawn by Dad to spread as mulch over spring bulbs. A once-and-no-longer tree towering above a garden where, I swear, the wind blew less strongly and the rain fell less hard than in the adjacent street.
I can’t look at the image, can’t bear it. How can this be? Dad died ten years ago and Mum sold the property six months later. I was a short-term resident compared to their fifty years creating that space. Moreover, I’m pragmatic, forward looking, forward thinking. Everything moves on, everything changes, no regrets – that’s me.
But I can’t unhear the imagined chainsaw growl felling my friend with no more thought or emotion than a hand swatting a mosquito. Rising above that growl, diggers clank and grind, ripping out plants grown with love and care.
I take myself outside to prune raspberries under the winter sun.
Whistling wind flaying her skin
hailstones pounding her head
rain dripping from trees
that circle the house
they built when they were young
inside the bare land
that echoed with laughter
that turned to tears
with the ashes of their youngest
under the oak
and when the eldest left for foreign shores
they continued to plant
and continued to dig
and continued to harvest the fruit
until they grew old
and only one was left
and her heart lies in the earth
in the logs
in the fire she lights at night
in the songs she sings in the dark.
Tea on the verandah
Tiria loved working in her garden, surrounded by flowers, fruit trees, vegetables. She adored providing for and looking after their large family. But her sacred Tea on the verandah routine became her selfish means of escaping these daily demands.
Over the years everyone including their friends and neighbours had learned not to disturb Tiria between two and three o’clock in the afternoon.
On the verandah, with her legs folded beneath her, Tiria relaxed back into the comfort of a saggy wide-armed chair. Sipping her tea, she felt herself drift away with her thoughts and reflections.
They were just newlyweds when she’d insisted Tom and her brothers build a verandah onto the front of the house.
When they’d finished, she’d asked Tom to haul their only armchair out onto the verandah, then immediately staked her claim.
Although he was surprised by her vehemence, Tom couldn’t refuse her anything back then.
They’d settled into married life, worked the land together, planted māra kai. Their house was soon filled with the sound of babies, and children growing.
From the verandah, the view over the harbour to where her husband’s whānau lived was expansive. Tom had rowed over earlier to fish in the shark pools.
She thought she could see his dinghy in the distance.
He’ll be home soon enough, she thought.
The following day a rāhui was placed on the harbour.
Keith Nunes, Garden Party
Her mother told her not to buy the place.
Something terrible happened here.
Before mown lawns and garden beds, stubbled pasture grew from sour earth. Before this, axe felled kauri, fire burnt bush, rain-scour carried swathes of silt seaward, leaving bitter ground behind.
In winter, a bog. In summer, cracked clay.
The young woman, mindful of her mother’s premonition, still bought the place. Found decades of cut grass dumped under an old pūriri. Not thrown in the compost to fester and rot with potato peelings and fish guts. Not over the bank, out of sight, or round the fruit trees. Not even during the long, hot summers when their roots clamoured for moisture.
She stood under the old pūriri. Sensed the horror and grief her mother described. But what she heard was trees crying, not people.
The heaped grass had turned brown then black, its layers of decay pierced by the pale-yellow roots of nīkau, laced with beads of bright red fruit, and the glossy-leaved karaka, laden with orange berries. The trees drew nourishment upwards, raising their green crowns to the sun.
The young woman dug deep; felt the satisfaction of thrusting her spade into welcoming soil. A sense of promise, and of renewal.
Her saplings put their roots down into black gold. In spring, new leaves emerged. In summer, she covered the dry ground with a thick seam of dark mulch. By the following year, the lawn had disappeared.
One morning, she woke to the sound of trees singing.
Parsley. Mum gets me to pick some when we have scrambled eggs for a Saturday treat.
With my cheek against the turned soil, the splayed fronds are huge and camouflage the Christmas soldiers, crouched behind the sods dad turned and watered last night. They advance towards the safety of tomato plants lined out towards the fence. Sometimes all hell breaks loose when the cat springs a surprise attack like Godzilla in a horror movie, but today it’s quiet.
Mrs Johnson’s vacuuming over the fence. She’s nice, never minds when I get my ball back. She and Mum are friends and have a sneaky cigarette together sometimes, (don’t tell Dad), and she goes home carefully cradling some tomatoes.
She hasn’t been over for a while and the tomatoes are always ready all at once. Mum puts some in a little wicker basket for me to take over. I knock and wait but she must be busy. I place the basket carefully next to the front step and run back to make sure the cat hasn’t been up to no good.
A lawn mower starts, and I see Mr Johnson moving back and forth through the gap where the middle slat of the fence has slipped a little. I’m glad he didn’t see me, sometimes I hear his voice. I don’t like loud voices; Dad isn’t even that loud when the All Blacks score.
The soldiers are dug in now, they aim the cannon at the gap in the fence.
The message travelled through the garden stem by shoot by reaching root. New humans. Daisies trembled and mycorrhizal networks filtered warnings outwards. The old eucalyptus at the lawn’s edge quivered. The fig tree dropped a cascade of lobed leaves.
Bees sensed rumours of new flowers and hummed their anticipation.
As dawn spilled across the sky, a human stepped onto the grass. A second, taller human followed. Their branches wrapped around one another.
This is ours, they murmured. No one can evict us.
No landlord to say no.
We can create it here, can’t we?
The humans dug using metal implements, turning the sod and adding glistening compost. The garden watched, whispered and waited.
Other humans came, carrying sadness heavy in their trunk and limbs. The first two welcomed them and, although no human noticed, the garden did too. With uncertain fingers the visitors laid out seeds in rows. Some buried miniature versions of the items that covered their heads and feet, tucking soft woollens beneath the earth.
As tiny plantlets began to grow, the old trees sent down care packages of nutrients. When aphids swarmed, the trees released chemicals to deter them and to attract ladybirds.
The humans learnt to tend, and then to harvest.
Yellow, purple and crimson flowers uncurled petals, beckoning to bees and other pollinators. Vegetables and fruits swelled.
The trees saw the humans’ backs straighten and a lightness lift their movements.
They rustled their leaves: These ones can stay, for now.
The Tick Of Approval
Oh, how I envy the huge gardens you have here in Lower Sidebottom.
Yes, we’ve preserved them from predators.
Was there a problem in the past?
Yes. Before the Great Purge of 2022.
What do you mean?
We’d been inundated by sea changers, Gen-alphabets, lawyers, car salesman, politicians and social influencers. And all wanting to subdivide.
So what did you do?
Nature took care of it with the Lower Sidebottom Tick.
I’ve never heard of that.
I’m not surprised. We locals had always known about it and we’d developed herd immunity. But with climate change, the ticks had bred up and the interlopers started getting bitten. We told them the effects were worse than Lyme disease.
But surely they would have checked with health authorities.
Oh, they did. But we’d warned them the authorities would lie to prevent panic spreading across the country and, given the modern propensity towards conspiracy theories, they believed us.
And did it work?
As you can see, it did. Now outsiders won’t even consider living here. Hence the absence of health food franchises, gastropubs, townhouses, ecovillages and other abominations.
Extraordinary. On a more pleasant note, it’s a beautiful garden you have here, full of all sorts of exotic plants.
Yes, they make an excellent breeding ground for our local insects. Would you like a tour?
Sorry, must run. I’ve got a yoga class and I need to pick up some kombucha along the way. Another time perhaps.
Best tuck your trousers into your socks.
David Boyle, Dawn
“Do you think it’s odd that I like the scent of lavender?” he asked, rubbing the soft, gray-green leaves between his fingers.
“No. Why would I?” I asked. “Lavender is a beautiful plant with a lovely scent.” I couldn’t smell the leaves he’d crushed.
“Men aren’t supposed to love flowers.”
“There are plenty of male gardeners,” I countered. “They’re not all in it for the money.”
He laughed. He had a rich, deep laugh, and I liked that I was the one who caused it.
“This plant’s beautiful,” I said. “The ones at home act like annuals. It’s annoying.”
He tipped the brim of his hat up and smiled at me. “This plant’s been here as long as I can remember.” A shadow passed over his face. “Is that odd?”
Such a handsome man. What a pity.
“Shall we get down to business?” I asked, opening my bag.
He gave me a wicked grin. “I’d far prefer we get down to pleasure.”
“Had we crossed paths at another time, in another place, I’d be tempted,” I admitted.
“You just made my day.” His grin made him even more boyish and attractive. “Let’s forget business and pretend we met under terms of pleasure.”
“I wish that was possible,” I said, with genuine regret. “But I don’t frolic with ghosts. I banish them.”
He took off his hat and leaned forward, letting it dangle from one hand.
My Father in the Garden
There must be something good about it, I thought when my father left the living room for the garden after every meal. He went out in the scorching heat during summer when the government issued a heatwave alert advising people to avoid unnecessary outings. He went out in freezing weather when it had been snowing heavily overnight. He went out when it was raining, when the wind was blowing hard or even when the storm was arriving.
There were some other occasions when he went out to the garden.
When my mother told him she wanted to send their children to private schools When my brother said he wanted to study acting in New York, inspired by a documentary film about a young Japanese American actor who worked his way up from scratch, performing in the US military bases in Japan in the aftermath of the war in the late-1940s. When his favourite soccer team lost a match
One day I followed him and asked, “Is it that good?”
“You can try it yourself when you’re a bit older,” he said.
Most people cough from their first cigarette. It’s a sign of the body’s resistance. I knew that I wouldn’t. The resistance was not in my DNA.
Life is looking up
I’m lying on my back, on lush grass, looking up at this huge poster of blank blue sky. My father appears above me. “Son, are you alright?” My mouth isn’t in the mood for mouthing. I want to get up but my body will not respond – I’ve swallowed too much of everything on offer, including champagne and delicious Slovenian schnapps. “The party hosts are an earthy couple,” says Dad. “She’s a draught-horse of a woman and he’s positively bovine.”
Someone outside of my peripheral vision calls “Toast” and my father disappears. I hear taffeta ruffling.
Staring down at me is a woman with olive complexion and mahogany eyes. “Damn flies!” she says. “I carry fly-spray around with me in my bag – do you want some?” She smiles down at me and her dentures break free and clatter onto my forehead. She bends down, picks them up, reinstalls them, and disappears.
My mother creeps into view, kneeling down to look closely at my eyes. “Blink once if you’re alive,” she says. I blink a dozen times. “Overkill, darling.” She looks around the sprawling grounds where the high-end party is being staged. “Do you have any idea what it’s like being a Lesser Flamingo on a lake full of Greater Flamingos? Of course you don’t – you don’t care what people think of you, and I envy that.” She lies down on her back beside me, shoulder to shoulder. Looks up at the sky with me.
On watching a cow tipping
On my morning commute, I watched a boy go to tip a cow. I was unsure how to act at the moment & went to look inside myself for the answer. I moved toward the scene as the man in me went to help the cow, meanwhile, the boy in me went to help the boy. The leader in me gathered a few bystanders to help & the philosopher king in me had them guide me to the nearest bathhouse. The botanist in me saved some shrubbery from being crushed & the chef in me pocketed some rosemary. The detective in me took a step back to see the big picture & killed the artist in me. The poet in me recognized the blooming plum tree in the young boy’s heart & the Earth in me has loved you for one thousand centuries. The realist in me pushed the boy into the ground & pushed him down again for good measure. The dreamer in me looked for a sign & the alcoholic in me ordered something from Belgium or Mexico. The sun in me rose as it always does & the ocean in me brought winds that cut up the city. The priest in me took a breather. The historian in me danced on the bodies of the boy & the cow & lit them on fire. We all sang & danced with all the fervour of a tsunami.
Breathtaking music tore through the garden in me & the nihilist in me loved the optimist in me.