Suburban bourbon drinkers sit on stone patios, on plastic Adirondack chairs, painted to match the flower garden bought online and delivered the next day. No more knee pain, the advertisement claimed, no need for dirty hands or a green thumb. Greenhouse grown flowers, perennials and annuals, native, wild and foreign, brilliantly arranged to represent you.
All you did was given them the dimensions of the would be garden, answer a short questionnaire and not more than an hour later, guaranteed, a personalized flower garden plan would be emailed for approval.
“Just lovely,” the neighbours will say. “Just so very lovely.”
Gull caught sight of his reflection in the bedroom window.
“Jesus,” he said. His wife called from the kitchen, asking him what the matter was. He walked out and down the short hall, and leaned against the refrigerator.
“When you were a kid, did you ever try to tie a bunch of balloons to a lawn chair, to see if it would fly?” he asked. “Like in cartoons?”
“No,” she said. “What are you saying? I don’t understand.”
“They never lifted off the ground. I keep remembering that feeling,” he said. “Or maybe feeling the same way about something else.”
“This is the kind of town where your belt buckle matters,” Fox said, sitting in the passenger seat and popping green grapes in her mouth, as the highway they’d been on turned into the main drag of some small town. They’d been driving all morning, four hours, if you included the bathroom and coffee stops, and were only a third of the way to their destination. “How much longer is it?”
Foal ignored her and pressed the button to eject the tape from the player and tossed in the backseat.
“Put something on.”
“Something with a beat.”
“Did I ask you?” Gail said, sticking a bony finger into the fleshy part of Dolores’ upper arm. The younger sister recoiled at the older’s touch and turned away from the kitchen table the three of them were sitting at.
“I’ll put the kettle on,” she said, standing and biting down on the calloused part on the inside of her cheek.
“Well,” Gail’s grandson said. “Could be a while. Need to find the right one.”
She reached over to take his hand, clunky, glass bracelets rattling as she did.
“You can’t afford to be picky, dear.”
The kettle whistled.
We set out with big ideas of how to change the world, but our bedsheets had gone months without being washed. Dishes piled besides sinks, an inviting destination for the weary house-fly. The ideas changed when put into words and cried out. Not so much about everyone anymore. Not against a common enemy.
We found we couldn’t find one. Only shifting concepts, eight-faced identities where no one could reach a consensus on their expressions. Anger or disappointment, tolerance or indifference. The ring around the tub thickened, grew something like barnacles.
We sat on the tub’s edge, worried about the rent.
Mrs. Sullivan, Peggy, when he knew her, opened the apartment door. Her still fierce and playful eyes stared through Dzinski, recognizing him, but for the moment. When he realized she didn’t recognize him, he tried not to let the hurt show.
“Peggy,” he said, “It’s Frank.”
Her eyes softened and looked back in time. He flattered himself by imagining something like a smile on her mouth.
“It’s Margaret. What can I do for you Mr. Dzinski?”
“I just thought I might be able to help, if you needed it. With your son, I mean.”
She snorted, and slammed the door.
Prompt courtesy of the Daily Post.
The suffocating haze of the room didn’t inhibit her hands, confident due to familiarity, from finding the bottle on the night table. After swallowing two pills, dry, she lay back and counted to thirty, and then slowly opened her eyes. The fog receded, replaced with a blazing brightness. But it too faded, became soft, inviting, and she struggled up on her elbows.
Looking over the room, she saw a thin mist seeping out from under the bed. She’d have to hurry. Throwing back the covers, her fingers brushed the orange plastic bottle, knocking it to the ground, where it disappeared.