The Devil In The Garden

We always called you the devil in the garden. To clarify, we called you “the devil in the garden.” We didn’t just call you “the devil” while in the garden. I can see how that would be confusing. If it’d been Mom, we would have called her “the Green Witch.” Jen and I discussed it once, but it was never a nickname we had to use, because she knew enough to stay out of the greenhouse. We saw the hardy mums she planted along the front drive the September of Gran’s cancer. For flowers that were supposed to come back year after year, they gave up the ghost surprisingly quick.

How do you know if flowers like that are dead? They’re supposed to disappear for awhile and come back, right? So how long do you wait?

Jen and I would wake up sometimes to hear you rooting around in the greenhouse. That’s how the nickname started. We thought it was a monster, come to eat the flowers. There comes a point in life where you get more angry with yourself for thinking there’s a monster than you are afraid of whatever’s outside. Mom said you liked to work at night because the flowers were sleeping then. We were sleeping then too.

After I started making the lunches for Jen and I to take to school, I would spend my evenings sitting in the big chair in the greenhouse, slick with mildew from the humidity. I’d watch as you talked to the blossoms and gently trimmed the different stems and leaves. As the glass walls filled up more and more with petals and stalks, I dragged the chair outside and would watch from outside the glass.

The night Jen left for University, the third woman to leave my life, I walked along the drive and stared at the circles of dirt where the mums had been. The grass had never returned. I crouched down and scrabbled at the cold, hard dirt with my fingers. Under the surface were roots, dried and brown, dead as the soil they laid in. I brushed one off and put it in my mouth, it’s saltiness drawing out the water.

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