[when I was eight I threw a rock at a child with down syndrome and he started bleeding from the crown] I fold up the small slip of paper and place it gingerly in the soil and push a small mound atop to cover it – sprinkle some water from the can and wipe my hands on my pants. A few days from now, if the conditions are right, the roots will take and spread.
I often speak aloud with the inflection of a television personality – magnanimity that I could barely even wish to possess.
“Welcome back to my lovely home ladies and gentlemen!” I speak into my fist, waving a hand graciously over the small plot of dirt I’ve amassed for my garden.
“Near the end of summer, after months of growth I will harvest the foxgloves to make wreaths for the local funeral home. Isn’t that nice of me?” The words bounce off the fence and I hear the faint click of my neighbors deadbolt.
The project took less time than I had originally planned. First I had to dig the hole on the other half of the yard to gather my soil. It took most of the afternoon, but I had to dig around a few pipes and hold vigil for the earthworms I accidentally cut in half with the shovel (if you consider lighting a cigarette and humming old spirituals a vigil) — matter of fact, I should probably add that one to the garden.
Next came the part I thought would take forever: as you may or may not be aware – foxgloves’ seeds are easy to make – it’s as simple as obtaining a scrap of paper and writing down a sin of your very own. Yet, once I began, it became an issue of space – being I wasn’t sure if I had made enough holes with the dibbler for the amount of seeds I now had.
[I asked a young lady if the dress that she handmade for prom also bagged potatoes as a side gig]
“Each row was hand selected to produce the brightest and most vibrant colors!” I shout to the at-home audience.
[A group of my friends stole a goldfish from a pond in someone’s yard and burned it half-alive on a small pyre]
“That one should bloom beautifully!” The audience laugh is manicured in post to really emphasize my down-to-earth mannerisms and easy, jovial nature.
The birds stare the way that only birds can. It’s unnerving and I pull another cigarette from the wrinkled pack. I scream quickly at the willow and watch as it shakes loose the vermin gilding its limbs. Small vestiges of branches lightly dust the ground, my teeth clenching in apprehension. The tree will never be the same.
[I convinced my highschool girlfriend that there was a demon living in my bedroom named “Annie” because I didn’t want to admit that I was moving the ouija planchette]
My skin is almost blistered, it is so red. The sun releases hurt in a way that feels familial and I relish in the intensity and resolve. I must finish; I really want to finish; history books have endings and I’ve always been confused by that until now. This feels like conquering. Veni, liberarem, vici. I will be soothed by the nature of forgiveness, I hope. My skin be damned.
“Please welcome to the stage, singing her newest hit single, my friend the air conditioner!” Whirring to life and scaring me out of a stupor the air conditioner reminds me aggressively that I still have so much work to complete.
[I threw a bible at my mother because I found it in my room and felt deeply insulted]
My fingernails are no longer visible. As it is, I’m not even sure that they’re still attached. The night is rounding out and my hands are sticky with blood from the various paper-cuts and wet land that clings to my cracked and pained flesh. My stomach is imitating the air conditioner and I know it’s silly, but I’m pretty sure I can make out my neighbor whispering hateful thoughts through the keyhole on the backdoor. Jealousy is not pretty. Build your own garden, you nincompoop!
“Behold! The garden is almost finished, at which point all that’s left is tending to it with water and great care! The foxgloves will paint the yard! I’d like to thank you all for coming out today and helping me. It means the world to me and I truly wouldn’t be here without you. Good night!”
The audience is silent but for the owl. The owl says “hoot”.
I stumble into the other half of the lawn with sweat glazing my chapped skin. I am slick. It is finished. I turn to look, but the dark of night has settled into my eyes with a blanket of raven. I can barely make out misremembered shapes of dirt and rock that seem to jut and breathe from the corner of the yard. I am not entirely sure what funeral homes are nearby, but I know that they will be pleased to be able to offer my wreaths to their clients at no cost.
The last slip of paper is folded in my hand. I know what it says and I think I will hold on to it and place it in a pot in the kitchen window to watch it grow when I’m cleaning all my glasses. I want a beauty all my own.
[I would do it all again] I hope you can forgive me this.
I crawl to the hole and roll into the bottom where I lie on my back and glare at the moon with fever and fury. I close my eyes and feel what I assume are slugs contracting in waves on my radiating arms – tiny tendrils tapping into the part of my nerves starving for cool touch.
The owl says again with an accusing tone, “hoot”
To which I reply, “right back at you, pal.”