BY Theodosia Henney
The gardener was comfortable with seeds, complacent bits that remained in the furrows, embryonic. Plants, with opulent displays and demanding personalities, struck the gardener as obnoxious. His wife had loved the brightness of petals; she stripped all the flowers in the garden the night she went, stuffing the pockets of her nightgown with satin tongues. They spilled as she walked, and in the morning the gardener had followed the trail, where he found others moored like small boats at the bank of the river.
Each year the gardener's neighbors found their doorsteps heaped with hastily cut stems just beginning to bloom, color hot and urgent beneath clasped green. They wondered if perhaps the gardener's meek children, always dressed in somber clothes, were the ones who cut them so early, casting them out before they flowered.
The gardener's children adored the flowers, hated the tool shed, and would never say why. They crept, silent as vines, into the garden each night after the lamps had been blown out, to bury their fingers into the earth at the roots of the stalks. One night, the gardener woke with a start and charged outside. The children were kneeling in the dirt, gray flannel nightclothes drawn up to their thighs. Gathering them in a herd, the gardener could not meet his children’s eyes as he locked them inside the tool shed. He slept at the river that night, head in his hands and knees drawn to his chest—small and still as a buried thing, set deep into the cold clay of the bank.
When morning came the children were gone. The padlock, heavy and thick as a heart, hung untouched on the door; there were no new holes in the shed, no missing planks. All the flowers in the garden had bloomed overnight.
Theodosia Henney is a queer lady from a conservative state, most recently employed as an art model and flying trapeze instructor. When not practicing handstands, she can usually be found reading in a hammock. She has work forthcoming in the Allegheny Review and the Vestal Review.