Tiny Leaves

My plants are finally growing.

I live in an apartment; I don’t have a yard or even a balcony, so I have to grow everything inside in pots. This method is not something I have a talent for: I’ve thrown out plants covered in mold, plants withered past desiccation, and plants that threw up their hands at life for no reason I could discern. 

Perhaps it has to do with my choice in plants: mostly I rescue them, from events and church services and other short lives as centerpieces that will end in the trash. I can’t stand the thought of plants being thrown out. It seems such a waste. They could keep growing, keep adding to the green in the world. 

Which is why I rescued almost ten poinsettias last Christmas. A few promptly died, dropping all their leaves and turning brown. The rest died slowly, dropping their leaves a few at a time until there were only two or three or five stubborn wrinkled leaves, discolored and brittle. I kept watering them; the stems were still green, mostly, except for the few that had also died, so that mostly they all looked like sticks stuck in a pot by a toddler with a better imagination than me. I kept watering them. I figured they weren’t quite dead, I guess. 

And now they’re growing new leaves, six months later. Finally. They have tender little leaves, of that brilliant green that is only in infant growth, growing out of joints on those still-green twigs. There are four of them, lined up on a shelf. They have passed the message along from one to the next, and they have all sprouted anew, right next to the Easter lily that is finally yellow and brittle and dead. 

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They’re growing new leaves! They aren’t dead!

And it gives me hope for all that I’m trying to grow in my own life, to the morning prayer and to the exercise, the cleaning and the writing, the unpacking and the decorating: everything I’ve added and taken away as I’ve been working to grow roots here, where I am. Every small thing I’ve done that felt like a tiny wave to a cruise ship when I can’t even see any windows, like whispering into the dark when everyone says only a shout will do, is something. It may not grow, like my poor Easter lily, but maybe it’s worth trying either way; maybe it’s worth rescuing no matter what the end result.

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Chips

I’m in the grocery store. My basket is almost full, with cereal and cheese and yoghurt.

I’ve come because I’ve given up on work, on the sermons I have to write. I’m hoping a break will give me the courage for the phone calls I need to make. Mostly I’m hoping it will clear away some of the fog, some of the darkness and despair and suffocating blackness that paralyzes that’s been following me around, clinging with far more strength than I have, that it would take to dislodge it. It followed me to the office; it followed me to the bakery where I had lunch, where I pulled out a book to read and a notebook to take notes and a Bible to work on my sermons. It drove away any thoughts of sermons and obligations and joy, until I gave up, put everything back in my backpack.

It’s snowing as I leave. The trees behind the parking garage have snow-icing already, and thick, fat snowflakes are drifting down and it’s better than a postcard, better than driving in snow with incompetent drivers and almost makes up for it.

It’s the first day of spring.

I try to take a picture with my phone. Every picture shows trees and the ground, snow everywhere across the landscape, with a pipe or concrete ceiling in a corner and five blurs that might be snowflakes. If I really use my imagination.

I trudge to my car, defeated. I just want to slink home. Pretend life doesn’t suck and maybe watch some America’s Next Top Model. I’ve seen every season I can watch for free on Amazon, but damn it, I am so willing to watch them again if maybe I won’t feel crushed by everything else while I’m watching the contestants be covered in body paint and hung upside down and then criticized for having tension in their face.

I really do need food, though.

Which is how we’ve come full circle, back to me in the chips aisle, holding back tears because they don’t stock my favorite flavor anymore. Or, that’s what I tell myself I want to cry about.

A Walk

It’s barely above freezing, but I’ve opened my coat. There’s still a scarf wrapped around my head, my ears and neck and chin. My hands are in my pockets along with my phone, with headphones snaking up to my ears. I keep having to shove them back in.

I’m walking. I’m going on a walk. Every day for the past week. I’ve been going down roads I had never even really noticed, not knowing where I’m going but knowing how to get back to my apartment. I think I’ve found all the hills, even though there’s plenty of ways I haven’t gone yet.

Today I started off down another road I hadn’t noticed in four months of driving past it, and ended up somewhere I’d already been: the field with impossibly green grass and one single soccer goal placed crookedly somewhere between where it should be and the middle of the field. One side of it drops away to an empty, abandoned-looking pool; the next side is a baseball field crowned with a stone building that looks like the gatehouse to an estate.

I walk around the field. “Open from dawn to dusk,” the sign proclaims, and the sun is up. It’s cold, but that’s been blunted by walking.

I’m not really going anywhere with this: on my walk, other than back to my apartment; with this piece of writing. It was just a moment, one without revelations or tragedies but not without joy and the chill of almost-snow and the ordinariness of an almost-habit.

Clouds

The sun blared down, drowning out colors and sharpening shapes and flattening everything into paper cutouts giving off shimmering heatwaves that were liquid rainbow invisible.

“It would be better if there were clouds,” Jenn groaned.

“No, it wouldn’t,” Brian retorted, languid as a heat-overwhelmed lizard. “Then it would just be humid, too.”

“I can’t believe we moved here,” she groaned (something that happened at least once a day). As always, she looked at the house, fake adobe with just enough texture that everyone could pretend it wasn’t mass produced. It was worse in there, of course, but she could wish they had a working air conditioning or even a swamp cooler. Or that there were clouds—they were in the shade anyway, of course, in the bush-sized mesquite tree’s shelter, but at least clouds would keep the sun from heating everything to a burns-at-the-touch heat that radiated back at them all as the day went on.

“When do classes start?”

“August 10. Why are you reminding me?”

“Because you can always go up there and use the library for … something. That’s air conditioned.”

“I don’t even have money for the bus. I just got fired, remember?”

“What about the corner store?”

“They kick you out after ten minutes. And I know it’s only a block away, but walking in this heat is not worth ten minutes.” Even sitting in the shade was exhausting; the heat seemed to suck her energy dry as the desert air. She’d thought Pittsburgh summers were bad—but days like this, she’d give anything to have humidity paired with below-90 weather! She’d even take back the snow and ice and awful driving.

“I’m gonna go get us some water.”

“’Kay.” Even Brian moved slowly, as if through tar—of course, the street outside had almost liquefied back to tar. The reminder didn’t help.

The heat weighed her down; memories of summers back home, of garden beds bursting with flowers and vegetables and of that special fresh, dewy smell of summer mornings as the sun came up, would have made her cry if not for the sucking heat. Perhaps that night, tossing and turning and slithering with sweat.

She fingered the keychain she’d gotten on her first day of work—even the cheap plastic was hot! This state—she didn’t finish the thought, couldn’t think of anything serious enough.

Could you drown in heat? It was suffocating.

“How do you survive?” Brian was back; he handed her a chipped pink plastic glass, then sat down with his own blue one, misshapen by a broken dishwasher years ago.

“You get used to it, I guess,” he shrugged. “And never do anything once the sun comes up unless it’s dire.”

“When do you have to go to work?”

“A few hours.”

“Thanks for coming by to hang out. I really appreciate it.”

“Sure,” he shrugged. “No problem.”

“I mean it.”

“Me, too. I miss seeing you around.”

“I just got fired,” Jenn corrected, but she was almost laughing for a second.

“I am sorry about that.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“I know. But still.”

They both let the heat crush them for a few minutes. Jenn drank most of the water in one prolonged series of gulps. It was a relief to set it down; her fingers were sticky-slick with sweat. “This is stupid, okay? Don’t laugh at me.”

“Okay,” Jenn promised as Brian stood up.

“I found these on the kitchen counter inside, and I thought you could use a cloud.” He held up a cotton ball, pulled apart to resemble a mythically perfect cloud, complete with wispy edges. His hand turned dark with the sun’s intensity, his fingers stuck out oddly, and the cotton-ball cloud was far too solid when placed against the porcelain sky—but she smiled.

“It’s not stupid.”


 

Thanks for reading! I wrote this as part of Rosalie Valentine’s The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash. Head there over the weekend to see what else people wrote for the challenge.

EDIT: Here is a link to all of the entries to the Dash.

And, for the curious, here is my prompt for the story:

Cloud

 

The Secret Place

The Secret Place is a devotional magazine that I stumbled onto one morning because there was a whole stack of them sitting on the living room table in my seminary dorm. It’s a devotional full of every day moments, and I’m so honored to be a part of the most recent issue. I’m talking about perfection, because everyone needs to hear about it sometime, and my devotion is slotted for January 29.

Go check it out!

Green (Five Minute Friday)

All around was green: teal, emerald, lime, sea green, glinting and shimmering. It was more dresses than she had ever seen before, racks and racks of them extending into the distance. A few feet away they shifted to blues: sapphire, sky blue, powder blue, midnight blue. It even smelled of fabric, overlaid with perfume and sanitation chemicals. It wasn’t an entirely pleasant combination.

“Can I help you find something?” The woman who approached was wearing a red dress; it clashed with the greens and blues behind her.

“I’m looking for Tasha.”

The clerk’s face shifted. “She’s in the back. Maybe you should come in that way next time.”

Pria just shrugged as she brushed past the other woman, even as her face and neck prickled with uncomfortable heat. Yes, she should have, but, as much as she despised the fake facade out here, she hated the dank, stinking back rooms even more.


Today was a fiction day. It’s not from anything I’m writing, but such a visual prompt just sparked something. It’s an odd bit of scene, so thanks for reading!