Flowerpots

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a short piece from an going selection of stories called "The earth and the cloud".

Submitted: December 09, 2014

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Submitted: December 09, 2014

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Flowerpots

When you kiss the dead; the forehead, it’s not just cold, your lips caress emptiness. The print of your mouth feeds the cold zero an instant of warmth. Colder than stone it absorbs. To kiss the dead is to come to the ice of black stars. The body you loved has become corpse.

His flesh was tinged blue like the pale sea on an atlas. The globe of his head and all the familiar features of his face were still there like the outline of continents but had lost their colours. He was shaded blue before the Ambulance door closed: dead as the siren wailed.

That was a week ago and now he rests serene and colourless in the undertaker’s parlour. He never combed his messy silvery hair but now it’s neat and his finger nails that were never free of garden dirt are scrubbed clean and manicured.  My daughter has her hand on my shoulder, her husband is behind her. I can’t cry, my mouth and my eyes are dry.

Outside it is raining. It is the second day of rain. It is October and a darkness tells that summer is gone and you’ve seen the last of colour and autumn. The path is scattered with the little paws of maple leaves. He taught me these names and so many other things: cultivated and wild, delphinium, columbine, travellers’ joy and woundwort. I think now of our walks and him bending to show me the windflower of the spring woods and then the cloud berry of summer and the high moor. “Woundwort” I say to myself. I repeat it and it comforts a little.

My daughter is weeping. How unfamiliar to me is she now… Children are the centre and reason for your daily world for what seems forever - then they’re gone. They become a stranger and you can’t remember the day it happened. When she was little she was everything to me and to Adam. But after Charlotte’s birth he seemed to retreat from me and the centre of our passion that made her. He spent more time in the garden but he became more solid, reliable in other ways, there, behind me always. I serviced his daily needs and he did the business too; provided, shared, changed nappies. Cooked for me when I started work again. On the day I came back from hospital with Charlotte I was sitting on the bed feeding her and I saw him in the garden bending, planting peas. The afternoon sun was strong enough for me to feel it through the glass. Something made him turn and he looked up and saw me. He smiled and waved his gardening trowel. I lifted Charlotte’s tiny arm and waved it to him. He was smiling and turned back to the soil.

 

They give me a lift home. I tell them “I’ll be all right.” And they leave me at the front door. I wait till they go. Then I slip down the side passage to the back garden. Everything is just as he left it. There is even the fork standing upright in the half spread compost. The rain has stopped but everything is dripping wet. A few Bramleys have fallen since he gathered them up a week ago. I bend down to pick one up. A snail has taken a crescent out of its flesh and it’s already started to rot. It is as if everything is waiting for his return and any moment he’ll come out of the back door calling to me. This is the worst of it. It’s the unfinished scene, like the ghost ship, there is no one here but everything is normal. Things are here and he is gone. I go down to the greenhouse. The last, sad unripened tomatoes are waiting for him. I can see where he’s left the empty flowerpots, the old contents are on the fresh compost heap. On the bench in the shed is new compost and more clay flowerpots. He never used plastic. He said he liked the colour of red clay. The bag of fresh potting compost is open. I start to put my hands into to its rich, dark core. At first it’s is cold but warms around my hand. I let a fistful grow tepid. I start to fill the empty flowerpots. So many empty pots. My eyes are wet. I say to myself, “Woundwort…“ As I fill them, “woundwort…”


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