Friday, February 20, 2009

An Invitation

I left that evening with a cookie wrapped in a napkin, sugar crystals gritty beneath the polished paper surface. Each breath tasted of honey and nectar, and I couldn't imagine eating anything that had been further sweetened. We had drunk mead with our dinner--a large but not dense salad accompanied by homemade bread. It had not soaked up enough of the alcohol and the clear glasses of water we had shared afterward had not completely cleared my head.

The sidewalk seemed to wink at me, flares of crystals that had floated to the top of the dull matrix. I wasn't stumbling, but I was humming to myself and thinking about sunshine, floating toward home without clear purpose. She fell into step beside me, dressed as if she'd just come from the office and smelling like refrigerated air.

Startled awake, I glanced over at her. "They told me that it was time to shake up the department," Fate stated. "They didn't tell me that you lived with the woman who destabilized an entire level of management before leaving for greener pastures."

"Is that an apology? I'm not really in the mood to care about them tonight."

"You're not? You smell like you've fallen into a florist's storage cabinet and I heard that you were both interested in the flowers that they keep behind the glass. I grew up around here, I've heard about The Pollen and The Sting. Don't you have a booth in there?"

She yawned and I noticed that her head was canted back, as if her neck had grown tired of its weight. Must take a lot out of you to spend days trying to determine which employees were goofing off enough to warrant firing.

"Take me to lunch tomorrow. I'm out at noon, after the last exit interview." Fate continued on from me, not looking back to see where I turned or if I grabbed a bus at night. I wanted to call my mom and talk about the evening, but I realized that she'd never accept what I was about to do. If there was a way out of the Garden, there also had to be a way back in. Maybe my human side would be enough to keep me safe.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thera, Thera, I Have Seen You

For the first time, I felt closer to my godmother than to my mother. Once upon a time, Thera had come here and taken tea in this room because her blood and mine were that thing which can't be spoken.

My host watched me take the tea again, watched the sugar and the warmth and the images tell me my story from down the rabbit hole, from the perspective of the people who watched it with sadness and a genteel appreciation for the exigencies of circumstance. "We were in love," my mother would say. Then she would rub another layer of lotion on my skin and give me another flask of perfume, unable to mediate the touch of my skin entirely under the greasy ministrations of gloves and petrolatum.

Like a rubber tire losing itself against the road until it is deflated, I had been running on her love alone and I am broken down.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

An Appertif of Memories

My hostess sat across from me on the low seat. When she moved some of the albums aside, I could see that it was covered in a fine lace that looked like it had been spun rather than knitted. She had cold sandwiches brought in, including a few that looked like flower-stuffed pitas. These seemed to be her particular favorite and she pulled out tiny blooms and ate them with the diffidence of a child sneaking candies from a bowl.

"I thought you'd enjoy looking through some of these." She smiled and petted an album. The sun had sunk until it had a straight shot through the upper sill of the window on the back garden and rather than washing out the pictures on the wall, their black frames sparkled with gold flecks, as did the walls. She noticed my eyes flicking behind her and turned. "This room used to be where we took Pollen Tea. The gold is supposed to resemble pollen grains."

I tried to drag my attention back to the album, but the entire room seemed to catch the light at once and I was dazzled by a firefly swarm of gold highlights around the room. Even the boquet seemed to have been sprinkled with gold dust. And the was like summer bloomed under the ficus, a warm summer evening.

She reached across and caught my hand. "Just give yourself a moment, dear. I forget that you're only half ours." I glanced at her, but she had opened the album before her. The first picture was a group shot, my hostess and her sisters along with a group of girls. One of them was my mother's employer, looking not one day younger than she had when I left a year ago, despite my mother's several decades of service.

"I see that you were...friends? With Thera's mother?" I realized that guessing ages is a fools game if you are the guest.

"Thera? I knew her as Cassidy. That is she, back when we were beginning to experiment with photography and human...things. She was so beautiful, a half-blood herself. But then, it wasn't mentioned then." She cut her eyes to me and a flush warmed me. The summer evening still smelled sweet, but the woman across from me had a scent as well. Not soft, but familiar. Almost like my father's scent, a compound of a dozen yards and a hundred flowers. Mom would hold me when I young and bury her face in the nape of my neck and I knew that I smelled like him. She was the one who gave me my first vial of perfume, a few days after he left.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Restarting January 1, 2009

The end of the year seems to have gotten away from me--starting with Hurricane Ike in September I have been one fumble away from flattening myself on the floor with a Fwoosh!

Fortunately, fate has forborn such a finish and, fittingly, the first of the year beguiles with fresh starts and festivities that include fashioning new resolves to move forward.

The Pollen and Sting will reopen in Jan. '09. Meanwhile, we'll raise a glass to merry holidays and a Happy New Year!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The townhome was so quiet that it seemed as if each brick settled a little more comfortably into its mortar as the door closed. The hallway was grey and white, with black shining from the art and artifacts in the hall and the entire color scheme washed by a shiver of light from the mirrored chandelier and furniture. The woman who had opened the door was dressed in a slim sheath of grey. When she paused just in front of me, I was visited with a sudden horror, a reminder of the old ghost story of the lady in the grey taffeta dress, reaching for a girl at the foot of her stairs in a house somewhere on the coast of Texas. My own guide was silent as that apparition, but I did not reach for her to see if she, too would feel chill as the silver and stone around us.

She did not enter the door she opened for me and I found my relief from the chill in a sunken living room full of ficus and ivy. The black and white theme was continued by the slim frames for the botanical prints that ringed the walls, providing some kind of family history for the simple specimens I had brought. My hostess was here, watering her indoor forest. "Welcome, welcome. There is a vase on the table there by the couch for your flowers. I see that you've matched our collection quite nicely. Too bad it's not the season for clover."

As I poked the crushed stems into the dark green glass vase and floated some of the flower heads in the wide green bowl next to it, she continued to water. "I thought we might have dinner in here, and I didn't want them to feel left out. Oooohhh, I like these roses floating in the bowl. You must have found the remains of a garden." She looked down for a minute and then rushed out of the room with a cry. A breeze rustled through the leaves around the couch. Across from me was a tufted seat that curved as if it had been created to fit and was covered with a pile of albums. Would this be our appertif? How long had it been since someone looked through those albums for a familiar face?

A few minutes later she returned with stubs of candles, which it looked like she had scraped out of their holders. "A less formal candelabra, isn't it lovely?" They floated around the roses and she moved the taller vase to a shelf between the botanical prints. It fit like a key into a lock.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Meanwhile, Across Town

The boquet had wilted by the time I arrived at the Butterfly's townhouse. Her doorsteps were a wide spill of shallow concrete rills up to a door that seemed to be flush with the house, leaving you with the impression that the house might just blow you back down those steps if you weren't careful.

A narrow opening clicked open to the left of the door itself and a conical iron holder extended on a diamond-patterned armature. "Flowers, please." I slipped the exhausted and debauched stems into teh holder, trying to encourage their fluffy heavy heads to stand back upright. I stowed my trinkets at home before come here and the stems were wedged into the pot with a damp papertowel covered with blue and orange butterflies. It seemed, suddenly, to be the grossest of rudeness to cover the stems with that.

Evening crept behind me as I waited on the doorstep. Sunlight fell over the pale face of the building and down the steps, but I could feel the cool breathing of the shadows across the street. I wanted to creep into them and run down the streets while plants and people threw off that heavy sunlight. A breeze slid behind my knees and I stepped backward. One step down and then another, face toward the door.

My eyes were at waist level when it opened and a gesture gave me the entry hall.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Once Upon a Garden

A story is told about the Gardener in the bar on cold, drizzly evenings when all have gathered for the bright fire and warm company, a story of the day the Gardener's daughter was banished from the garden along with her velvet, sparkling companions. It begins thusly:

Bees thrum in the undercarraige of a stroller that balances on the cockled edge of the garden. Someone has taken great care to grow a beautiful array of red, yellow, white and blue, although nothing but the wind moves in the circle of these blossoms. The Gardener's daughter listens to the hum of the bees and agrees that this is the biggest and best garden she's ever seen. Her sandwich and sweet tea chase each other and growl in her stomach, as the blossoms glow and the bees murmur about jewels of honey and petals.

She has been listening to the bees whisper about going into the garden, finding the nectar and the pollen and bringing it out into the world. Her father has told her that this garden is a reflection of the Jewel in the Belly of the Valley, a garden he visited many years ago when he desired to become a Gardener. Here, he tells her, her prince sleeps furled in a blossom, one day to waken and find her. His princess, too, lives in the garden; although he and her mother are happy to perfect their skills for a bliss with each other. This is why there are no consecrated unions here, he tells her.

Four bees zip across the border, each of which the Gardner sees and all of whom the Gardner sprays with a careful mix of water and honey. He scoops the sweet, stiff bees into the center of the garden and smiles. There will be no insectivorous rapine and devouring while the Gardener patrols the blossoms. He shows his daughter the bees and she screams. Snatching the nearest of her companions, she runs away from her father.

She runs away from the sound of his voice, crying her name over and over again. She runs away from the sight of the blooms and the house, away from the flash of a prince dining on bee cutlets in a blood-red tulip. They run for hours until she falls to her knees in a patch of clover. Here they rest, the daughter wiping away her tears and smoothing them over the dirty, spiky velvet coat of the bee. He begins to hum in the evening, dancing around the clover and keeping her safe as she rests through the night.

It is at this point that patron's eyes begin to flick toward the dark windows in the center of the bar, waiting to see if this is the night, the long midsummer twilight that will show them both the night upon the grass and the sun's last rays in the tall clover balls, and, perphaps, the form of the barkeep's wife, a young girl in the ageless fields. Even she sometimes looks out, though I don't know what she sees.