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.