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by Ashley Hutson

Houseplants in winter want to die. They give an impression of suicidal thought. This impression can only be perceived upon close inspection, as from a normal distance they look healthy and hardy and offer the room a pleasant greenness that is noticeably absent elsewhere in cold months.

Abby says all of this with a straight face, fussing over a fern in their living room window. Marvin looks at her and is astonished. He had no idea his wife knew so much about plants.

But in the dirt they know to wait, she continues. Plants know that there is warmer weather yet to see. Plants are patient, plants are kind.

Plants are kind? Marvin asks, confused. He has been confused for months now. Things like a full sink of unwashed dishes which is Abby’s chore and Abby sleeping until noon and Abby missing days at work keep occurring, threatening to form a pattern. There is Abby’s body and it is weeping in an unmade bed, and there it is unmoving for hours on the couch, looking alien. But Abby’s body has also been seen laughing at the dinner table and making love to him willingly. Abby’s body speaks in erratic language, and Marvin needs sure signs.

Plants are kind, Abby repeats as she looks at the fern. The plant does not belong in January. She bought it in July, when winter seemed unlikely.

Abby says, Right now I have a bowl of water on the radiator, and that is what keeps this fern alive.

Marvin takes her word for it. Later on, he says something like, Abby, let’s go for a drive and get out of the house.

She is sitting near the window, where afternoon light is flowing in golden. It calls for snow, she says without turning. She is wearing a green shirt, and to Marvin she looks beautiful. She looks like his wife.

Ashley Hutson lives in rural Maryland. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in several journals, including McSweeney’s, SmokeLong Quarterly, Threadcount, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Wyvern Lit, DOGZPLOT, and theEEEL. Find her on the web at www.aahutson.com and on Twitter at @a_a_hutson.