by Iris N. Schwartz
Belle never should have married a man who didn’t know how to kiss. Benjy’s sloppy, aimless probing of her mouth felt as erotic as a session in a dentist’s chair.
He was dyslexic and fumbled for words. She often imagined casting a fishing rod into Benjy’s throat to find and reel in synonyms superior to the words he’d chosen.
The man possessed a notably small vocabulary, relying on “nice” and, when elated, “very nice.” If she heard one more “Very nice tie” or “Nice movie we saw last night,” she would retch. Heavy-duty retching, maybe even projectile. She’d been nourishing this resentment for years.
Why had Columbia University MFA student Belle married a man who hadn’t finished high school and who read, at the most, a book a year? At the time of her wedding she was 32, ached for children, thought Benjy a good man, and talked herself into loving him.
Soon after they separated, Belle stuffed her four-year-old wedding gown into a no-name trash bag and pressed it into the only empty can in her apartment building basement. That night she dreamed she strolled to a nearby vacant lot. There she saw a familiar lace sleeve and lengthy, dirt-tinged train. Her wedding dress! As she walked closer, she observed tens of gowns strewn over the lot, each looking dingy or forlorn. Belle cried out, “I must rescue you!” and awakened to a tug in her throat, a desire to sob, that she would not give in to.
She returned to sleep, shaken; next dreamed an aged, handsome woman told Belle to retrieve the gown from the lot, to bury it. But where? The old woman would tell her no more. Belle, she offered, must discover this for herself.
She reawakened curiously calm and expectant; she showered, dressed, took a walk before work. On her way to the subway Belle noticed the lot was no longer vacant. She saw deep-coffee-colored soil, outsized plants, and brilliantly hued flowers. When had all this happened?
She dashed over, stood in front of what was now a garden. Erupting from the soil between every plant and flower were wedding gown sleeves, hems, bodices. A sign plunged into the dirt read:
PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB WEDDING ATTIRE, FLOWERS, OR VEGETABLES.
WORN WEDDING GOWNS ENRICH AND NURTURE.
PLEASE ALLOW OUR GARDEN TO GROW.
Belle cried, happily. Her gown had found a home — “a very nice” home.
Iris N. Schwartz’s fiction has been published in dozens of journals and anthologies, including 101 Words, The Drabble, The Flash Fiction Press, Foxglove Journal, Friday Flash Fiction, and Jellyfish Review. Her first short-short story collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth: And Other Stories, is published by Poets Wear Prada.