, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Stefan Lutter

Your mother was so pleased with that black-eyed Susan.

She didn’t plant it, of course. But the day it bloomed, lone stalk with yellow florets between the gap in the slate sidewalk, it was a ratification of her whole life. The type of fortune that demands reconsideration of horoscopes. Her favorite flower, spawned in an unlikely place, a hostile habitat, directly in front of the concrete porch where you sat with her every night to catch the sun sinking through hardwoods and wait for your father to get home. She labored in the vegetable garden but here was the beauty she really wanted to sow, presented by the earth on the backdrop of an August evening.

For three days she shined like hell. She shook her head again and again and said she couldn’t believe it. Right there, all by itself. Imagine that. More than once she told a passerby to watch out. They’d look at her, wondering what the big deal was and she’d wave them along. You proposed digging it up, planting it somewhere safer.

She shook her head. The black-eyed Susan was beautiful because of the environment, not in spite of it. It wouldn’t be the same out back.

One night you asked if you could go to the pond and catch frogs. Why did she say no? That wasn’t usual. Too close to supper, to when the time came to set down on the front stoop and regard the flower. Why does blood rush quickly to the head of boys? You went to the shed to fetch your bicycle and rode and rode, up and down the street, the blood pumping, the anger and resentment building. At last you came round the bend and stomped the brake, skidded your wheel out to the side, right over that goddamn flower.

You sat on the porch and stared at it, crumpled and dying against the slate. You panted, chest heaved. The smell of roasting potatoes and the soft singing of your mother drifted out from the kitchen. Humming to fill holes left by forgotten lyrics.

There was nothing to be done but you tried regardless. Ran inside to get tape. What are you up to? she asked. You hustled back out front, fashioned a pathetic splint with a twig, but the stem was broken, the wilt unabated.

She came out shortly after, as usual. You closed your eyes, ready for her to see the broken plant now wilted in the summer sun. She saw the flower, and as you sobbed she said I’m sorry, so sorry.

Stefan Lutter was born and raised in Upstate New York, where he still resides. His work has appeared in Word Riot, Five 2 One, and Vending Machine Press.