A Diverse Flora of Native and Introduced Species, Beautifully Adapted to Their Microenvironment

A foul mist had been settling over the neighborhood all week, falling out of the sky at irregular intervals several times a day. The neighbors blamed it on me. They said my lawn was an abomination to their god. I could accept that it was unlikely to win yard of the month, what with the crabgrass and the foxtail and the chickweed and the clover, but it seemed a little harsh to call it an abomination.

“That’s not what we mean,” they said. “We’re talking about the message spelled out in dandelions.”

I had fastidiously treated my lawn to encourage the dandelions to grow in a pattern. “It says, ‘Welcome to Nashville.’ I thought it would be a hospitable gesture toward tourists flying over on their approach to the airport.”

They conceded that would have been a nice gesture but insisted that wasn’t at all what my message said. “It says, ‘Your god is an abomination.’” And they read it aloud, pointing with their index fingers and scrolling from their left to my left as they faced me across the weeds.

I walked around the dandelions and looked at them from my neighbors’ point of view. Oh hell. They were half right. It hadn’t occurred to me that “Welcome to Nashville” is “Your god is an abomination” upside-down. Boy, was I embarrassed. But I was sure that blaming meteorological anomalies on vengeful deities had fallen out of fashion centuries ago, and I told them so. “And anyway, vengeful or not, shouldn’t your god be able to see the dandelions from both sides and realize my blasphemy was unintended, that it was just a proofreading error exacerbated by the well-documented deficiencies of human perception in evaluating complex realities from multiple perspectives?”

“We didn’t say the foul mist was sent down by a vengeful god. We believe the foul mist is sent down by airplanes flying over on their way to the airport. Our god is also the god of the pilots of those airplanes, and they take offense at your greeting, and they reply by emptying their sewage tanks above us.”

I couldn’t refute their logic, so I tried to mitigate it instead. “But only the ones flying in from the west. The ones approaching from the east coast must adore us.”

Clearly my argument was too subtle, because they sprayed lighter fluid on my lawn and set it on fire. Then they threatened to do the same to me. So I feigned ecstatic conversion to their religion, and I begged for mercy — invoking the example of our merciful god — and I promised to use both words and herbicides more judiciously in the future.

They told me I’d better watch my ass, and they went back to their houses.

They still hate me, but they haven’t killed me.

I read online that ash is beneficial for the soil, and I’m reseeding with fescue in the spring.

 

Don Hucks was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2009. His fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, including decomP, Bartleby Snopes, Bananafish, and Pindeldyboz.

 

The Office They Gave Me

Its window looked out over the stone chapel of the Order of the Holy Child, and inside completely bare, only a tangle of electrical cords, not even an outlet. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the snake appears to Eve walking erect, before God curses him, but these weren’t snakes. They were nerves.

Eventually, the rest would come — the desk, chair, computer, bookshelves, corkboards, telephone, file cabinet, outlets, Ethernet. Those first few days, I sat cross-legged as if at a fire, spent the morning and into afternoon with the chapel’s stained glass nuns, an evergreen branch between me and them. I envied their stillness, their fixed eyes. My eyes often closed. None of my limbs yet trembled. There were no chest pains, shortness of breath, the closing of the throat, my lying on the floor in case I were to pass out. The Sisters of the Order on the windows, who once gave comfort,  would then give none, just cold looks that confirmed my weakness.

I tied the cords around my legs, or maybe they wrapped themselves around me on their own accord. Either way, it didn’t work; the whole desk and chair shook. I wasn’t made for this world, the phone buzzing, two-hundred emails a day, piles of forms, proposals, grants, applications, and the wall clock that didn’t exist when the room had been empty of the world and for the tiniest of instances, one of the windows seemed to glow, as if there were more to life than this.

 

 

Randall Brown is the author of Mad to Live (Flume Press 2008). He directs and teaches at Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing program and holds an MFA from Vermont College. Short fiction pieces have appeared or are forthcoming in journals, including Harpur PalateRedivider, Mississippi Review, Cream City Review, Hunger Mountain and The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction. His work has received nominations for the Pushcart, O. Henry, Million Writers, and Best of Web Prizes.