What Grows in the Garden

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March 21, 2022 by The Citron Review

by Erin Armstrong

 

It started like this: the girl swallows the seeds and can’t remember how many. For months afterward, there is nothing. 

When winter comes and goes she still seems unconcerned. The oak does not grow tall in a year, she reminds her friends over dinner. 

But did you even eat an acorn? Her most cutting friend asks around a bright bleeding bite of beet. Nails clanking against her wine glass, tired, she has informed the group, of their willingness to nurture this delusion any further. Her friends tell the other woman that she has gone too far but the girl is unperturbed. 

What difference does that make? She sips sparkling water and explains again how carbonation will help kickstart the growth. Her friends look at each other and cut small bites they chew behind tight lips, intently read the captions on the tv above the bar. One friend grabs her arm before they leave and presses a sweat-damp card into her palm.

Just think about it, she tilts her head to the side and stares into the girl’s eyes, making her face go soft and sad. 

The girl nods her head and does not look at it until she gets home. She decides she will not call the number, but she likes to look at the card every now and then so the corners become soft with handling. 

It does not happen until she begins to forget she has it. One weekend she is laughing at the tv and then, for no reason, she laughs out a velvet-smooth red petal. She stares at it lying in the palm of her hand and does not feel like she thought she might. She isn’t sure she feels anything at all. She runs a finger along it and thinks that she thought it would be bigger. She rests it against the coffee table and does not look at it again for days. 

After the first, the second comes just a few weeks later while she is asleep— she wakes to the petal still touching her mouth. 

The next five come around after midnight on Sundays.

By the end of summer, she is coughing up petals every other day, ordering her groceries so that she won’t run into anyone she knows. 

What did you expect to happen? Her mother asks her over text. 

I thought it would come at once, full-grown. She replies. 

That would be a neat trick. Her mother responds after five minutes.

She begins to wonder how it ends. She keeps coughing up petals and still has no flower to show. 

If you gathered all the petals, could you guess what kind of flower they’d make? Her friend asks the girl over movies and takeout on her couch. 

There are too many. She drinks red wine and stares at the ceiling, dangling her neck against the back of the couch. I think it might be many flowers. A whole bouquet.

Her friend hmm’s and does not say anything else. She does not know the anatomy of flowers either. 

Does it hurt? Her friend finally asks at the end of the bottle.

I don’t know. The girl replies. I can’t remember what it felt like before.

 

Erin Armstrong has an MFA from University of Colorado Boulder and is the founder of Ice Queen Magazine. In addition to this, she is the managing editor for GASHER Journal. Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Banango Street, New World Writing, and elsewhere.

 

 

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Sunflower

George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. "Sunflower." The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

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