The Home for Specimen Gardeners

The Home for Specimen Gardeners

The Home for Specimen Gardeners 1920 1280 Sabrina Hicks


I’m here. I’m here. I’m here. Plays on repeat, can be heard down the halls thick with the scent of pine and decay. He still walks on the soil of his youth, across the grass with cleats, dropping to his knees, burying his fingers low into the earth to fill with begonias. He loved the feel of their waxy leaves, the dangling roots, the worms wriggling below his pulse. “Wear gloves!” his mother yelled, standing in the front door frame on Lynnwood Drive, a matchbox starter house where they began and ended. If he’d known, he would’ve buried his hands deep in her abdomen, irrigated her insides, circulated her blood flow, carving out the cancer. But he didn’t know. None of them did as they fell away, leaving him pistil, watching his mother’s happiness smear on her lips and cheeks – the only blooms he’s ever known.


The day she met Rose, wishing to be the cigarette dangling from her satin lips, was the day May stopped wishing herself away, felt the soil reach up and take hold of her ankles. Women didn’t smoke like that, didn’t stare long and hard, didn’t hold jobs past their twenties. Rose was the exception she hadn’t known existed, exhaling a steady stream of curses and wit, feeding the ground below her feet while feeding paper through a typewriter yelling, “Ed, your copy!” or “Gary, get your lazy ass over here.” Rose massaged the beats in her chest, doled out the air that filled her lungs. Best friends. Sisters. Thick as thieves, wink, wink. Her gnarled hands linked in hers, inseparable, wedding bands from just eight years ago.


She pulls his sweater around his neck, color coordinated, spine out decor, mistaking volumes in his twitch, the quick tap of his index finger on the wheelchair, whisking away dust motes as they mimic a place in the universe. His eyes are reminders of how lonesome it is in space, no sunlight to synthesize or roots to grasp. She spends her evenings connecting the scars on his cheeks, his forehead, his skin tag constellations, naming their shapes. She pushes them around until she has a lasting bouquet beside her, smelling past the sour layers to that space where they began. “Silvia?” he says. Yes! she thinks. I’m Silvia. And you are Mine.


She goes home, carrying pollen with her, still wearing her scrubs, tucks in her children, her lips lingering on their cheeks. “Mom, you smell like lemons!” they say, burying their heads deep in their blankets. “You smell like old people and Lysol!” She makes a game of it, finding their ribs to tickle, their necks to kiss, their tiny bodies to cling to. All she can think is how this is slipping away, how their limbs have grown towards the sky, their feet past the quilts made years ago. Don’t grow anymore she thinks before replacing it with grow towards the sun. She inhales their newness, their wonder, making her way to each of their rooms, tending to them as nights peel away the days.

Header photograph © S. Schirl Smith.

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