Gardening

My Momma told me ghosts aren’t real. She said it all serious-like, as I snuggled between her and Pop on the couch.

“They sure look real,” I said, peeking at the billowing apparition on the screen, but she hushed me, told me it was just “special effects,” whatever that means.

My Momma knew everything, it seemed back then, but it turns out she was every bit as clueless as the rest of us.

We found her in a gutter. She didn’t look dead, not really. Cold and pale, but still Momma. Her eyes were wide open, unchanged, and I thought she was alive until the stench hit me. Ain’t no other word for it: that smell near knocked me over, all rest-homes and public bathrooms wrapped in old boiled cabbage.

I don’t remember the next few minutes, waiting for the police to arrive, except for one thing: Momma’s hand, still wrapped tight around a wilted white lily. They said it took ages to remove it from her grip, so we had lilies for the funeral, lilies for Momma.

They said it wasn’t murder, not exactly. “They” were always saying stupid shit, anyway. Said he was only trying to rape her, like that was somehow better. Only hit her to stop her screaming. Didn’t know his own strength. Then came the cries of “police brutality,” of “procedural misconduct” and “mitigation.”

Momma told me excuses were little kisses from the devil. At least she was right about that.

She talked to me at night, sometimes. I’d lie in bed, staring at the dark patterns on the ceiling, then the shadows would darken, blotting out the streetlight from outside, and Momma would whisper to me, telling me it would be all right, telling me what to do. I couldn’t hold her any more, but her voice soothed me to sleep.

I took him a lily, after his acquittal. I chose it special, from the bunch on Momma’s grave. It hadn’t yet reached full-bloom, and hung poised on the verge of beauty, its creamy folds still coyly concealing secrets and whispers in its shadows.

He already reeked of booze, was hitting the clubs and searching for a girl, any girl. He looked right through me, seeing just another pair of legs, another fuck waiting to happen, willing or not.

I led him outside, silently offering him the lily, a chance to repent. He ignored the flower, letting it drop, its head denting on the pavement without a sound.

He shoved me roughly against a wall and opened his pants, then I opened him up, like Momma had told me.

The knife slid in deep, and we both blossomed.

Momma still whispers to me at night. She tells me where to go, how to get by. They say I’m a murderer, a vigilante psycho.

They look for me, but they don’t have my Momma on their side.

She tells me who to visit, and I take them each a flower.

 

This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #5. The challenge was ghost stories, with the prompts “a needed conversation” and “lillies to say goodbye.”

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