I worked early at the zoo today and hefted quite a lot of aquariums. Since my parents just got back from their vacation, I thought I'd stop by their office to give them a coffee grounds reading and a listen on the CD copy of the radio show that I was on. I was eager to hear of their adventures. They proceeded to yell at me for the car accident we had last week, despite the fact that they have no financial involvement in the matter at all. They're just my insurance agents. I think I'll switch insurance agents so that, if I drive my next car into a brick wall and die, they won't be inconvenienced. I cried a lot today and accidentally bit my lip so it bled a holy hell of lots.
It was late afternoon on a sunny Thursday as she changed into in her favorite dress. A gift she had received one Solstice years ago. It was green, like the deep woods, and had the movement of a spring rain across a lake. She pinned a deep red rose over her heart and paused a moment to breathe in the intoxicating fragrance. She coaxed the dogs inside impatiently. She had to get going. Someone would be home soon to let them out again. She plugged in her cell phone. Wouldn’t want to run out of batteries. Briefly, she scanned the room for some manner of purse. Perhaps she should borrow this black bag? Pondering whether it might inconvenience its owner if she took it today, she stared at the logo. Beneath pretentious lettering a motto read, “It takes experience.” The bag still rested empty on the floor as she locked the door behind her. She stuffed a note on white paper and a one hundred dollar bill awkwardly in her bra and set off across the patio with a long empty box under one arm.
Visiting local gun shops was a much-loved activity! Though her favorite shop had closed down months before, and the only other shop in town had poor service, she still enjoyed looking through the clever accessories and angry-looking pistols as she waited for a free moment with a salesman. She looked over an affordable shotgun as she had seen others do before. She always had been a good student. Cash paid, she carefully enclosed her new gun in the box and left the store with a box of shells in addition.
Smugly riding on the 255-bus route with no one the wiser as to her box’s alarming contents, she picked up a schedule from its assigned slot. Her mother had told her as a child, “If you ever get lost, remember that the 255 bus will always take you home!” She smiled at the silliness. You could only take that bus if you were on its assigned route between Kirkland and Seattle! But, of course, she never had strayed far from home. She looked distastefully at the tables on the bus schedule. It looked so busy, full and complex. But from Kirkland to Seattle and back again wasn’t much of an adventure. Not the kind she had always hoped for, anyway.
“Hazen Hills” read the sign as she signaled for the bus to stop. She had arrived at the park that she had played in almost daily as a child, up until she left home. Stepping over the low fence, she pulled off her sandals so that she could feel the cool grass between her toes. She skipped gleefully across the field and up to her favorite climbing tree. Leaning the box against its thick trunk, she grasped a familiar branch and swung easily up into the arms of her old friend. She made herself comfortable on a large branch. The “hammock branch” that time had pulled out wide to greet her. She pulled the box up to rest beside her, propped up against the gnarled hands of the towering tree. Relaxing now, she pressed her cheek up against the bark that had been warmed by the late summer sun.
She recalled a time long ago, when she would run to this tree at times when nobody else cared. She would curl up against the hammock branch and talk out her troubles into the tree. Her tears would run rivulets down the cracked bark. She remembered another time, when the entire city was tangled in a summer thunderstorm, she had waited in this tree for the first of many men who would tell her that they cared enough to stick by her through tough times. That night had been one such time, but her sad face had lifted at the sight of his stocky body moving across the rain swept field. “A penny for your thoughts?” He had asked it with a forehead wrinkled in concern as he looked up at her in the tree. His hands opened to reveal that they were full of the copper tokens of his love. Her face broke into a smile as she helped him up into the tree. He revealed that those pennies were change for a chocolate bar that he had bought her while walking to the place where he knew his loved-one sat troubled. They both sat on the hammock branch and kissed with a passion known only to teenagers as the rain mixed with the tears on her face.
But now, on this particular warm Thursday, her tears met dry bark as she shook her head out of its reverie. She calmly reached for the box and wiped her wet cheek with her shoulder as her hands worked mechanically on paper and metal. There were things to take out and things to put in. Finished now, she sat up on the bough and pulled a white piece of paper out of the bodice of her dress. She looked at it with a critical eye, then shrugged and placed it at her feet. She stared absently up at the light that was filtering through the long fingers of the branches, and then turned to the west to watch the red sunset creeping across the sky that matched the color of the rose pinned across her heart. She smiled, lifted the muzzle of the gun to her mouth and pulled the trigger.
The cruel sound of her shot thundered through the quiet neighborhood. Blood splashed angrily against the bark of the tree. Her body slumped gently back onto the hammock branch like a boat beaching on a sandy shore. A dog barked as the note fluttered gently to the grass below to expose her smiling picture taped below her scrawled handwriting.
Short years, yet I'd begin to wilt.
From the blossom of my mind already petals drop.
Though my stalk is strong and healthy all my nectar's spilt.
The most conscientious gardener knows it's time to stop.
Remember when I had those hopes and plans?
Graduation, with my future like a garden bed.
Keep that memory, like dried flowers passed from many hands,
Forever beautiful, to be like this they must be dead.
Before destruction happens over time,
Before the winter, there's one bloom that I must save.
Even you will give to me a flower cut down in her prime;
Lovely past, without a future, for my grave.