Friends and followers:
My two jobs — seeking a new position in public relations and taking on project assignments — have prevented me from devoting a lot of time to the blog. Only three posts in March (albeit some good ones). I will return to the subject of this blog soon.
Until then, I kindly ask that you accept — and read — the following original work of fiction. I will “serialize” this in three or four installments. Here’s the first. It’s called “Snapdragons in November,” and it’s, well, fiction. So I totally made this up.
Snapdragons in November
“What are you doing?” she shouted with measured defiance from the back porch. “There’s nothing left. It’s all worthless stuff; they’re dead. Just leave them in the ground and come inside.”
He didn’t turn to reply, as he would have in years past. Why bother. The back door slammed shut. Very definitive. Very expected. He kept wasting time with what remained of his perennials, annuals and prairie grasses grown in the thin strips of earth between the fence designed to keep people out and the lawn no one walked on. Pulling and weeding brought satisfaction, especially when there was something left to save, something that still had a little value.
The second weekend of that November was mild, unlike most the other shorter-and-shorter days of autumn in Chicago. November days teased those who grasped for more and more days of shirtsleeve weather, often ushering in the damp, the raw, the waning afternoons of warmth and clear skies. He relished these days and their maddening potential for temperature swings and schizophrenic precipitation.
Let them bask in their endless pursuit of summer and sun, he thought. That’s why we have jackets and hats and umbrellas. Bring on the end of the growing season, when nature paints everything monochromatic – all dull browns and grays. Carpets of clouds make even shadows hard to notice, and the dead wet leaves look like they’ve surrendered without a fight. No beauty to most; raw, silent and serene to him. The months between harvest and planting gave time to savor and reflect. There was too little of those ordinary welcomed pursuits when the world is made easy and accessible through a flat screen monitor.
A few perennials in the east flower bed had specks of color left. Most still stood tall, as they did at their height in July, yet they were brittle and could be snapped in half without much effort. The snapdragons he planted, they fought a better fight. She would snip a few during the season, using a paring knife, not the garden shears he bought and hung in the neat row under the porch with the rest of his tools. The little buds, pastels in purple, orange and yellow, would fill out the small vases she’d set on the toilet tank and on the night stand. Now, in November, the snapdragons weren’t worthy.
Snapdragons don’t offer a bouquet. But they give little bursts of color all the time, he maintained.
With shears in hand, he clipped the few remaining stems, making a neat angled cut in order to let the plant take in more water and live longer. She had locked the back door, so he had to use his key to get in.
“I thought you were going to the bar,” she said as a sort of apology for locking him out.
“Soon,” he said. “Soon. Would you like to join me?”
“Will it be smoky in there,” she asked?
“Well,” he said, hoping she’d take the hint and not go, “Yeah, it’ll be smoky if there are people there who smoke. Samantha will be behind the bar. She smokes. It’ll be smoky, yea.”
“You go,” she said. “I’ve got things to sew.”
“I’ll be back in a while, maybe an hour and a half. I bought some salmon at the store on Milwaukee Avenue. We’ll have that, a salad and some roasted potatoes. Is that okay?”
”Yes. Fine. What else did you get at your Milwaukee Avenue store?”
“You know. Stuff for salads for the week, my ham and turkey for lunches. The usual stuff I buy.”
“Did you get any milk?’
”No. I thought you didn’t like their milk.”
“But we’re low on milk!”
“I’m leaving. Here are some flowers to replace the old ones. Do what you want with them.”
“Can you go to Whole Foods and get my organic milk?”
Yeah, right, he thought ignoring her question, closing the door. Get in a car and drive two miles at the busiest time of the day for fuckin’ milk.
The sidewalk was empty, save for litter and a few dead leaves, as he headed a block north toward Wellington’s Bar. The last rays of a football Sunday peaked between bare limbs from the honey locust and linden trees people planted in the ‘70s after the elm trees died. He felt alive and walked with purpose, even if the desired result was solace through beer among strangers. Then Catherine and Baby crept from the gangway next to the old house where they lived, for what had to be a long time.