Welcome to the 6th installment of First Sunday Short Fiction. If you enjoyed the stories this month and would like to join in next month, details can be found here.
Once again we have an offering from the faithful Steph.
And we have a new participant this month, Kellie of TightyWritie.
And now, my offering.
I Hope You Make It
Summer smothered the city, and the parking lot of Ally’s low-rent apartment complex baked and reeked in the heat. Ally broke into a sweat just taking her trashbag to the dumpster. Her arms shook by the time she dropped the plastic lid, and she paused to catch her breath. She breathed through her mouth so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the stench. At least she could get out of the sun. She stepped into the shade of the dumpster and leaned against the painted cinderblocks of the building. Looking down, she noticed a tendril of green curling up from a crack in the asphalt. The tiny leaves were graceful and sweet in the midst of the ugliness. She smiled at the seedling.
“I hope you make it,” she told it, and made her painful way back to her apartment.
Ally lost weight and couldn’t sleep. Her hands shook.
The heat intensified. Reporters spoke of drought on the evening news. The asphalt was so hot it stuck to Ally’s shoes when she crossed the parking lot to the dumpster. The walk seemed twice as long today, and jerking her shoes free from the sticky surface made each step that much more tiring.
But the little plant had tripled in size since the last time she came to the dumpster. There were six leaves now, each a perfect tear drop with fine veins. She bent and touched a leaf tentatively; it felt cool and silky even in all this heat. When she rubbed it carefully between her fingers, a sharp clean scent rose up from it. Her back ached when she straightened. She went inside and sat down on her sofa, inhaling the fragrance still on her fingers.
She slept for hours.
Ally’s hair started falling out. The doctors said things like, “I want you to see another specialist”, and “Do you need more pain medication?”.
In July the plant grew as tall as the dumpster. It sent tendrils reaching in every direction, seeking something to climb. Ally searched the internet in hopes of identifying it without success.
Tight maroon flower buds hung all over the vines.
She hoped she lived long enough to see them open.
The flowers opened on the first of August. Glowing crimson blossoms brightened the shade beside the dumpster, and their sweet fragrance eclipsed the smell of hot tar and trash. Ally cut a single blossom and put it in a vase on her desk. She took pictures and posted them on gardening forums.
No one recognized the plant.
Ally was dying. The doctors didn’t say so. They said “We’re running out of places to look” and “Don’t forget there are therapists to help you with this kind of thing”.
By mid-September purple, golf-ball-sized fruits replaced the blossoms. Ally took more pictures and searched more forums. The plant remained a mystery.
She thought of tasting the fruits, but hesitated to eat something she couldn’t identify. She didn’t know how much time she had left and feared making it shorter.
One morning Ally woke to the sounds of the maintenance crew in the parking lot. She hurried out to see one of the workers approaching the plant with a weed-whacker. She tried to stop him. He said it had to go. She asked him to give her five minutes, and gathered every one of the fruits into her sweater. She carried them to her apartment, ignoring the man’s mutterings about crazy ladies.
The purple fruits gleamed under the harsh fluorescent lights of her kitchen. She picked one up and split it open with a knife. The inside was lighter purple, the seeds jewel red. The smell that came from it made her salivate. She would just taste it, she decided; if it tasted wrong, she would spit it out.
The flavor was exquisite.
She ate it all, the first food she’d really wanted in over a month. She fell into bed and slept.
She dreamed she was surrounded by a crowd of vine-haired spirits. She was not frightened of them. One held out a shimmering purple orb. The sphere was cool to the touch, and smooth. The bright-skinned woman put her hands on either side of Ally’s face, her inhuman eyes swirling hypnotically. She placed her lips against Ally’s; they tasted sweet. The spirit breathed into Ally’s mouth. Ally saw herself wandering the city, planting purple fruits in empty lots, bathed in September’s slanting sunlight.
“Nature plants her seeds in the fall,” the spirit said.
Ally woke up. She felt well. Completely, wonderfully, perfectly well.
She didn’t want to open her eyes. What if this blissful wellness was a dream? She listened to car doors slamming, footsteps passing. She felt the warm sunshine falling through the window on her legs. Breathed in and out slowly.
Ally thought of the dream, and the kiss. She knew what she needed to do.
She got up and stretched slowly.
Ally dressed and put seeds from the fruits into a plastic bag. She put on her shoes, and slipped out the door into the glowing morning.
She planted the first fruit in a pot on her doorstep. Then she walked through the city all day, and planted seeds in every park she found. She patted the ground after she planted each seed, and said “I hope you make it.”
copyright Michelle Simkins, 2011
Artwork: “Mistress of the Orb”, copyright Chelsea Rose, 2011. Used with permission.
Creating within her cozy home studio space located in Portland, Oregon, Chelsea specializes in acrylic painting, pen and ink illustration, surrealist portrait photography and body painting. Chelsea’s art is highly psychedelic, reflecting her fascination with ancient lore, mystical creatures, the sacred feminine, and metaphysical and paranormal theory. She feels that her creations are smoke signals and guides for herself and others who are reaching out to grasp the rainbow roots of the soul and understand once again the cosmic truth of unity.