What passes for affection these days is a note taped to the refrigerator door which reads, “I’ve left you. If you follow me I’ll call the cops.”
All Alice ever wanted was a man who brought her flowers, so when the red azalea appeared beside her back gate, planted in a place she never would have chosen, displacing innocent earthworms and heaving rich black dirt across the concrete walk without a trace of apology, she ignored the alarm. Prince Charming and Prince Alarming are always the same guy anyway. Botanical invasion was at least a creative sort of seduction. Hey Baby. Can I plant your yard? Except, whoever it was, he never asked. The first time, it didn’t really matter. Who questions a violation that ends in spring?
It didn’t really matter the second time either, when all those Emperor tulips materialized along the driveway where no one planted them, or the third time, when a lilac bush shoved its purple head inside an open window that was clear and square just the day before. But the fourth time, when she opened the back door to find half the sod taken up and replaced with at least fifty unrecognizable varieties of exotic flora, Alice ran to her best friend.
“A man is planting flowers in my yard without permission.”
“Have you asked him to stop?”
“I never see him.”
“How do you know it’s a man then?”
“Who else would do a thing like that?”
In June, birds came. Lots of birds. Who could blame them? Half the damn plants had berries, and of the others, half again were asking for it some other way. The birds spilled seeds on the ground and the seeds attracted mice and the mice attracted cats and red-tailed hawks and other creatures Alice never saw, only heard, brushing against the Amazon foliage and uttering small, strange cries whenever she turned away from them. Some of the seeds sprouted and new strange plants crowded in amongst the dominant strange plants, unleashing horticultural chaos. By August, a rasping sound at the screen turned out to be a pumpkin vine accompanied by an opposum coachman, both demanding to be let in. Alice ran out the front door and headed straight for the police station.
“There’s a pumpkin vine trying to get in my back door. A man put it there.”
“Um. Okay M’am. Is he threatening you in any way? Does he have a weapon?”
“Have you ever seen a pumpkin vine?”
Hacking her way up to the porch, Alice knew before she even opened the door, that her kitchen was now all about fruit where fruit does not belong. Tomatoes on the toaster, apples and pears stacked higher than the answering machine, the yeasty smell of grapes gone bad. Wading through a pool of rotting cherries and sweating torrentially she made it as far as the TV in the living room, which clicked on easily despite the little lizards clinging to the antenna the better to catch drosophila with their sticky curled tongues.
“Today in a bog near Three Rivers, scientists dredged up what appears to be the fossilized remains of a strangled man. Local botanists found the corpse while trying to contain a stand of purple loosestrife, the beautiful but invasive plant that has been choking Midwest waterways since it was introduced here in the late 1980s.”
Alice grabs a Sugar Baby watermelon from its seeping place on the recliner and hurls it at the screen. It’s hard to start a fire in the midst of fermentation, but where there is a woman there is a way. Sometimes, only blood will do, and broken glass, and plenty of it. Alice spills flour into the mash and cereal into the wound and stamps her feet and screams and kills rats and bats and dogs and hyenas and herons too, but no one hears. Ants come and crickets come and cockroaches come until the scraping of wings against chiton against mandibles against shattered bare bone mutates into a din and a dinner more terrible and shrill than any typhoon.
In the silence that follows the first hard frost, Alice folds linens and stacks them neatly in her cedar closet side by side. Under the spell of winter pine and a fresh hot iron all things are made smooth and warm and dry again. She presses her face against the cold clean pane and breathes her mark upon the glass and writes in finger, “Never again…”
She is leaving now. Do not try to follow.
Copyright © 2002 Pamela Roberson. All Rights Reserved.