In the Garden of Solace

Flash Fiction

Photo by George Becker via Unsplash

My father has a display of the three wise monkeys in his garden. It is his place of peace. In the garden, there is a fountain — water flows rhythmically from the fountain’s mouth. A gush of purity envelops its passersby. My father is meticulous in his efforts to instill a sense of calm and undying appreciation for nature in us — me and my siblings. We gather at his feet, adorned in the mellifluous breeze from the flowers, captured by his tales of the dark & weary.

He looks much older than his age. His wiry gray hair stands on his head. He shuffle-kick walks — his whole body shakes. A dance of convulsion springs forth. He is a quiet man. A man who doesn’t mind letting the air speak for him.

We listen. We want to become pure, like the surrounding air.

My father was a letters man — he delivered letters to widows. Letters their loves left behind but never shared. He had been their “Go-to Guy” for giving them one last moment of happiness. Thirty years of this and one day, he stopped.

He had been ordered by the City of Hernadin to cease and desist. Love was no longer in. No one could receive it. No one could give it. My father, the hopeless romantic, hard-loving man, could not grasp this concept. He continued his efforts in secret.


On a quiet, black-sky day, a hired hand attacked my father. The Mayor had enough of his deviance. They cut out my father’s tongue, cut off my father’s ears, and gouged out his eyes.

He didn’t fight back. No, he remained genteel, my father. If he had eyes, he’d cry. If he had a tongue, he’d wail. If he had ears, he’d tune in to the assailant’s actions during this stripping of himself. Instead, he’d laid alone in his own blood on the cold concrete and waited for the pain to end.

You may think how do I know all of this if my father cannot verbally tell me. He’s an artist. He sits in the solace of his garden and creates. He sketched every account — every gruesome detail and bid us utter silence. We were to never speak of it again. And I haven’t until now.

You see, my father is dying. His last request is that we bury him under the three wise monkeys, the cold of the sooty dirt piled upon his pine-boxed coffin drenching his spirit. He has written every detailed order of action and has labeled each with one of our names.


I have the spirited task of bathing his body. A ceremonial bath with the heads of tulips, roses, and lilies followed by the lighting of incense and sage is first on the list. We will sing his favorite songs and eat his favorite fruits.

My sister is tasked with praying over his body as he’s lowered into the unforgiving ground. She will chant as we throw gritty handfuls of clay onto his coffin.

My brother is tasked with singing a hymn, one of his choosing, while he plays the harp. It can be the harp only. No other music will accompany this ensemble.

When all of this is complete, we will lead the guests away from the burial site and find our way back to my father’s garden.

We will share his stories. We will cry. We will remember the man he was and be thankful for his blood.

Three weeks from his funeral, I am also tasked with lapidifying the flower garden. Per my father, “When my last breath meets the sky, I will turn flowers to stone.”

It’s the one thing I don’t want to do.

But I will. Because of my father.


Originally published in P. S. I Love You via Medium.

every year, fire comes . . .

Cloudy Sky
Photo by Pixabay via Pexels

every year, fire comes
it rages on–wind sifting
through funnel-shaped clouds
blazing through everything in its path
evacuations, a commonplace against
a raging blaze.

we watch them search, seize, and sever
ties with their homes, racing
death head on, this is nothing new,
yet the pain surges through us
knowing it will be the same
yet different.

and what has nature sucked into
its wanton arms?
hopes, dreams, and loves lost–
a crashing of fate, nuanced in
fear and dread.

next year, we must prepare . . .
for next year.

And Then, Death Comes

Pixabay

And we watch it as it leaves

As much as I believe I am prepared for death, I never am. I could have a head-start, running miles around it — fearless of losing, but — in rare and unadulterated form, it proves to me, I don’t know what I’m doing. I spent the last three months with my friend of twenty years, waiting while his father was dying. This, a man who has fought various forms of cancer and survived, had now succumbed to prostate cancer. My friend — the loving, kind, generous, and soft-spoken man he is — is calm. This is something for which he’s been waiting.

Waiting . . .
Waiting . . .

I’ve found myself grieving with him on so many levels, but I know my pain cannot match his. I knew his father from afar — applauded his love for his son and looked up to a man who had an undying passion and loyalty to his wife before she passed away. My friend, now a parentless child — has buried both of his parents within a few years. I asked him the other day, “Have you cried?” There was a pause — a few moments passed for the air to settle in the question and he said, “Not yet. It’s strange. I feel so calm.”

I find myself praying for his storm, that it doesn’t come when he doesn’t have the time to sit through it — to get wet from the downpour. But when you’ve waited and waited and waited for a death predicted to come sooner than it did, maybe there’s no storm? Maybe the storm was in the waiting.

“It’s strange, I feel so calm.”

He is a one-man show, my friend. He handled everything effortlessly, even communicating with his job about the leave he’d need to take and why. He found himself swatting down a few family members who want to tell him what to do, yet, they had no earthly idea of what he’d have to do — the pressure of it all, the pain. I can only be his sounding board. I have listened willingly.

We have waited for death and when he communicated his father’s passing to me, I still felt the ache — I still flinched from the pain. I wasn’t ready. He wasn’t either.


My mother’s childhood friend died on the morning of Friday, July 31, 2020, a few days after my friend’s father’s death. I was driving and called her to share how my dog’s vet visit went after not being able to take her this past April due to the Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic. I had good news and she had bad news. At sixty-three, just four years older than my mother, her childhood friend died from the very thing we’ve been combating for nearly five months. She worked in a nursing home and contracted it from someone there.

She knew of the torture — how this strong and healthy woman failed over a short span of time, and she cried in a way I had not heard her do in what feels like years. “I’m glad I saw her when I did — glad I got the chance to see her smiling and happy before all of this.”

I mentioned I was driving — thankful for the Bluetooth syncing, I acknowledged the fact that I was going to need a moment. This was a woman whose mother kept me when I was young. I spent many days parading around Frazier Homes in Savannah, GA with my friends — her nieces and nephews — her family. I shook my head in disbelief. This is close to home, again. This is so close to home and as much as I wanted to listen to my mother as she cried about the loss of her friend, I didn’t want it to be true.

Had she told me of this a few months ago and it was some other God-awful way of dying, I would have found a way to soldier on through the drive, but an overpowering ache of sadness consumed me. Death doesn’t give us a time or date. It doesn’t make itself known in fancy little dresses or frilly patterns. It swoops in, ready to consume every fiber of our being and if we are not able to sustain throughout its reign, we will falter.

“I’m glad I saw her when I did — glad I got the chance to see her smiling and happy before all of this.”

My childhood friend, my mother’s childhood friend’s niece was who I needed to contact. We never have been the “sit-on-the-phone-and-talk” kind of friends, but we text each other regularly, making sure we’re both still braving this thing called life. I sent a text message to her, then I called before the weekend disappeared. I had to. It wouldn’t have felt right if I didn’t, not within me. I had to hear her voice, if only for her to say, “Girl, I can’t believe it” as I’ve read many times about those we know and have lost.

I had to leave a message.

I hate those text messages that come a few days before the phone call, but sometimes, as I am learning, they’re actually preferred. My friend’s response to the text message, “Girl, it’s all just too much right now. I love you” hit me in the gut. “It’s all just too much right now.” Her family is a tower. I told her this. I have never seen a more close-knit family ever in my life and they will all get together and whoop someone’s ass if they needed to. I was happy to have grown up around such strength, loyalty, and camaraderie — especially in the face of evil.

My mother’s side of the family is like this as well, but aside from her mother and sister and a few of my cousins, I didn’t spend much time around them. Something about not wanting us to see too much violence, but for various other reasons, we still witnessed it within and outside our home.


I know of death. I smell its stench whenever it is near. I know of the way it sneaks in greedily and eager to devour the souls of the dying. I sat with it as I watched my great-grandmother lose her mind, then her life. All the waiting, all the preparing and getting things “just right” are not enough for you to be ready when you need to be.

Death comes and the only thing you can do is watch it when it leaves.


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