H E R M E N E U T I C C H A O S J O U R N A L
C H E L S E A R U X E R
Chelsea Ruxer is a current MFA student at the Bluegrass Writers Studio. Her work is published or forthcoming in 5x5, New Pop Lit, Flash Fiction Magazine, and others.
W I L D F L O W E R S
It was four years ago she slipped on the flat stone steps by the strawberries. She always wanted to get the weeding done after a rain, while the ground was still soft enough to pull the roots from the soil. But she was ninety-two then, and my uncle said she hit the housing market at just the right time.
It was about a month before I picked up the second of my cousins’ birthday cards of the year—that one was for Adam, in July—when she moved into the nursing home. She wrote that she would get back to her garden soon and promised to send me some sunflower seeds. I didn’t tell her someone else was there, had already banished the lettuce-eating turtles and put up blinds that kept out the Southern sun and new windows that stopped the draft in winter.
The cards kept coming like clockwork, big and full of glitter a day or two before each cousin’s birthday. They were always handwritten “Happy Adam’s Birthday!” with a quick note, a check for us to buy something that would remind us we like that cousin, and x’s and o’s in her tight little loops like zinnias.
Her loops started to unwind through the next year, like tulip petals we thought were from arthritis and then jagged edges my dad said were from a small stroke. I wouldn’t have known the last card, for Christy’s in March, was from her at all. There wasn’t any glitter, and it was someone else’s slanted printing on soft, lumpy paper, little wisps of fluff held together by something I couldn’t see.
I left it in a stack of recycling by the kitchen window when I went home for the funeral, the first time I saw her with a manicure and without a sunburn, neat curls where there should have been a sweaty headband and satin draped over her dirty knees. She had left us each a longer card and a bigger check, this time for her own birthday the next month, with the usual instructions.
A puddle of kombucha was seeping out from under the recycling when I got back, and green sprouts were growing from the side of an Amy’s ravioli box. I dismantled the pile to find the lumpy paper of Christy's card disintegrated around some wildflower seeds that had already started to take root.
The check went to the bank, but I bought a window box, and the stalks shot up to the sun until I couldn’t see the parking lot. I took down the blinds, after a couple weeks, and think of her now with dirt under her nails, wild.
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