The woman with the beard has a serious moment while the toad continues his studies in this story. The garden is resplendent in Morning Glories for the Japanese Morning Glory Festival (July 6-8), Iriya Asagao Matsuri. This uses both July 7 prompts from the Flash Fiction Month social network, although I wrote it only on 8 July, partly because I had a reading in Tel Aviv on the 7th. I’ll add links in the coming days. As always, your comments are most welcome!
Since forever the toad had not been an Anabaptist abacedarian, but a Zen Beginner’s Mind abacedarian or perhaps an acrostic puzzled down the page. The toad entered alphabetic and other learning from the start.
So he watched the sunflower resin as it dripped in a ratio meant to glorify the morning blossoms until they shimmered for Iriya Asagao Matsuri. The thick sticky substance would bury itself among the tangled roots of sunflower and morning glory, thinning with the soil’s moisture to the thickness of molasses in summer.
This morning, while the toad watched in his garden, the woman with a beard made her way along store-lined sidewalks past the barber, whose portrait of Richard Nixon shaking his hand faded in the front window, right by the machine that ate plastic and excreted cash, to number four on Main Street.
She entered the home as though swimming upstream in the sand flowing through an hourglass, pouring herself into the rapidly expanding emptiness of lost time. The nurse waiting inside her greeted her with a nod as she signed in at the front desk, and then led her through the locked door.
The woman with a beard continued on her own down the hall. She always felt her age and then some in this place, the weight of her lifespan and her mother’s coiled around her shoulders and draped down her back, a heavy rope practicing to transform itself into a python. She knocked lightly, then entered a room about three-quarters of the way down.
Inside, a very old woman sat in a swivel recliner chair that, with the dresser along the wall, represented a life-time of furniture that once crowded the family’s house. Her mother stared out the window, as she did every day, from what the woman with the beard learned from the staff. Certainly, she sat there staring every Sunday morning, although she had increasing difficulty recognizing her mother in this ancient woman.
“Do I know you?”
“I’m your daughter, Amanda.”
“You know my daughter?”
“In a way, I guess I know her.”
She didn’t push, it would just frustrated her mother, who shifted her gaze back out the window. A few minutes later, her mother looked at her again.
“Do you live near here?”
“I live in a small house, over by the ravine. Not too far.”
“By the ravine? Just a bunch of hobos and hippies lived there in my time.”
“Not much different now, I suppose. I’ve got a little land with the house, enough for a garden.”
“Huh,” her mother peered at her. “What does your mother think about you living with the tramps?”
The woman with the beard didn’t know what to say to that. “I don’t know. What do you think she thinks?”
Her mother stared at her. “Do I know your mother?”
“Who is my mother?”
Her mother’s stare became very intense, searching. “Oh, yes. Yes, I know your mother, I remember her now. She comes to visit me from time to time.”
Then they sat in silence.
What seemed like the time it takes to grow from an infant to adulthood passed before the nurse finally came to signal that visiting time was over. Her mother looked in from the window again, this time at the nurse.
“Oh, hi there Abby,” she said, calling the nurse. “This is my daughter. She moved back a few years ago. She lives with those hippies, the ones up by the ravine.”
Then she faced out the window again, her face going blank.
The woman with the beard left, thinking that indeed, her mother did come to visit that ancient woman in the room once in a while.
The toad continued his introductory studies of the beginning and end of things with abecedarian eagerness, calculating the ratio of dripping sunflower resin, and watching the flowers that had closed at the end of the previous day slowly open to the new sun.