by Patricia Barone
Pat felt a mild social shame about her weeds until her tenant Regula asked if she could pick the lovely yellow blooms in the front yard. The dandelions with their ugly, jagged leaves! What a good excuse for her laziness—dandelions are flowers in Switzerland.
Some of the neighbors took pride in the handiwork of weed pulling. When Leonard found dead birds, he stopped using herbicides. He thinks the neighborhood should be a prairie, not an advertisement for Chem-Lawn.
Raymond enjoyed the tools he used: the rakes, mower, edger, sprinkler, spreader, roller, fertilizer cart and the pesticide/herbicide plastic-bottle-spray attachment on the hose.
Ray liked to set his sprinklers out. From fifty years’ experience, he knew where to place them. His sprinklers shot streams—rocketa pocketa—to the furthest corners of his yard. Some things a person can’t control, Ray said, like death. But with work it was possible to have a lawn so green that it glowed after sunset.
At Summer Solstice a couple years back, four of his granddaughters, each wearing a Swedish crown of candles, competed for a prize given by Ray’s second wife, who had no children of her own. The junior high school girls danced in the center of Ray’s four sprinklers, and the winner was the one who kept a candle lit the longest. The prize went to the granddaughter named after Bob’s first wife. A complicated Swedish-born woman, Linnea had passed on. Her high voice used to float out a window on heavy summer evenings. Ray’s voice was a contentious rumble an octave below her soprano. Only a slammed down window cut off their public discord.
The contest winner, her hair long and blonde like family women before her, waltzed off with her daisy-garlanded cup. Ray took a digital snapshot, and gasped when he saw it. It was a blurry double exposure to the rest of the family. No one could see Linnea’s ghost but Ray. It was the longest day, the one with transparent darkness at its farthest edge. From there, the wife of Ray’s youth arrived to dance with the granddaughter she’d never known in life. Were Ray and his first wife finally reconciled? No one could say—Ray himself died not long after his first wife appeared to him.
When she read palms and interpreted tea leaves, Pat called herself an Irish gypsy. She predicted, in the absence of Ray’s poison on the lawn, many fireflies this summer, and she was right.
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In addition to The Scent of Water, a collection of poetry from Blue Light Press in San Francisco, Patricia Barone published a novella, The Wind, and a book of poetry, Handmade Paper, Minnesota Voices Award winners from New Rivers Press. Her poetry has been anthologized by Prentice Hall, Mutabilis Press, Nodin Press and others. Her short stories have appeared in venues such as Peter Lang, Prentice/Merrill, Plume/Penguin and Wising Up Press. Her awards include a Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction, a Lake Superior Contemporary Writers Award , and a Minnesota State Arts Board Career Opportunity Grant.