Flash Fiction #16 – Rootless Tree
Today’s flash fiction was inspired by Damien Rice’s song, Rootless Tree. No one appreciates my love for depressing music except Jess Jarman, and sadly, she’s on deadline this month. As busy as everyone is with traveling, new babies, and deadline hell, it might just be me this month.
But here’s the song if you want to give it a listen. And hey…if you like depressing music, too, let me know your favorites. Jarman and I can’t be the only ones.
The lyrics are here.
And, on to the flash fiction.
I worked my fingers through the cold, clotted earth—the spring-wet dirt caking beneath my fingernails as dug, heedless of the fact that it was probably far too early to begin planting. But I had to do something. I couldn’t stand sitting in the house anymore. Mostly, I couldn’t stand looking at him anymore.
Shifting on my now damp and sore knees, I reached farther into the vegetable bed and loosened the dead stalks of last summer’s plants, yanking them from the ground to free up the space for new seeds. They should have been pulled in the fall, but I’d been distracted by other things.
I tried to ignore the thoughts that constantly floated above my head like low-hanging storm clouds and focus on this moment. Just the feel of the thick cold dankness against my skin and the scent of wet earth in my nostrils.
I’m not even sure why I was bothering getting the garden ready to plant. I wouldn’t be here when the plants ripened. At the rate we were going, I might not even be here when they sprouted.
The backdoor rattled in the frame then banged once as he came outside. I didn’t bother looking up from what I was doing. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been seeing the same expression for months. It looked a lot like hangdog guilt with a pinch of suppressed anger. Of course, that suppressed anger seemed to grow by the day. Or maybe it was just not quite as suppressed as it had been. Maybe that was the difference.
His ratty, red Chucks came into my line of vision followed by his knees and thighs in his worn jeans as he knelt across from me and and started pulling out last season’s dried stalks. Instead of removing them, he only managed to break them off at the base.
“You need to loosen the dirt around the roots so you can get the entire plant out. Busting them isn’t going to help.”
His apology barely registered. Nearly every sentence he spoke lately either started or ended with that word.
We dug in silence. I could almost pretend I was alone. Almost. But I heard all the things he didn’t say. I could practically feel the conversations he attempted to start but ultimately abandoned. It’s true, I hadn’t given him a lot of openings. Well, I had, but at the time, he’d been uninterested. Now, that I’d finally made my peace with everything, he suddenly wanted to try.
Leaning forward, I tried to loosen the dirt around the clump of roots he’d left in the ground, and my fingers tangled with his beneath the soil. He clung to them.
I finally raised my eyes and looked at his face. “Let go, please.”
“We need to talk.”
I sighed. I wasn’t even sad anymore. Now, I just felt empty. “Correction: We did need to talk. It’s a little late for that, at this point.”
He held more tightly to my hands. “I can fix this.”
“There’s nothing to fix. Not with us. Not anymore, anyway.”
“Goddamn it.” The words burst from his lips as if he’s been able to keep them trapped any longer. “I fucked up. It won’t happen again. I made a mistake.”
“Mistakes tend not to last for three or for months at a time.”
“Fuck you. I can’t believe…after everything we’ve been through…just, fuck you.” His blue eyes hardened, then glossed over with a sheen of tears—almost as if he just now heard the words he’d spoken.
I pulled from his grasp, not caring that my ring stayed behind in the vegetable bed.
“I’m sorry. I love you, Cora. I do.”
“I wish it were enough.”
Not sure if any of my blogging cohorts are participating, but if they do, I’ll put their links in.
Yay! Norris is writing a story, too! Her post is here.