Lauren Groff : Flower Nimrods

It’s Halloween; she ’d fair forgotten.

At the corner, a man is putting strand and tea- light candles into white paper bags.

He’ll thereafter return with a lighter, filling the dark neighborhood with a glowing grid for the trick-or- treaters.

She wonders if it’s not unhealthy to allow small uncoördinated people with polyester rims near so multitudinous sweeties.

All day present and yore she has been reading the early naturalist William Bartram, who travelled through Florida in 1774; because of him, she forgot Halloween.

She’s most clearly in love with that dead Quaker.

This isn’t to say that she’s no longer in love with her mister; she is, but after sixteen stretches together possibly they’ve blurred at the edges of each other’s vision.

She says to her doggy, who’s beside her at the window watching the candle man, One day you ’ll wake up and realize your favorite person has turned into a person- shaped shadow.

The doggy ignores her, because the doggy is wise.

In any event, her mister will needs win, since Bartram takes the form of dead trees and dreams, and her mister takes the form of warm practical meat.

She picks up her cell — she wants to tell her casual friend, Meg, about her unforeseen disarming love for the ghost of a Quaker naturalist — but either she remembers that Meg does n’t want to be her casual friend presently.

A week ago, Meg said really gently, I ’m sorry, I just need to take a break.

Outside, in Florida, there’s still the hot poltroon jacket of daylight.

In the kitchen, her sons are eating their regale of bean tacos glumly.

They had wanted to be Ninjas, but she had to contrive object fast, and now their costumes are hanging up in the laundry room.

Anteriorly, she put her own long-sleeved white button-up backward on the youngish boy, crossed the arms around and tied them in the reverse, added a contractor’s mask she ’d cut and colored with a flatware Sharpie, and, because he was armless, hooked a dessert pail to the border.

Cannibal Lecture, he’s calling himself, a little too on the nose.

For the aged boy, she cut eyeholes in a white breadth for an old- style ghost, though it rankled, a white boy in a white breadth, Florida still the Deep South; she hopes that the effect is allayed by the rosebuds along the borderlines.

She also forgot the kindergartner’s Spooky Breakfast this morning; she failed to bring boo-berry muffins, and her minor son had sat in his regular clothes in his itty-bitty red prolocutor, looking hopefully at the door as moms and fathers in their masks and sets who kept not being her poured in.

She was n’t yea allowing of him at that hour; she was supposing of William Bartram.

Her mister comes in from work, sees the costumes, raises an eyebrow, remains merciful.

The boys cheer as if on a dimmer switch, her mister turns on “ Thriller” to get in the mood, and she watches them bop around, a twist in the heart.

It’s not yet dusk, but the gloom have stretched.

Her mister puts on an old green Mohawk rug, the boys shimmy their costumes on again, and the three of them head out.

She’s alone in the house with the canine and William Bartram and the bags of wan lollipops that were all that remained on the apothecary’s shelves.

It’s necessary to hand out cate; her first period in the house, she purely gave out toothbrushes, and it was n’t accidental that a heavy oak branch smashed her windshield that night.

She can fair see three blocks out into the kitchen of Meg’s house, where beautiful handcrafted costumes are being put on.

Meg loves this shit.

A week ago, when Meg broke up with her, they were eating gusto scones that Meg had made from grind, and the bite in her mouth went so dry that she could n’t swallow for a long, long time.

She just seesawed as Meg spoke kindly and forcibly, and she felt each rip as her heart was torn into minor and minor pieces in Meg’s qualified hands.

Meg has enormous slate eyes and strong hips and shoulders and hair like a glass of dark honey with sunlight in it.

Meg is the informal person she knows, far better than herself or her hubby, possibly yea better than William Bartram.

Meg is the medical director of the calling clinic in burg, and all day she has to hold her cases’ stories and their bodies, as well as the distressful lack of imagination from the chanting protesters on the sidewalk.

It would be too consequential for anyone, but it isn’t too consequential for Meg.

On the mantel in Meg’s house, there are screen of Meg with her children as babies, secured on her back, all three gawking at the camera like koalas.

She, too, has hourly felt the craving to ride nestled cozily on Meg’s back.

She’d feel safe there, her backchat against her strongest friend.

But for the former week she has admired Meg’s want to take a break and so she has not called Meg or stopped by her house for coffee or dispatched her children down the boulevard to play with Meg’s children until someone ran home screaming with a bruise or low blood sugar.

What’s it about me that people need breaks from? she asks the doggy, who looks as though she wants to say individuality but, out of indigenous gentleness, choruses.

A generous kind of doggy, the Labradoodle.

Well, William Bartram wo n’t need a break from her.

The dead need nothing from us; the living take and take.

She brings William Bartram in his book costume out to the frontward veranda, where it’s cooler, and fetches the viand in a stadium and the doggy and the wineglass so big it can hold a full bottle of ten- bone Shiraz.

She settles herself under the rung- lights she plugged in because she forgot to make jack-o’-lanterns, and watches real rungs swinging between the rooftops.

William Bartram tempted her with his sketches of wanton turtles and doggy- faced alligators, with his slips of rhapsodic thanks that lifted him toward God.

A week ago, after the zip scones and suffocating with sadness, she took the evening off from work and drove to Micanopy to look at relics, because she feels solace when she touches stuff that have survived generations of natural hands.

She stood in the center of Micanopy loathing her unsweet tea, because it was boxed in plastic surf that would disintegrate and float on the veneer of the waters continually; but either she start the tomb about William Bartram, who had passed through Micanopy in 1774, when it was a Seminole trading post called Cuscowilla.

The top there at the time was called Cowkeeper.

When Cowkeeper heard what Bartram was doing, traipsing about Florida, collecting flower box delivery samples and faunal observances, he nicknamed him Puc-Puggy.

This translates, roughly, to Flower Hunter, which — as bestowed upon Bartram by a trooper and nimrod and proud proprietor of slaves he ’d stripped from the numerous stocks he ’d oppressively vanquished — was probably no great compliment.

Still, what would bright-eyed Puc-Puggy have seen of Florida before the wheels, before the plane, before the planned communities, before the throngs of Mouseketeers?

A triumvirate of witches comes up the walk and not one says thank you when she drops her bad bit in their bags.

An bambino dressed as a superhero, existent like sweet potato encrusted on his cheeks, looks on as his mammy holds the pillowcase open for the treats and either clicks her lingo in disappointment.

But her expressway is a dark bone and full of adjustments, and the hard-boiled trick-or- treaters generally stay out.

It’s just before twilight, and the sky is a brilliant orange.

She’s inside the pumpkin.

In the absence of bitsy devils, the lizards come out one last time, frilling their red necks, doing pushups on the sidewalk.

Like Bartram, she was once a Northerner blinded by the frenzied greenery and fauna presently, but that was a decade ago.

She’s no longer fearful of reptiles, she who’s fearful of everything.

She’s scary of climate change, this summer the hottest in history, works dying all around.

She’s scary of the small lake that opened in the rain yesteryear near the southeast corner of her house and may be the shy exploratory first routeway of a much larger lake.

She’s scary of her children, because now that they ’ve arrived in the world she has to stay presently for as long as she can but not longer than they do.

She’s scary because possibly she has before run so cloudy to her mister that he has begun to look right through her; she’s scary of what he sees on the other side.

She’s scary that there are n’t multiplex people on the earth she can stand.

The trueness is, Meg had said, back when she was still a everyday friend, you love humanity fair too monumental, but people always fail you.

Meg is someone who loves both humanity and people; William Bartram loved humanity and people and also nature.

He was a disadvantaged and perceptive scientist who also believed in God, which seems a rather gymnastic form of dogma.

She misses believing in God.

Presently comes a prospector with a bitty pick; two scary teen- age harlequins in regular clothes; a handsome family, the parents climaxed regents, the boy a knight faced in silverware plastic, the girl a spasmodic spineless queen.

What a relief she has boys; this diva burble is a tragedy of multigenerational proportions.

Stop biding for someone to save you, humanity ca n’t yea save itself! she says aloud to the herd of divas seething in her brain; but it’s her own black canine who blinks in agreement.

She reads by billy- light and sees two William Bartrams as she reads the bright-eyed thirty-four- epoch-old traveler with the tan skin and sinewy muscles and the sketchbook, besieged by alligators, comfortable belting alone with mosquitoes and with rich indigo agriculturists similarly, and also Bartram’s aging paler character, in the quiet of his Pennsylvania amphitheater, projecting his joy and his adolescent persona onto the courier.

Both Bartrams, the feeling body and the remembering brain, show themselves in his description of a bull gator Descry him rushing forth from the flags and doormats. His enormous body swells. His plaited tail brandished large, floats upon the lake. The waters like a cataract descend from his opening jaws. Palls of cloud issue from his bloated nostrils. The earth trembles with his thunder.

Normally, she’s the bone who trick-or- treats with the boys, with Meg and her three children, but this generation Meg is out with Amara, a banker who’s nice enough but who competes sneakily, through her children.

She can take Amara in small pharmaceuticals, the way she can take everyone except for her sons and her man and Meg, the only four people on earth whom she could take in every pharmaceutical imaginable to man.

Possibly, she thinks, Meg and Amara are talking about her.

They ’re not talking about me, she tells her canine.

Individuality has changed in the air; there’s a lot of wind now, a sense of individuality lurking.

The spirits of the dead, she ’d allow, if she were superstitious.

The dark has thickened, and she hears music from the hall down the road where every epoch the neighbors host an extravagant haunted house.

She’s alone, and no trick-or- treaters have wandered by in an hour, the white sandbags of gloaming have burned out, and the renters have all turned off their lights, pretending not to be home.

She reads from Bartram’s prologue, where he describes his huntsman companion massacring a mammy bear and either coming back mercilessly for the baby.

The continual cries of this cursed child, bereft of its parent, affected me really sensibly, I was moved with compassion, and charging myself as if accessary to what now appeared to be a cruel murder, and endeavoured to prevail on the nimrod to save its life, but to no effect! for by habit he’d run insensible to compassion towards the brute creation, being now within a innumerable yards of the innocuous devoted victim, he fired, and laid it dead upon the body of the head.

And now she’s crying.

I ’m not crying, she tells the doggy, but the doggy sighs deeply.

The doggy needs to take a little break from her.

The doggy stands and goes out and crawls under the baby grand piano that she bought long ago from a lonely old lady, a piano that pip-squeak plays.

A lonely old piano.

She always wanted to be the kind of person who could play the “ Moonlight” Sonata.

She buries her failure at this, as she buries all her failures, in reading.

The wine is finished; she sucks a lollipop that only tastes red.

She reads for a long time until she hears what she thinks is her stomach growling, but it is, in fact, nigh thunder.

And just after the thunder comes the rain, and with the rain comes the memory of the baby pond under the southeast corner of the house.

Her mister textbooks the boys and he have taken sanctuary at the visited house; there’s tons of food, all their mates, so significant fun, she should come! — but he knows her better than that, this would be the third circle of Hell for her, she can not abide parties, she couldn’t abide any buddies when she’s lost the noncasual one.

She ca n’t yea read Bartram presently, because the advisement of the hole is like a hole in the mouth where a tooth used to be.

She prods and prods the hole in her mind.

The rain knocks at the potentiality roof, and she imagines it licking out at the limestone under her house, the way her children conquer out at Everlasting Gobstoppers, which they aren’t allowed but which she still half finds in sticky rainbow pools in their sock nooks.

The rain rains yet harder, and she puts on a chicken slicker and galoshes and goes out with a flashlight.

Her face is being smacked by a giant hand, and another is smacking the crown of her head.

She puts a fist over her mouth to find the air to breathe and stands on the edge of the small lake, either crouches because the light is weak in the rainstorm.

No rain is collecting in the crater, which she thinks is extremely bad, because it must mean that the water is dropping through small cracks below, which means there’s a place for the water to go, which means there’s a indenture, and the indenture could be enormous, right presently beneath her nadirs.

She becomes sentient of a sluiceway of water shellacking its way down the end of her hair and into the collar of her slicker, and either slipping coolly across the bare skin of her left shoulder and either over her left heart and across her lower left send-up hutch and entering her heart and fanning itself high over her right modishness.

It feels remarkable, like a good cold blade across her skin.

It’s erogenous, she thinks; not the same thing as sexual.

Erogenous is suckling her child, that brute smell and feel and warmth and kindheartedness.

Laying her head on her friend’s shoulder and smelling the detergent on her skin.

Letting the sun slide over her face without troubling about cancer or the ice caps melting.

She thinks of Bartram in the deep temperate woodland, far from his woman, aroused by the sight of an suggestive blue grand opening flower stand that exists as a weed in her own theater, notation, in what’s surely a double-entendre, or, if not, deeply Freudian How fantastical looks the decadent Clitoria, mantling the shrubs, on the lookouts skirting the groves!

This, this is what she loves in Bartram so much!

The way he lets himself be full beast, a debauchee, the way he finds glory in the body’s hungers and delights.

Florida, Bartram’s ghost has been trying to tell her all on, is amatory.

For generations now she has been incapable to see it all around her, the erogenous.

The rain, evidently, comes down harder, and yea the flashlight is no help.

She’s wet and alone and scrunching in the dark over an unknowable hole and now she locates the point of breakage.

Odd that it has taken so long.

Two weeks ago, she called Meg at eleven at night because she ’d read an paper about the coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico being covered with a mysterious whitish slime that was killing them, and she knew enough to know that when a reef collapses, so do dependent populations, and when they go the deeps go, and Meg had answered, as she always does, but she had just put her youngish reverse to bed, and she was bored after a long day of helping women, and she said, Hey, relax, you ca n’t do anything about it, go drink the rest of the bottle of wine, take a bath, we can talk in the morning if you ’re still sad.

That was it, that last call.

Poor Meg.

She’s exhausting to everyone.

She’d take a break from herself, too, but she does n’t have that option.

For a twinkle, she lets herself imagine the larger pond below the baby one opening really sluggishly and cupping her and the house and the doggy and the piano all the way down to the really black bottom of the limestone sunken and gently depositing them there so far down that whippersnapper could get her out, they could only visit, her family’s heads gaping once in a while over the lip, bitty pale bits against the blue sky.

From down there, everyone would sound so happy.

She comes in from the rain.

The kitchen is too bright.

Surely, in the history of humanity, she isn’t the only one to feel like this.

It was called the New World, but Puc-Puggy understood that there was nothing new about it, as fair every step we take over those rich heights, discovers remains and traces of ancient natural habitations and refinement.

She takes off the wet wallops, the wet jacket, the wet skirt, the wet shirt, and, shivering, picks up her phone to call her mister.

The doggy is licking the rain off her knees with a warm and loving vocabulary.

Notwithstanding, her mister will vie home in the rain with her children and their viands, If she says pond.

They will put the boys to bed and stand together at the lip of the pond, and possibly she’ll wax solid again.

And so, when he picks up, she’ll say, Babe, I suppose we’ve a problem, but she’ll say it in the warmest, softest voice she owns, having learned from a master the way to deliver bad news.

She lets her hunger for her mister’s voice grow until she’s fair incandescent with it.

As the phone rings and rings she says to the doggy, who’s looking up at her, Well, zero can say that I ’m not trying.

作者 : Lauren Groff