The Memory Garden

The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

Book: The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Rickert
wasn’t crying tears of joy.
    “What are you staring at?”
    “It is like old times, after all,” Nan says. “Isn’t it?”
    Mavis laughs, a broad cackle that reminds Nan of Grace Winter laughing in the garden all those years ago when Nan asked what herbs repel a man.
    They stand at the window, like ghosts themselves, Nan thinks, sentenced to watch life on the other side of darkness . For a moment, she smells the scent of honeysuckle, a pleasant odor in spite of its implications, quickly followed by the taste of ash. What is she doing? What has she done? She steals a look at Mavis, hoping to discover an unmined tenderness in her countenance, but Mavis stares straight ahead, a strange expression on her face as if, she too, has the flavor of death in her mouth.

MOONFLOWER Moonflower, used for centuries as an intoxicant, provides protection against evil spirits, but is highly dangerous and can kill.
    On certain August nights there is a promise of rain that carries with it the scent of summer: the ripe odor of dirt, the lingering effusion of dew on grass, the rich fragrance of chocolate mint, the stony scent of water, and the sweet aroma of moonflower intoxicating anyone who breathes.
    This is such a night, and Bay, who sipped only a little wine, feels deliciously drunk (or what she imagines of drunkenness) lying in the backyard, her arms opened wide, embracing the dark, while Howard lies beside her, reciting one of his poems.
    “What tree within its limbs knows sin?
    What flower within its stamen?
    I am not a wild thing,
    A rooted weed or demon.
    What night would cast its stars to sea?
    What morning rejects its sun?
    This is a natural course
    Though I often wonder
    What it means to live
    Without being denied my water?”
    What is he talking about? Bay has no idea, but what does it matter? She is hugging the night, though truthfully, she would rather be hugging Howard. Who cares about Wade Enders pulling her from the duckweed’s grasp? Who cares about the beating of her heart as she stood there, adjusting her twisted swimsuit while Mrs. Desarti made a big production out of Bay almost drowning? Who cares about the slimy bits she found hanging in her hair later, remembering then the way she smiled at Wade, not knowing how she looked? Who cares that he turned out to be as mean as the others? Who cares (she is almost positive) that he, just before, hollered out the car window? Who cares about stupid Wade Enders when there’s a boy lying on the grass beside her, reciting poetry?
    “I guess that one’s a piece of shit too,” Howard says.
    “No, oh no, it’s good. It really is. Mavis doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
    Howard looks at Bay with the kind of expression she imagines an older brother might give his sister, which is not the expression she was hoping for.
    “You know, you’re lucky to have all these old ladies around.”
    “I am?”
    “They know stuff. At least Mavis does. You should take advantage. Learn something while you can.”
    Bay feels vaguely insulted. Is he implying that Mavis is the only one who knows anything?
    “My Nana teaches me a lot. Once we made dandelion wine, though that didn’t turn out too good. We make lavender soap every summer. Well, I help with the beginning, and she does the rest. I know she’s kind of different, I mean that’s obvious, but she’s also kind of wise, actually.” Bay is surprised to hear herself say this. She would never say it to anyone at school, where such a confession would almost certainly be cruelly used against her.
    Howard rolls on his side, playing with the blades of grass. (Bay can’t help but think that her hair would make a much better place for his fingers.) “What happened to your parents?”
    The circumstances are so well known that no one asks Bay anymore. “Nana found me on her porch.” She hardly ever has to think how strange her birth story is, weird enough even before she learned about the caul. Strange, strange, “strange.”

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