Miranda’s Garden Excerpt – Year 2 | Fall | Dianthus—Love/Appreciation

Saturday, September 26, 1992 | New Moon

Hand-drawn illustrations
New Moon in Libra
Dianthus | Love and appreciation

She dusted the mantle and the bookcase, vacuumed the musty carpet, and gathered and stacked the ever-present books, papers, and colored pencils. Next to the defunct fireplace in her living room, she placed a few pumpkins she had bought at the Farmer’s Market as autumn decor, alongside the bunch of dried wheat stalks, resting in a bronze barrel-shaped canister. She washed her sheets and pillowcases and remade the bed, her toe grazing the remnants from a midnight snack she had slid beneath it, a plate with a cellophane cracker wrapper and a dried streak of hummus, which she took to the kitchen, then set to work on a flower arrangement. She poked orange chrysanthemums and bright, yellow black-eyed Susans with a few wisps of purple fountain grass for effect into a half-full vase of water she had treated with sugar and vinegar to maintain the bouquet’s freshness. This would go on the nightstand next to her bed where David would sleep, along with a couple of books: The Essential Rumi and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Humming a non-descript tune with no form, she worked on a second arrangement for the kitchen, plunging the cut stems from a batch of deep maroon dianthus into a tall vase of the treated water, their spicy clove scent mingling perfectly with the warm honey fragrance of the sweet alyssum she used as filler. She wiped down and cleared the kitchen table of graph paper and colored pencils, a twist tie from a bread sack, and a stack of random flyers she had gotten in the mail, which she tossed into a paper bag to be taken down to CU’s new recycling center in Boulder, and placed the vase in the center of the table.

She heard gravel pop beneath slow-moving tires. Her heart stuttered a couple of beats, and she headed for the front door with happy conviction. She opened it wide just as David stepped out of the beat-up Toyota Corolla, packed to the roof with his worldly belongings. He stood and stretched, then turned when he heard Miranda say, “Hey, little brother.”

A giant smile graced his weathered face, and he opened his arms wide. She ran right into them, and as he folded them around her, he said, “Hey, big sister.”

She breathed in his smell: deodorant overpowered by the tang of sweat, a faint scent of laundry detergent, and a thin trace of weed smoke, all laced with his natural pheromones, the vapors of their familial DNA mixing and mingling between them, within them, and in the ethers around them. She rested her cheek on his chest, his strong arms around her, her eyes warming with a tinge of moisture.

Her mother appears again, behind David. Her father has come along this time. He leans against the trunk of a tall Douglas fir. Her mother sits on the large, rounded rock at its base. They smile at Miranda. It has been months since her mother last appeared, and Miranda had since written her previous visits off as the result of a grief-addled brain. She inhales a jagged breath at the sight of them.

“You alright?” asked David, his arms still around her.

Miranda nodded as her parents faded. “You smell like Daddy,” she said.

David gave a little “Hm” in acknowledgement, not remembering their father himself. Miranda knew this from discussion they’d had at various junctures in life, Miranda hoping that as David aged, he would recall some small thing—a laugh, a touch, a scent—that would bring them back to him.

“I was too young,” he had said many times over.

A strange, small wave of jealousy passed through her. If only she had not remembered them the way David had not remembered them, maybe the depth of her loss would have been less. When she finally let go of him, he said, “No wonder you love it here. This is fucking beautiful.”

“Wait until you see out back.” She grabbed his hand, pulled him inside and across the living room, into the kitchen, and out to the deck, him scanning the interior as he passed through, noting the smell of fresh-baked zucchini bread. She opened the back door and presented the lake.

“Holy shit,” he said, hands on his hips. He took in the still, sparkling body of water and the surrounding trees, awestruck. His expression changed, and he looked at Miranda. He put his arm around her. “You okay?” he asked.

She leaned her head against him. “I’m okay,” she said. “Better now that you’re here.”

 “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch,” he said. “I’m sorry for what you’ve been through. Must’ve been hell for you.”