by Kyle Hemmings
“You have ten seconds to wake up!”
I slam the kitchen door that leads into the basement.
That’s what I shouted to mother who would sometimes nap downstairs because in the summer it was cooler than anywhere else in the house.
While I wait for her, I take out the refrigerated broth, and I start mincing carrots, leeks, potatoes, onions. I throw them in the pot and take a whiff. Something seems missing.
And as if by some foreign impulse, I start throwing every herb and spice into the pot. Bay leaves, coriander, basil, chili pepper, mint and oregano. I am mesmerized by the bouquet of scents, as if I can be transported.
And God knows, Mother and I don’t have it easy. Sometimes, I get on her nerves. She tells me I’m not ambitious enough, mopey. And lately, she herself has been getting listless, unwilling to talk, sometimes throwing her arms up, letting them hang in the air, then falling, limp. Sometimes, sitting down, she leans towards the window, and I know what she’s thinking: She wants another life.
To help pay rent for our chintzy apartment, I collect junk of all kinds, and sell them on the street. Sometimes, when I come home, mother can tell that my unwillingness to look her straight in her dull green irises means I’ve failed again.
“No hits,” I say.
Mother will go back to her small garden, pruning and uprooting. It’s her one pride and joy since father was listed as a missing person. She thinks it had something to do with the weather overseas where he worked on oil rigs, that there was too much rain and wind. Not enough sun.
Sometimes mother says, “That garden will keep us alive for another year.”
But I know it’s such a small garden and mother always has big ideas. And when winter comes, nothing will grow.
Leaving the broth to simmer, after adding thyme, marjoram, paprika,and rosemary, I shout to mother again for her to wake up.
Another well of silence.
I scramble downstairs. I am greeted by all kinds of sweet scents. The basement is now overtaken by giant flowers, flowers of all kinds: roses, petunias, geraniums, marigolds, lotus, sunflowers, glory lilies.
But where did they grow from?
A voice inside my head says Mother has secret gardens.The voice might be mine or not.
I make my way through the thicket of flowers towards the center of the basement. That is where the cot is, where mother usually naps.
But the flowers have obscured everything. A mist has settled in the basement.
And without my noticing at first, the flowers begin to wrap around me, squeezing me till I feel choke-blue.
Then, the voice again. It’s mother’s inside mine: Please don’t wake me. I need to sleep. And I’m pulling you into it. It’s a much better world than what’s upstairs or outside.
The flowers tighten their hold. I’m as still as a root, a weed.
The broth will boil over, I’m sure.
Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Blaze Vox, Matchbook, and elsewhere. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies, manga comics, and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s. His latest ebook is Father Dunne’s School for Wayward Boys at amazon.com.