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Miracle-Gro

By Scott A. Cook

It was a humid summer and my wife was on her knees in the dirt of her garden. I was cursing at my dog for peeing on the neighbor’s car when I noticed the dandelion growing out of its head.

Come over here, I told my wife. Look at this!

And we looked at the dog. There were two weeds growing out of the top of its head—one with a closed bud and one with an open, seedy flower. The fuzzy round bulb of seeds leaned down so that it drooped into the middle of the dog’s forehead. The dog just stood there panting and wagging its tail. It had long floppy ears, one black and one white. The long ears made him look especially stupid.

My wife lifted the stalk of the seeded flower and blew on the seeds. The white, fluffy sphere came apart and the stalk swayed gently on the dog’s head. The dog wagged its tail. The seeds got caught up in the wind, spread out in the air and floated. My wife started sneezing all over the place, throwing spit and snot out of her face, which made me curse again. The seeds didn’t bother me, but she sneezed. That was always the way.

Finally, cursing at the both of them, I picked one of the flowers off the dog’s head, squeezing the thin green stalk until it popped. The dog winced and yelped, backed up a few feet, and shook his head like crazy. My wife’s eyes bugged out, and she started telling me what an awful person I was. Her face puffed up a little from the sneezing. A milky juice was starting to drip out of the dandelion on the dog’s head.

I said I was sorry.

My wife got on her knees and cradled the dog in her arms. I was sorry, but some part of me was pleased at the same time. I ended up inside in front of the T.V., which isn’t all that bad. But the dog came in too, and sat near the T.V. screen, and the other flower, the one I hadn’t picked, stuck up and covered up the show I was watching. I made like I was going to swat that flower right back into its head, and it ran off for a little while, only to come back in a few minutes. That drove me up the wall, and I said so. Get! I yelled, but that only did so much good, you know?

After an hour or so of the dog interrupting my show, chasing its bone and so forth, making that long flower rush across the screen and break my concentration, I got fed up. I reached down and grabbed under the yellow flower, with all its little florets, wrapping my hands around the place just below the deeply grooved leaves. My intention was to lift upward and pull out the roots. Once those were gone, problem solved, I thought.

The dog must have thought I was going to pet it, or something, because it didn’t move. It just sat there panting. In fact, as I put my fingers around that flower, the dog sat down and started watching the show like it had to know what was going on. So, I got a real good grip, and I pulled. I pulled the way I do on my lawnmower to start it. But that didn’t work at all. Somehow the thing was in its head, real deep-like, and the whole dog came up with my hand. Its fur stretched, and its body rose up off the ground. It looked at me, didn’t do anything for a second, and then it screamed this horrible, loud wail, like a person. When I finally set it down, the dog went off squealing.

My wife had been in the other room cutting up potatoes and the first thing she did was ask what in the hell had gotten into me that I’d beat the dog like that. She cried. I tried to tell her about the dog pushing my buttons, getting in the way of my show and all, but she was crying way too loudly for me to tell her anything, so I went and got the dog. It was under the kitchen table. I bent down on my knees and had a look. It had grown another bunch of dandelions. I didn’t know what to do. The fresh green and abrasive yellow made that animal look real sick.

Finally, I got some meat from the fridge and coaxed the little guy out to me. I pet its head and the feel of the flowers mixing in with fur made my skin crawl. For a second, my blood stirred and I wanted to yank out the weed, but I didn’t let it show. I couldn’t figure out how the dog got that way. I petted him as long as I could stand to, until, finally, things seemed to be okay. We were both pretty happy after that, but my wife wouldn’t let it go.

It wasn’t long before she was hollering again. I think it was just her going on like she does. I told her I was tired, but she kept hollering, so I hollered too. Finally, she cried, so I stopped. After that, she went out to the garden and I followed her.

What’s the big deal about the garden, I asked her?

She said she cared about things and liked making things grow. I didn’t believe her though. It’s about control, about being able to have it exactly the way she wants it. That’s what I thought.

The dog came outside then, and I rubbed its flanks. I told the dog that it was a good boy and I gave it some water, thinking it might kill some of the dandelions if the dog got lots of sun and water. Even though it was hot, we started playing ball, with my wife gardening some few feet away from us. I had no idea what she was planting or working on in such horrible hot weather. She had a bag of Miracle-Gro with her. I wasn’t wearing any shirt.

After a while, all of us being out there like that, I asked my wife how much all that Miracle-Gro cost. And she started yelling at me, telling me it was her money. I told her that man and wife are one thing. One, I said.

I started yelling at her because I didn’t want her spending all her tip money on things we didn’t need. That went on for a while until I realized she was going to keep yelling no matter what I said. So I just went with that, the yelling.

Finally, the dog walked over to where she was, and she looked at it. We both stopped yelling.

My wife said, God, look at all these weeds will you?

What else could we say after all that yelling? The dog stood there between us, more haggard and weedy all the time. I went back inside.

I decided to leave. I grabbed some change out of my change dish and went to meet a guy who worked in Metal-Fab with me before I got laid off. Instead of going over to the bar, where the beer costs lots of money, Jim just said we should drink at his house. So we sat down and had a few beers in the heat. My back was sweating pretty bad in his living room there, and his couch was scratchy on my wet skin, but it was cheaper, that’s for sure.

That’s when my wife called.

She said it was important. I tried to make myself listen. She said the dog was gone. I told my wife that it probably just went up to the neighbor’s yard again. But she said, No. She didn’t think it was that at all. She was breathing these wheezy hiccup breaths at me over the phone. I didn’t think there was anything I could do. I sipped some beer. I said I doubted that it got hit by a car or had run off, or anything like that. I told her to calm down and to call me back in an hour if she hadn’t heard anything. I sat back down with Jim. When he asked what was up, I shrugged.

My wife called back in an hour and told me to get home. She said that the living room was a big pile of dirt and thin-stemmed, yellow-topped or fuzzy-seeded, dandelions. They covered the room. I said I’d take care of it. I thanked Jim for the beers and went home.

It was dark when I got there. The air had cooled some. I went to the living room and my wife was sitting in the middle of it, crying, surrounded by all those dandelions, sneezing. Dandelions surrounded me the way a forest might, except it was so bright I had to hold my breath. There was this pressure, like I was swimming in an ocean. My wife’s face was swollen from sneezing and tears were running down her face. I felt knocked out by all the yellow. I didn’t think anything at all. It was all inside of me, although I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was.

 

Scott A. Cook is a graduate student in the MFA program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Currently, however, he makes his money as the Night Auditor of a hotel. Miracle-Gro is his first published story.

 

Photo "Yellow" courtesy of Spela Andolsek, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Miracle-Gro is a registered trademark of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.

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