Dirt Divinity

By Melanie Jones

I took a pinch of Father’s ashes from the blue-black urn. Quietly, I replaced the cap and tip-toed past my sister Gertrude’s room, where she slept peacefully. I resented her sleep. Both my sisters slept well for that matter, as if half the make-up of our genome hadn’t parted from this earth. Didn’t his death make their purpose in life dissolve like bones in acid? No. They both slept effortlessly, like they had fought the world and won. Perhaps their husbands’ support kept them content, while I alone was responsible for my own healing. 

I marched past the hanging picture of the four of us. Three daughters with their father, our arms tangled as roots, over each other’s shoulders.

The bits of him between my fingers felt finer than I expected. Velvety and warm. He sparkled on my pointer and thumb, as if giving me his blessing.  

I crept past my other sister, Eloise’s room, on the way to my own. A cackling snore rose from her nose. A nose that was shaped like Father’s. My nose was shaped like our mother’s. The mother we did without. 

I did not tell my sisters my plan. They would call me crazy like Mother was. I was not crazy; they were just far too simple-minded. So willing to accept that what was taken away from us could not be regained. I demanded more, got more, and then kept clawing, taking whole handfuls of more. Let them sleep and gain the energy to praise me later.

Closing my bedroom door gently behind me, I approached my desk, where the succulent from Madam Mecurion’s shop anxiously awaited its catalyst. It looked like a nothing old thing, but with Father’s ashes his life would regrow.

I uprooted the green rubbery thing, and it sighed, its breath kissing my hand. I sprinkled Father upon the roots, and he clung to his new life source. Once he grew back, I would finally be the favorite. He would recognize that I too was worthy of love. My sisters wouldn’t call me a brat or say I was like Mother, because I would be the one who had brought Father back. They would realize that I was the genius all along, just as deserving of the love they had.

The succulent walked out of my hand, its spidery roots scurrying across my desk. It climbed up the lip of the pot and sunk itself into the dirt like a warm bath on a cold day. For a moment it shivered, and I thought I heard the slight hum of Father’s voice, but then it went silent. My eyes, the green eyes of Mother, watched the soil. I petted the plant and said he was strong and great. I told him it was I who had planted him. I repeated it three times before I went to bed. I planted you. I planted you. I planted you.       

The morning shed its pinks and yellows into my room and danced across my eyes. My sisters both moved in the kitchen. A pan sizzled with bacon. I heard a pot bubbling with grits through my closed door. Surely, they progressed spiritedly, not riddled by the ache I’d felt daily since Father died. On my desk the succulent tottered back and forth, edging towards me with rhythmic sway. The plant had grown Father’s fine reddish-brown hair, the same as my sisters’, on its formerly rubbery smooth body. It smelled of stale cigarettes and pinecone—the scent of Father. I told him good morning and asked if he wanted bacon for breakfast. He shook his leaves. I asked if he wanted water. He bowed.   

Eloise knocked on my door and said I was a lazy bag of bones and to put on a pot of coffee. She curtly explained that she and Gertrude were not my maids. I wanted to tell her to be quiet, I was busy with a miracle, but instead I shouted I’d be right out. She too would bow to me soon enough.   

Days passed by like a carnival ride, whipping and whirling, as the conjuring took its course. My room pulsated as Father gained life, shedding the greens and purples of his origin. His colors spilled onto my walls and rooted, growing veins that pumped and rushed. Some nights the sounds of effervescing blood filling him with absoluteness were so loud I couldn’t sleep. The very flesh of my face tightened around my bulging brain with searing pain, and I wondered if I was growing godly. The pain was a sacrifice I’d make to gain love, to gain adoration, to gain control.

The veiny roots tunneled through the entire house. Burgundy pigment bled into the furniture. My body grew weak, but my mind was built, brick by brick, of ecclesiastical strength. Too feeble to leave the house, I lay in bed, a feverish genius cresting within the whole of me. My sisters offered me cool rags and ginger tea. I cackled at their plebeian help.  

My face grew sallow like a used lemon. Vitality was being sucked from me and given to Father. He grew as strong as oak from where I’d planted him.

My breathing strained, but I didn’t mind. Did gods need air? Father was almost fully formed. His leathered skin dotted with pores, his red-brown hair peppered with gray strands, the foundation of violet hue now vacant from his newly pink aura. 

He stepped off the desk, away from the now broken vase, dirt scattered all around it, and walked lightly on his feet towards me, on the bed. With his thumb to my forehead he wiped away a vagrant drop of sweat. Father looked at me with a grand smile. At last he spoke, whispering to me, where are your sisters?

I choked for air. The red midnight circled like a hawk closing in around my eyes, Mother’s eyes.

About the author

Melanie Jones is a poet and short story writer living in Chicago. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Roosevelt University. Her writing often focuses on strong female leads and family relationships.

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