Posted by: sulya | 27 September 2009

500 Words of Fiction: Inside-Out


Lovely view of small potted Cyclamen and various shades of African Violets. Never liked the variegated leaf variety of African Violet, she thought, detracts from the flower itself, scruffs up the simplicity. Cyclamen are full-on magic, though. I mean anything that is its true self by growing inside out commands respect.

Should probably get up, she thought. But she didn’t.

Though usually quiet in this part of the store, brown business shoes came into view under the hem of dark brown suit pants with a break in them that felt more like they’d never been hemmed than like someone had made a choice to hem them that way.

I mean this isn’t 1920. Might as well be wearing spats with a break like that.

What? The voice was not agitated so much as confused.

Shit, she thought. She’d said that last part out loud. This is what happens when you are overwhelmed by the loss of your brother while in a grocery store floral section. You wind up tucked into a corner, hugging your knees, identifying with houseplants and blurting things out to the pants of strangers.

Maybe – the logic of sadness twinned with temporary madness whispered – she could just pretend she hadn’t said anything. Pretend she was invisible. I mean, this was the first person to even walk by in what? She looked at her watch, and hour and a half.

Wow. Been here longer than I thought.

How long do you usually plan on huddling in floral departments?

Crap, her mind screamed, I spoke out loud again.

Spats guy dropped into view. The suit wasn’t cheap, even if the pants were poorly hemmed. Perhaps he’d lost weight? Didn’t have the right size belt or maybe no belt at all? There was kindness in his face but it was tucked under mischief and fatigue. Early 40s maybe? Had all his hair and it was a rich, wavy brown that went nicely with his pants.

You’re a mess, he said, as if he couldn’t quite stop himself.

I am, she answered plainly. I mean, really, she thought, why argue?

He visibly relaxed, inexplicably relieved that he had not offended her. Her mascara was smeared around and down her face, there was probably something frightening running out of her nose. She couldn’t be sure, but she had a strong feeling that she had pulled at her hair when she’d first crumpled into the flora weeping. She’d clawed at herself like an Italian widow.

The floral section also sold stuffed animals. A small stuffed bunny had brandished a balloon saying, I MISS YOU! And that was it. Twenty-three years ago, Finn’s bunny had been called Pooch and inseparable didn’t cut it.

My brother’s dead, she said.

The mischief faded into real compassion. He touched her hand, his fingers grazed the bunny where it sat in her arms and then sat beside her.

I’ve always liked those, he said, gesturing to the Cyclamen. They make inside-out work, you know?


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