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A Flower Thing
by Jen Gann

art by Robinson Accola
art by Robinson Accola
Something bad happened and soon after, a flower sprouted out my scalp. It was a tiny flower, maybe some breed of daisy, but flowers never interested me so I didn't bother looking it up. I tried pinching it off at the base. I tried pulling it out gingerly, complete with the roots. It kept growing back. Plucking it felt the same as if it were an eyebrow hair or plump, white zit.

The bad thing was my fault but now I had this flower growing out of my head. It wasn't too bad. I guess people must have thought it was a hairstyle. Maybe an earthy headband worn close to the scalp. I hardly ever thought of the bad thing. It was great. I thought about the flower instead.

Now that I had the flower I cared more. I got a boyfriend just so I could break up with him. He cried and asked if he could take a petal with him. I said no.

I got a job and thought I might quit it just to quit a job and say, So There like I did to the boyfriend. Then the paychecks started stacking up and I thought, Hey dumbass! Don't quit this one! The boss really liked me. He said I made excellent calendars and schedules, that I really knew how to utilize clip art.

One payday he said, But wouldn't you rather be on direct deposit? I was like, No Way José. There's nothing like tearing the perforated edge on a real live check. That made the boss laugh pretty hard because his name was Joe and in Spanish his name would be José. I got the feeling he wanted that to be our little joke so whenever he asked me to do things I said No Way José! And whenever I had to ask him questions I addressed him as José. The boss was delighted. This was probably racist but I didn't care about that.

The puppies at the mall pet store looked like they needed rescuing. So I pointed at one—their cages had circular windows, like on ships—and bought him on a credit card. He peed and whined a lot and nibbled on my hand. I named him Daisy.

Then I called in sick to work three days in a row. Come in to work today? No way José, I told the boss. The pain is horrible, José.

On my sick days I felt fine but stayed in my basement apartment, not showering.

Since he was more like a cat than a dog, Daisy had a litter box in the bathroom. We hung out a lot in there. Him fluffing around in his litter, and me, checking out the flower from different angles.

When I pulled my hair back, the oils made it slick against my scalp. My hair is dark, so you could see the clinging dandruff. The flower was most visible then, with its network of light-green roots blooming prettily behind my ear. What a nice network of veins they made.

Daisy whined when he heard my keys jangle. No way, puppy-sé, I told him. Dogs donít like coffee shops.

At the coffee shop I ordered a cappuccino. I tilted my neck flower-forward. The tall, skinny guy behind the counter had hair just as greasy as mine. The only thing he said was the price. I felt the flower bulge from my neck like an oversized vein.

Please ask me, I thought.

Daisy wasnít in the apartment when I got home. I couldnít find any escape routes. All the windows and doors were whole. The lock was a calm, undisturbed copper. Deadbolt too.

But the flower was still there and I didn't need anything else. I wanted to make some more powerful, active moves. So I made a list: move, get two boyfriends at one time and let them discover each other, have a child and give the child up for adoption, get pregnant, rescue a new dog from the pound and train it, kill a neighbor's dog, kidnap a neighbor's child, tell some pre-teen girls the best way to give a blow job.

I got uncomfortable after writing the last thing because it reminded me of the bad thing and I didn't want to go there after all. I didn't want to do much of anything when I thought of the bad thing. I stroked the flower behind my ear.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.





Jen Gann has lived in Alaska, Washington, New York, Oregon, and Montana. Now she lives in San Francisco. She is online at http://www.jengann.com.

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.
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