The Rose Garden
By James Ward Kirk
Adam Glacies sat in his green plastic chair under the fading sun staring at his dead wife’s dead rose garden. Even though this Indiana May, already too hot, promised a healthy garden for Angela’s flowers, they weren’t taking. The remnants from the hellish winter stood crookedly, faded yellows and reds and her prize whites. Scratching at his graying whiskers with his left hand, Adam lifted the police-issue .38 from his lap, a remnant of his former life, and pointed the muzzle at his temple.
He couldn’t do it. He knew he should pull the trigger, even things out, reconfirm his loyalty to Angela, but he also understood cowardice and disloyalty.
He stuffed his gun into the belt holding his jeans up and walked to his house. The grass needs cutting. The goddamn dandelions are taking over.
In the kitchen, Adam set the table. He loaded his plate with three pork chops, a heaping mound of mashed potatoes, and golden corn. Across the table from him rested a photograph of Angela wearing a white dress with matching sunbonnet, long blond hair framing a perfect face. Her blue eyes and bright smile projected the most pain for Adam. She was still innocent.
Tearing into his meal, barely bothering to chew, never taking his eyes from Angela’s, he finished, then hurried to the sink and vomited everything back up.
His pants fell to the floor. I’m losing weight. Too much weight and it hurts.
Pulling them back up, he turned on the tap water and rinsed the sink, then turned on the garbage disposal. He listened hungrily as his guilt ground in the machine.
After turning off the tap and the garbage disposal, he walked to the living room, sat down in his black recliner, laid his pistol on the table beside his chair and opened the drawer. Removing the half-empty bottle of bourbon, he finished the nut-brown liquid in three long pulls, and fell asleep.
Adam awoke to a low buzzing sound. The room was dark, as was his mood. Becoming a bit more alert, he picked up his gun and, unsteady, walked to the front porch.
Forcing his mind to focus, he saw small furry creatures with big eyes—reminding Adam of chipmunks and apple-head Chihuahuas with antennae—eating the dandelions in his yard. A whippoorwill sounded in the distance.
Adam pointed his .38 at one of them.
No! We come in peace and love. The voice seemed crystal-clear in his mind, at once alien and comfortably familiar, somehow reminiscent of Angela’s voice.
Whatever. Lowering his gun, he walked back into the house, to his bedroom, and fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of Angela’s blue eyes and the lost chirping of crickets in a moonlit night.
Then he dreamed of Eve, and shivered in the heat as he slept:
Eve was the exact opposite of Angela, raven-haired, eyes so dark and large like a starless midnight sky, tall and long-legged, and corrupt. Eve: meth-thin, opposite of Angela’s full-bodied figure, small breasted but a plump ass: Angela’s golem.
A courier, Eve drove a new black Caddy and lived in Gwynneville. Adam drove an unmarked blue Impala and lived in Shelbyville. He waited outside her supplier’s house in Rushville and followed her along State Road 52 with the windows down, enjoying the scent of fresh cut hay, until they reached her home. Eve never saw him coming.
He waited at the corner of her house, registering her sensual walk, noticing her very short blue jean skirt and her pearl high-cut t-shirt and of course the bulging silver purse hanging from her shoulder. When she worked the lock, he made his move.
Just as Eve pushed the door open, Adam hit her with his left shoulder. She went tumbling, dropping her purse, and two kilos of bagged crystal meth spilled onto the floor.
Eve, handcuffed in a matter of seconds, rolled over unto her back. Adam looked down at her, his police badge in hand.
She spread her legs just enough to show her promise of an ebony happy trail. “Don’t do this. I’ll suck you dry. I’ll fuck you dry. I know things.”
Her voice, melodic, her mouth filled with promise, seemed a reward to Adam. He worked hard and played hard, more so than anyone he knew.
He couldn’t deny his erection and didn’t want to anyway. This beautiful woman, impossible to resist, sang a siren’s song. Adam dropped his jeans and straddled her.
“Wait,” she sang, “bring it up here first.” She opened her wonderful mouth.
Eve was not a gift; rather, an addiction.
Adam crawled out of bed, making it to the toilet just in time to empty his stomach. Not bothering to brush his teeth, he walked to the kitchen and started some coffee, standing in front of the machine, motionless, breathing shallowly while watching the coffee brew. He poured some into a cup and walked to the front porch.
On his third sip, he noticed the absence of dandelions. Remembering a vague dream about small furry creatures eating them, and speaking to him, he shrugged his shoulders. I need to cut the grass. He noticed his neighbors’ yards still overrun by dandelions.
He finished his coffee and walked around the side of his house toward the garage where his green lawnmower awaited him. Filling the gas tank, he checked the oil and then pulled it behind him to the smallish backyard. I should probably cut those roses down. His stomach heaved at the thought. Hesitantly, he glanced at the rose garden.
The roses leered back at him in perfect health. Angela’s rose garden could easily grace any glossy magazine cover. They’re unspoiled.
As he approached, their perfume overwhelmed him and he fell to his knees. I’m going insane. Finally.
He finished his journey to the rose garden, allowing his eyes to adjust to the bright hues. Their scent and color made his eyes water. The morning sun, burning without mercy, was unable to affect the tears streaming down his face, as now he cried—no, sobbed.
Birds chirped; a dove cooed. In the distance, a woodpecker worked mightily.
I don’t deserve this. Adam stood and walked to the edge of the garden. He longed to experience joy over the miracle before him, but suffered emptiness.
Angela should be here.
Reaching out to touch one of the white roses, he hesitated. The bed of the garden glowed violet, the deep color a king might wear. I smell... I’m reminded of... manure... but not like any I know... there’s no chemical smell... Adam took three steps backward and tripped over the lawnmower, falling to the ground.
Regaining his footing, he looked all around, and decided to cut the grass. Starting the mower, he began his routine of cutting: familiar squares, rectangles, circles around the two maples. He withdrew into his thoughts.
Nine in the morning on a beautiful Saturday, the breeze perfectly warm, Angela so lovely in her jeans and white t-shirt, hair pulled back, a smile dancing on the edges of her mouth.
“I’m proud of you for donating your time at the Seniors Village.”
“Thank you, Adam. Those people are so fun. I love listening to their stories.”
“I’ll pick you up at four.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Watching Angela walking, wondering why Eve’s hold on him is so powerful when Angela is so beautiful. Sex is wonderful with her, and the love I feel when I’m inside her is real.
Driving away, growing hard, not for the moment, but for the moment to come. Naked Eve meeting him at her back door, gone Brazilian, holding coffee laced with bourbon; screwing, drinking, screwing, napping, drinking, screwing...
“Adam! Wake up! You’re late!”
Waking up with my face buried deep in her lap, unable to finish what I started, drunk, feeling Eve’s hands push me and I fall to the floor naked and the bottle of bourbon falls and empties onto my head, rushing to dress, leaving Eve still drunk and already back to sleep...
. . Angela sitting on the steps, smiling at me even though I’m late. God bless her.
Angela getting in and I pull away still drunk, so drunk. I pick up speed, she leans over to kiss me, and, oh, my God, she smells Eve on my mouth and my Angela shrinks.
Leaving Rushville on SR52, cornfields, and tree lines to fight erosion, and I hear her start to cry and this angers me so I smack her.
Picking up speed, turning on my lights, passing slowing cars, and Angela plants a right fist directly onto my right temple and I briefly lose it...
Waking up... my cop friends telling me my car rolled six times and I’m okay but Angela... no seatbelt, thrown from the car. I find her in three pieces: a crimson mess, one leg bled out hanging pale from a tree branch, her trunk all yellow in the flashing lights.
His BAC never checked.
Buried in three days . . . her white sunbonnet . . . Angela gone forever to a blue place where roses grew as big as oaks, a haven he knew he’d never reach.
His first Saturday without Eve . . .
The second Saturday, nighttime, peeping through her window, Eve strung out on meth and whiskey, already another naked man by her side, he slunk away; murder thrumming in-between beats of his heart, never to be.
Adam quivered, released from memory, the tank of the mower empty, and the expected spring breeze still, twilight stars beginning to twinkle in the sky.
How long have I been standing here? He looked around the neighborhood, lights flashing on in homes, cars parked neatly in driveways, dandelions everywhere.
He walked into his home, tugged long and hard on a fresh bottle of bourbon, and fell asleep, feeling death like a kiss on his cheek—and welcomed both.
Awakened by a buzzing in his head, now a familiar sound, a loved one calling out, and he walked out to his front porch.
All of the dandelions gone; no freshly cut grass in his neighbors’ yards, just the absence of dandelions and the loss of night sounds; no chirping of birds, no crickets, no buzzing of flying insects—only the silence of the night exploding in his mind.
Adam left the porch and walked around the side of the house to the backyard.
Gazing upon Angela’s rose garden, understanding now the completed artistry; his memory of this morning’s rose garden incomplete, experienced like the morning before the final brush strokes on the Sistine Chapel, which Angela once told him about.
She should know.
Angela’s roses towered above him, at least fifteen feet tall, and colored like the most beautiful works of art in the world. Adam fell to his knees.
A stirring among the roses . . .
. . . Them.
Watching without fear or anxiety as the beings spread out from the garden, their circle completed. Do not fear, they sang. We offer you Angela.
“How?” Adam felt the dew soaking through his pants at the knees. Honeysuckle scented the breeze.
Come. Stand among us. We will take you to Angela.
Adam stood, entered the circle, and blinked.
And saw the earth below him, as blue as Angela’s eyes.
I’m inside a bubble.
Yes, a bubble.
“You ate the crickets, too.”
Like you, we are omnivores.
Omnivores? I think that means they eat anything. Like an old spider spinning a new web, fear spread through him. I don’t understand.
Adam blinked again. He saw blackness.
We are in galaxy M87, the home of the largest black hole in your known universe.
We are taking you to Angela.
Because this is what you want, no, need.
Adam experienced the reflection of the bubble in a blue star being sucked into the black hole. Other stars moved with him—red, yellow, white— transforming into shapes of monarch butterflies and seahorses and fireflies; and other images he had no words to describe.
A tap on Adam’s shoulder surprised him. He turned.
“Hello. My name is Hieronymus Bosch.”
Adam nodded to the man, but before he could introduce himself the man was no more. What a creepy little shit. Adam blinked.
We are near.
He blinked again and was momentarily blinded.
An O-star, and why it is blue; rare indeed, but quite beautiful, don’t you think?
“Yes.” Why do I deserve such beauty? He blinked. I don’t. “Where is Angela?”
Near, very near; please be patient.
He closed his eyes, then heard Angela’s voice: Adam?
He opened them.
There! You see, Adam?
A planet: one half, the side facing the star, shimmered yellow/red, molten; the side facing away from the star white, icy, stark; and a blue ring around the middle of the planet promised innocence, purity, and a concept for which Adam couldn’t find the word he desired.
This planet does not rotate. The middle part represents where life exists. Angela is there, in the blue ring.
“When do I get to see her?” I have so much to say; especially, I’m sorry.
We are sorry. When did we say you might see her?
“Then what?” Adam, happy for Angela and her blue place, understood now he no longer mattered.
Choose your home: white or lemon-crimson. Free will, Adam, is a promise. One of many.
I should have known. “I always favoured her white roses.”
Adam fell. As he sunk into the planet’s atmosphere, he broke into a million pieces of eternally screaming white ice, the word “Angela” falling like snowflakes, snowflakes the colour of regret.