Posted on August 30, 2015August 30, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair8.30.2015 Journal Prompt Image from The Bad Seed August 30, 2015: They were never really friends. Like this:Like Loading... Related
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He loved her. Not his clumsy hands down the front of his trousers and fiddling with his hard cock, rubbing it till he came and was breathless and wet and limp again – not love like that. Cici was too good for that. Too pure. Like angel-pure. And clean she was. Clean as clouds or apple blossom or souls. And pretty – so pretty it sometimes was a hurt him inside to look at her and then the same hurt again when she was gone.
He made the garden beautiful and he did it all for Cici. Did extra for her. More than the missus, her mama, paid him for. And he worked hard as devils and he worked till his arms ached and his back ached, too. And working like that he knew it was love.
And Cici sometimes took notice of the things he did for her. The nest of apples he left for her on her windowsill and she called her mama to come see. And hadn’t he picked ‘em specially picked only the very best, and he’d polished ‘em with his short tails till they shone like the toes of boots when they been buffed to near glass. And he’d kissed each one and like that she’d eat up all his kisses and she’d swallow ‘em and that had something to do with love. And honey in a unbroken comb and he wrapped it in a white cloth and tied it up in green string and like that he’d made a pretty gift of it to her; and no matter that he got stung a dozen times to get that bit of comb and each sting was like the hurting of love and if he suffered then it was for Cici he suffered and so it was not like suffering at all.
Flowers he grew for her in splendid array and all in profusion, and he imagined how the garden would look from her window and he arranged it so it would be just wondrous so when Cici opened her curtains and saw the new day. And sometimes he hid deep in the bushes – all the early hours of the morning he hid and the dew settled on his shirt and his hair so he was all over covered in diamonds, and spiders and snails knew him and were not afraid of him, and he kept still as stalking herons watching fish in the pond, and he waited, like they waited, and he waited for Cici to wake and to look out and not see him but see what he’d done for her.
Cici had a smell, too. If you was close enough to her and you breathed in. The smell of milk when it is warmed in a pot and not brought to the boil. And soap she smelled of, too. Lemons sometimes, or rose, or lavender – just faintly. And her hair smelled of rosemary, for she rinsed it each day in an infusion; she’d read somewhere that to do so would bring her hair to a gloss glassy shine. And sugar she smelled of once – sugar when it is caramelized and it sticks to the back of a spoon and it is sweet with just the smallest hint of bitter.
And she was the missus’ daughter, all dressed in white, like angels could be. And her tongue sharp as glass against him and she scolded him like she might a puppy or a doll, and she said he was no good, and simple she said he was, and ugly as warts or weavils, and she wagged her perfect finger at him said he smelled of eggs or earth or dog breaths.
And he bent his back and his head to her and he hurt with every bitter word and at the same time he was sweetened that Cici was talking to him at all. And through all of this he knew he loved her and not the touching her under her dress love, or pulling at his hard cock love, or dreaming of her in his bed love – no, he loved her like he loved angels and all things good and too good.
He don’t know what’s what in the world. Don’t even know his place which is he’s the gardener and he don’t ought to look higher than the mud on his clodhopper boots. But I see him sometimes and I see how he gawps at me, his mouth slack like he’s catching flies, and it’s a hangdog look, and his words is all stutter and stuck when he speaks to me.
Mama says I don’t ever should mind what he’s like. Harmless is what she says he is, like bees what has already stung somewhere else and they aint got no more bad to do to you. Not like wasps and they can sting again and again and so are careless with their stinging. Harmless like butterflies, mama says, and they lay their eggs on the underside of the rhubarb leaves and there ain’t no matter in that.
But though mama talks kindly of old Cooter, I can’t but see the look he gives me, which is like the dog when it’s wanting something and it sits close with its head all lifted and its eyes all pleading and I can smell the breath of it like smelling farts that has been caught in a glass preserve jar. And old Cooter is something the same. And he’s ugly as warts and frogslime, and he smells sour like cabbage cooking, and like drains sometimes. And he smiles crooked and gap-toothed, and he’s always smiling – smiling even when I scold him.
And one day he left a straw woven nest of apples on my windowsill and I woke to see them there and I knew it was old Cooter had been at my window and I thought that was not a proper thing for a man to be doing in the night, creeping up on girls when they’re sleeping. I called mama through to see and she made such a cooing over the present of those apples and so I let her eat them all.
Then last week and old Cooter came up to me in the garden, shy as Spring when it first stirs, and forward at the same time, and he held out a gift for me to take – wrapped in old cloth and tied up with garden twine. He was pleased with himself and if he’d been born with a tail he’d have been wagging it like a flag on flag-day. And it was honeycomb he’d bought me and not broken but all apiece and the waxy comb holding sweet gold. I wished for him to be stung a hundred times or more for that gift and I took it to mama and she said it was naught but a kindness and a blessing.
Old Cooter and he skulks in the bushes of a morning and he thinks I don’t see him there. And he has spiders in his hair and snails crawl slow and snot-slippy out of his pockets and his shirt is wet and his trousers too, steaming in the waking sun. And he don’t ever do me harm and he thinks me an angel and better than an angel. And he is just the gardener and should look no higher than his boots, but he looks at me, and I hate him to the stars and back.
I try to teach her. It’s what a mama should do with her daughter. I try to teach her to be soft as a girl, and kind to them as has a hurt buried deep inside of them, and not to be pulling the wings off flies for no reason ‘cept for the fun of it. I say to her she must see blessings where she sees affliction – but there’s something in Cici that is as hard as seasoned steel and as sharp as knives that are new-honed and she does not see what is really there.
Like the way she is with old Cooter and he don’t do her no wrong nor ever could, and he only blesses the ground that she walks on and thinks sweet as roses the air that she breathes. And he aint all there in the head and his thoughts are all spiderwebs that has been torn in a hard wind and they don’t hang together no more. And Cici don’t give him a shred of what he deserves and there’s things I could tell her, but I am afeard to.
It wasn’t always so is what I should say; old Cooter wasn’t always old, and that is certain, and he was not always crooked and not all bad smells. I remember him from way back, back as far as a girl’s memory dares reach, and that was before Cici ever was. And Cooter gave apples to me then, in straw nests he made himself and he set them pretty on my windowsill while I slept. And honeycomb wrapped in cloth and tied up with string he gave me. And cut sprigs of rosemary for my hair, and raspberries collected in the bowl of his hat and his lips stained red with the berries he’d eaten. And in the dark of his old shed – and maybe the shed was not old then either for the air in there was warm and smelled sweet and scented – there in the dark of his shed I held his hand, held Cooter’s hand, and I made him promise not ever to tell.
Cooter and me, and he was the gardener even then, and he loved me and I loved him and we dared to. And his hands are as big as shovels but gentle as the wings of birds, and he was slow and heavy and breathless with what we did. And forget-me-knots he threaded into my hair and he said he loved me to the moon and back and even to the stars. And all his words were broken into pieces so they made sense to only me who knew him, or maybe I made my own sense out of them, made of them what I wanted to hear. Those years are behind us now and Cooter he has no memory of what we was to each other back then.
And there is Cici, and Cooter is suddenly old Cooter and he is crooked these days and he smells of earth when it is turned over and vegetables that have been left to rot in the ground and his hair is all anyhow – and I don’t know exactly when any of that happened; and his thoughts are all scrambled worse than before, and some say I should let him go and that the garden could be beautiful again with someone new. But they don’t know and no one knows, and not Cici when she should, and they won’t none of them ever know. I don’t think even old Cooter knows, not really. But he loves Cici, different from how he loved me, loving her like she is pure and holy and better than angels, and loving her is what he should be allowed for Cici is as much his as she is mine.