the short story project


Ceremonials (2020)

I revere my mother with a depth of sincerity usually reserved for the dead. Even though I have only to pick up my phone to hear her voice, more often than not she speaks to me in other ways: objects, her phrases coming out of my mouth, her fingers reaching up through the soil as mine dig down to grasp the roots of a weed. This is where I feel her the strongest, the closest. 

On this day I’m planting in a freshly claimed plot of dirt. I choose the new plants with the same care I’ve seen her display, murmur a wish for growth to them in the same low voice. She is a witch and so am I. This is just one of her magicks that she has taught me over the course of her life. Even as I will these flowers in my hands to thrive and grow, the very habit reminds me of her unavoidable death. As the cheery red and yellow and white faces look up at me, a small but familiar fissure opens in my heart, reminding me that someday this will be my only way to reach her. One day she’ll be a ghost that haunts me through certain foods, chords of music, smells, a baby’s laughter. She will become a phantom to me just as I will one day be to my daughter.

This is the final magick.

I start looking around my building for loose rocks to border the new garden. During my search I come across a pair of bird’s wings, severed from the owner. The markings look to be that of a mockingbird. I stoop to examine them. “An untimely death,” I say aloud to no one. I carefully step over them to dig up a promising chunk of limestone. A nearby flower bed, long neglected, yields several more stones. I find two brilliant blue feathers there, and silently hope one of the bluebirds I saw last week has not met the same fate as the mockingbird. 

I share my delight over the new garden with my mother later. “Yes,” she says wisely, “it’s a good legacy to make wherever you are more beautiful.” This is one of her strongest magicks, I have watched her do it many times over my life, each time just as successful as the last.

Later, when I am clean of dirt and sweat, I watch the heat lightning over the water. These wondrous, silent displays reduce me to a childlike smallness like old and distant gods- known and unknown, fleeting and eternal.


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