the ground gave out before we did.
everything browned, withered and died while the wheel line watered nothing; not even weeds. father couldn’t understand it. in his time, everything placed in the ground grew. but in this time there is dust– the water washes it away with each explosive drop to reveal more dust discovered beneath; some will say the world is composed of rock but they are wrong: it is dust all the way to the core –and now, none of what we put into this world rises to show its appreciation.
other things died with it: the world, our parents’ income and their love for each other… maybe even for us.
father gave out long after the ground but long before we did. he said his heart was in this land and both had failed him. all he left behind were tales of non-synthetic green things but humanity lost its tails long ago; science says we never had them in the beginning and science is what keeps us alive now which makes it more convincing than the memory of what might have grown so long ago.
which is also why we expected nothing to come of it when we put father in the ground.
our expectations were accurate until spring sprung a bud of bone where a stone marker should have been. not knowing what else to do, we watered it. we fertilized it with what was left of the garage-stored petroleum based nitrogen. we watched it grow into a tiny tree of red-veined green leaves. even that first year it bore a flower of flesh on a boney limb barely capable of holding it. but it withered away without bearing fruit.
he gave life to the barren earth that killed him. grass, actual grass, grew in radius around that tree; growing outward each year– more and more flesh flowers blooming and wilting –until it reached the crops. and maybe they grew after so long in the ground because they were waiting for something to lead by example. maybe father was as unbearable to live with below ground as he was above and everything was simply trying to escape him. maybe it was as inexplicable as it seemed.
we planned mother’s wake the morning she didn’t.
quietly tip-toeing thru the house out of habits learned those years she held on to what father long ago lost and the ground long ago regained. we were not quiet out of respect or because she needed her sleep, we were quiet because living became a constant complaint for her and she only spared us from hearing it when she thought we were not at home.
so we phoned a couple friends and what little family was left. suppose it was our fault there was not more– we never did settle and breed which denied the opportunity for our kids to abandon us to do the same –but it made the calls go by much faster.
they began arriving at seven and looked into the exposed bedroom and saw her with eyes closed in that tattered shirt she always slept in; it set the mood. they all whispered and sipped drinks somberly from plastic cups knowing she would not be around to wash the glass ones.
no one was drunk enough to laugh loudly until ten. then it became contagious and everyone shared their best memories of her. we questioned their veracity with inquisitive eyes and confused smiles but no words; that is what death is for: we can shape the person no longer around contradicting our desires to love them.
the pyre was lit at midnight.
some drove themselves home afterward with near-sincere apologies. some curled on the grass and slept at the feet of the flames for warmth. the rest of us watched the smoke curl and leave us, carried by the breeze that carried her remains to the bone tree towering over our land.
by dawn the flesh flowers folded themselves closed.
within a week they bulged like bellies of life on a bone frame.
we don’t know what they will bring– if this is the love they had before the ground died or if it is something new –but our bodies will soon be giving out like the ground long long ago did; we can only hope that the hundreds of fruits will let fall hundreds of us in miniature. it is the only way we have left of being remembered.