Sweet Violets by A.E. Weisgerber

I remember the warm scent of pine needles, white pine, sienna golden and fragrant thick on the ground, that warm wood held in its air the promise of wreaths and garlands and snow. The tiger lilies leant toward us, listened for secrets small and cheerful as the candy-colored hotwheels, tires caked with dirt that we flicked out, rock-sharp dust bombs popping hard on our thumbs. No longer mudbound, our brother’s toys parked to nap under old cinder blocks, old pipes, old twigs, tin plates, those old ones bent and scratched with little Dutch girls and ducklings fading into ponds where we fished for sunnies.

I remember the old deck of cards, there were only forty-seven, how we played war and slap-jacked those cards, their clay-coated smoothness. No one taught us to play Old Maid, that old broken thing, that old pruny biddy with her clucky teeth always looking like a spoon of vinegar.

I remember the homemade dresses, running waves of ric-rac on hems and collars like icing, we wore these to the zoo with its elephant-shaped keys that operated message-boxes. That summery zoo, with mice displayed in huts built like cheese-wedges, the snakes and salamanders in pumpkins, their wavy cuts of wood part of childhood’s vernacular. A place of candy canes, it gave us a period of rubber tomahawks and parking-lot baloney sandwiches and cola that made our heads jingle. The lion cage was empty but we loved its bent metal box that held a story: “the majestic lion” something-something “the loudest roar” and then there was a something-roar. We listened very carefully. We could hear this same thing, every time we turned a red plastic elephant’s trunk in the keyhole.

I remember teeth, our big fifth-grade choppers, cracking hard-down on whole candy mints, the kind stacked in foil rolls with flecks of flint mosaicked inside. Before the bathroom mirror we stood tip-toe, knees on the sink, trying to clamp our teeth but also keep our mouths open. Magic birdlings. I remember how the mints left off sparks. I remember how the sparks came. I remember singing silly songs.

A.E. Weisgerber is a 2018 Chesapeake Bay Writer, 2017 Frost Place Scholar, and 2014 Kent State Reynolds Fellow. Work in Heavy Feather Review, DIAGRAM, The Alaska Star, SmokeLong Quarterly, FLAPPERHOUSE, great weather for MEDIA, Matchbook Lit, and Zoetrope Cafe’s Story Machine. Her work has been nominated for Pushcarts, Best of the Nets, Wigleaf Top 50s, and Best Small Fictions. Follow @aeweisgerber or visit anneweisgerber.com

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