Growing Through Grief by Angeline Schellenberg

When Leanna’s mother dies, her father takes up gardening. Purple loosestrife and puncture vines sprout from between his lips: winding up her mother’s tomato plants, covering Leanna’s window, clogging the neighbours’ eaves, injuring cattle and choking wetlands, blocking out the sun. No one has the heart to tell him to stop.

Leanna can bite bruises into her arms that look like almost anything: turtles, train tracks, Betty Boop. Her father loves her tooth tattoos. He even gives her a job in his hardware store window. Kids climb the bike racks outside to see the corporate logos up and down her limbs. She stares back, making sure the kids don’t fall. Her dad’s sales skyrocket. By autumn her brands fade from purplish to yellow like splitting plums.

While she sleeps, Leanna’s father sneaks into her room, steals another piece from her puzzle, to keep her on her toes. Every morning, she stares down into the fresh hole in her house, her dog, her sky. This never moves him. He rests a fatherly hand on her shoulders. Her tears fill the empty space. The edges soften.

Angeline Schellenberg is the author of Tell Them It Was Mozart (Brick, 2016) and Fields of Light and Stone (UAP, 2020). Her microfictions have appeared recently in Exposition Review, Potato Soup Journal, Free Flash Fiction, and The Dribble Drabble Review. Angeline hosts Winnipeg’s virtual open-mic poetry series, Speaking Crow. Her third poetry collection Paradigm Riffs is forthcoming with At Bay Press in 2024.

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