Short story titled "Dandelions." Happy to be here and found this site!
|“No, thank you,” she said, smiling. “I don’t drink.” She flicked her hair out of her face, raised the mason jar of white wine to her reflection in the bathroom mirror before bringing it to her puckered fuchsia mouth. She stopped when the rim of the glass touched her bottom lip. Breathing in with her eyes closed, she held it there before letting the air out through her nose in a long, frustrated sigh. Alcohol 1,000. Sophia zero. What would her life be like now if she never drank? Happy, she thought as she smiled at the two faces that appeared in her mind. She reached out to them but they were soon swept away. Her smile faded and reality was back. It gripped her like a python, stealing her breath from her. The anguish was too much. It weighed like a ton of bricks. The loneliness. The regret. The self-hatred. Like monsters that would never let her rest. She opened her eyes, staring down into the glass at the gold liquid, the color of dandelion smears on her six year old porcelain skin from when her childhood friend Miggy used to press the yellow head of the flower down onto her arm as part of a game. For a moment she was transported back in time. A green field full of wildflowers had separated her family’s house from his. Those summers the birds were always singing, the sun always shining, clouds like cotton suspended in the blue sky. Nothing like god awful Seattle in the fall and winter months. The sunshine was scarce and she didn’t know how badly it would affect her mood. She closed her eyes remembering how Miggy would plucked the flower, twirling it in his little brown fingers, dirt caked beneath his nails. He was a year older but wiser, smarter than she was. He had been places and seen things she hadn’t. He was from the city. She was lucky to see where the dirt turned to asphalt beneath the tires of her father’s ‘96 red Chevrolet. Once or twice a week when her father was awake during business hours they would make a trip to the general store for the necessities. Milk, eggs, bread, toilet paper, candy bars, pop, and cat litter. “Don’t lean too far over like that, Sophie, how many times do I have to tell ya?” He’d yell through the little open cab window. She’d pull herself back into the truck bed, to safety. Why was she was always hanging over the edge? Teetering on the precipice of darkness, balancing on one foot but then complaining there was no solid ground? Leaning back against the cab, the "safe way" to ride, like her father had told her, she’d finger the wind ,her golden-brown hair whipping about like striking snakes.
Miggy still twirling the dandelion, said, “My Ma makes tea with these. With the roots.”
“I bet it tastes delicious! Because flowers are beautiful. And bees and butterflies like them, so it must be sweet! I bet I would like it too," she had said.
Miggy smiled showing his teeth. He had one missing. A baby tooth that fell out in the front.
“It’s bitter actually. You wouldn’t like it.”
“I would too!”
“You want to know what it tastes like? I’ll show you. Give me your arm.”
“What do you need my arm for?”
“Just give me your arm and I will show you.”
She stuck her pale arm out, palm up.
He held her wrist and then made the dandelion head hop up to the inside of her elbow.
“That tickles,” she giggled.
“Hold still,” he said as he pressed the dandelion head down and dragged it from her elbow to her wrist in a trail of gold. “What does that look like?” He asked her.
“I don’t…I don’t know.” She stammered, suddenly not amused by the game anymore.
“Like Isla’s hamster when he pees on you!” He started laughing and kicking his feet in front of him in the grass. Isla is her older sister. Her hamster, Mr. Butters, had been notorious for relieving himself on all the kids in the neighborhood at one point or another. Their house was right next to the bus stop that drove them all to school and on winter days when it was cold or snowing, they’d wait on the porch, and if their Mom had gone to work on time, and their Dad was still asleep, all the kids at that stop would come inside the house to see Mr. Butters and to get warm while they waited.
“That’s what dandelion tea tastes like. Like piss!”
She didn’t know why it upset her so much. She’d started to cry.
“Hey, hey,” Miggy had said, putting his arm over her shoulders. “It’s just a joke.” He stared down at her wet cheeks. “Here,” he said, pulling up another dandelion. He brought it to his chin and smeared it. “I drink pee-pee,"” he said in a serious voice. She laughed. He looked ridiculous. “I drink pee-pee!” He yelled thrusting the dandelion up into the sky. He looked back down and took her arm and pretended to make slurping sounds all the way up to her elbow. They fell back in the field grinning, tears glinting in their eyes from laughing so hard.
Flash forward thirty years and she was the one who had been drinking the devil’s piss most of her life, and now it was killing her. She was sure of it, she thought, looking in the mirror at her cheeks as they grew warm with the wine. Looked at the lines on her forehead. The slight jaundice of her eyes. She had an appointment coming up with her doctor to do an ultrasound of her liver. The last ultrasound, of another kind, she had sworn she saw Miggy's face, but she drowned it in her vice and lost it in the night.
“I drink pee-pee.” She tried to smile, one corner of her mouth slightly upturned as a drop of liquid trailed down her cheek, and clung to her chin, before it fell and disappeared into the bathroom sink.