tree for nourishment. She was a mutant, she was
a sport of nature, she should be sprayed, crushed
underfoot, gathered up and laid in a co;n . . .
Then rage loosened and shriveled, and Alice, in
a new, motherly way, began to move toward the
half sister of her child-to-be. She couldn’t keep her
footing in the mud so she had to use her hands
too. She would bring Emily to her house. She
would o=er her a weed. She would not mention
food. She would whisper to the misguided girl
that life could be moderately satisfying even if you
were born into the wrong order.
Having safely ascended the opposite bank of
the ravine, Richard turned and squinted at the artful bit of nature below: two banks of trees slanting
inward as if trying to reach each other, some with
pale yellow leaves, some brown, some leafless;
more leaves thick at their roots; and mist everywhere. It was a view Ghiselle would appreciate,
she loved pointillism, though she had decorated
their house in bright abstractions for no apparent reason. For no apparent reason one of his
two promising younger daughters spent her evenings in front of a television screen and the other
seemed to have sewn her thumb to her BlackBerry.
Perhaps it was in the nature of people to defy their
own best interests. Why, look, as if to validate
his insight, there was his beloved Emily, oh Lord
let her live, make her live, there was Emily, plastered lengthwise to a tree like a colony of parasitic
grubs; and there was his Alice, intruding like the
headmistress she couldn’t help being, undertaking to crawl toward Emily not on hands and knees
but on toes and fingertips, her limbs as long as
those of a katydid nymph. And above her body, her
busybody you might say, swayed that magnificent
SOME OF WHAT Alice wished for came about.
She and Emily developed a cautious alliance. Em-
ily’s weight went up a bit, though her future re-
mained worrisome. Paolo da Sola said “Sure!” to
Alice’s proposal of marriage. “And I don’t want
to know the circumstances. I’ve been mad about
you since we met.”
Richard eventually replaced Alice with an unde-
manding pathologist who already had a husband
and children. The baby born to Alice had Paolo’s
dark brows and golden eyes — surprising, maybe,
until you remember that all humans look pretty
much alike. And when Caldicott’s old-fashioned
housekeeper discovered Wolfie and Adele em-
bracing naked in Emily’s little room, and failed to
keep her ancient mouth shut, Alice summoned a
meeting of the trustees and told them that this ex-
pression of devoted friendship was not in contra-
vention of any rule she knew of. She adjusted her
yawning infant on her pale blue shoulder. Any-
way, she reminded them and herself, Caldicott’s
most important rules even if they weren’t written
down were tolerance and discretion. All the others
were honeydew. A
Orion’s short fiction is made possible through reader
donations. Support short stories like this one at
orionmagazine.org/donate. Thank you.
Allium canadense. Allium validum. Wild and smelly one,
little sister of stinks. Broken, rubbed between two fingers
you linger like nostalgia, regret, grief. You grow anywhere,
a garden, a pavement’s crack, a verge beside the road.
In abused soil, acidic, starved, your white heart waits, white
as loneliness—the first thing, Milton says, which God’s eye
named not good. Kha-a-mot-ot-ke-wat, the one who seeks
a poorer soil, your heart-bulb sunk deep beneath the sod.
Weed. No blade can cut you out. You are reborn each spring,
green tongues from black earth. The Egyptians buried onions
with their dead, a circle within circles. Lonely, lonely, lonely
is every layer around the heart. And I—each year more
lonely—will break your culms and rub my brow with your oil.
I’ll chew your white heart for cure. If that is no remedy,
I’ll lie beside your white flowers and sleep, my wild sister,
rhizome, root, my invasive, unstoppable loneliness.
— Janice N. Harrington