“Wildflowers” by Matt McGuirk

People say suburbs are for well clipped lawns with green grass like you see in real estate photos or magazines. We didn’t move there for a green postage stamp in our front yard; we moved for my job in the city to avoid living with the honking traffic and lingering exhaust. The green of the country would be missed and my wife and I would need to replace the eclectic collection of wildflowers that grew in large pastures around our previous home. We lived in an old farmhouse with scratched pine floors and a metal roof that played tings in rainstorms on ten acres in the country. Our fields were never mowed down by animals because we didn’t have any and weren’t flattened with a lawn mower because we couldn’t bear watching the collage of colors cut to a rundown green.

When we spotted the two-bedroom house 20 minutes to my new job and the stay at home office for her on the main floor, we jumped and it was done. It didn’t matter that the house was a two story raised ranch like all of the others in the neighborhood or that the homeowners associate said it needed to stay white with black shutters, or that we could only put up white lights during the holidays and they needed to be taken down before February hit; we liked it because it was ours and it put us near my new job that paid fifteen thousand more a year.

The commute was fine and the job went as expected. Still, sitting in our modern kitchen and looking out over that lawn made us both sigh, a whisper to those wildflowers back in the boonies. We always called them wildflowers, even when everyone else favored the term weeds. I remember the early season spots of yellow from the dandelions alongside the deep purple of violets and soon the white and red clover would rush the meadow to play with the others. They’d eventually die back or hit the air in puffs of floating seeds to give way to large stalked thistle with spined leaves that were topped with beautiful purple flowers and the almost too formal white of yarrow. Golden rod would line the meadow in the fall, painting sun yellow across the field even on a day with banks of thunder clouds or blanketed with rain.

The small front yard was green and had grown to about 4 inches tall since we’d moved in. I’d already seen neighbors lingering at their mailboxes and Nick, the president of the homeowner’s association, jog by on a Saturday, take a step into our driveway and then continue on his way. I knew someone would knock or give us that come here wave or drop a letter on our doorstep, but we had our minds set on something more. We’d talked about the wildflowers since we moved in. Our home didn’t seem like home without a little color to occupy the green space. We took our trowel and some Tupperware and traveled a little south of the suburbs and found a rural patch with no houses. Digging in the dirt felt like home again and scooping up a collection of dandelions that had just opened and some small violets and clovers gave our hearts wings. We looked at our prizewinning flowers in our worn out Tupperware in the backseat and wove our fingers together. They were strong like us and could thrive in the suburbs.

We arrived back home after dinner and planted our meadow in a splatter paint design across the law, something authentic or at least close to what nature does so naturally. We woke early the next morning and drank coffee with smiles looking across the sun-streaked lawn with winks of purple, white and yellow. I lingered on my way out the door to admire what we’d done, a housewarming gift to ourselves.

Their beauty wasn’t lost on my return trip to the driveway and I exited the car to what I’d now consider home. I could almost smell the meadow again and hear the buzz of bees moving from flower to flower. The tranquility of the moment was snapped by the clearing of a throat from behind me. Nick was standing there in his jogging shorts and a plain white t-shirt; he had a buzz cut and a forced smile that said he had to talk to me about something. The conversation was brief and he let me know I needed to take care of the weed problem, cut my lawn and a bottle of Roundup would be on my step to help me. He plodded off down the road to collect the pesticide for the good of the neighborhood.

I shook my head and entered the house. The next morning, I found the Roundup bottle on the step and brought it inside. Rain had already started to collect on the bottle and I was glad to see the forecast called for more in the subsequent days, something to delay Nick a little longer. After dinner, I watched Lucy from across the street walk out with her black umbrella and linger at her mailbox again. I could tell she was looking over at our lawn. I’m sure she was wondering about our weed problem, as they all were. Alice and I just smiled and waved, more at our lawn than her. It grew another half inch that week with the consistent rain.

The dandelions were starting to wane and Nick’s jogs had gone from one pass in the morning and at night to two. He shook his head making his way by and jogged in place for a moment next to the lawn. The yellows were still in their manes when he dropped a note on the doorstep that asked me to make sure to take care of the lawn before it got any worse. This was a second strike and I knew on the third one he’d probably take care of the problem himself. I crumpled the white lined paper and threw it in the trash.

The white bulbs were now beginning to stand out on the green lawn and I knew the seeds would take flight soon. I walked out and picked myself a bouquet and gave them a good blow into the spring air, turning right to left as I did. I watched some of the tiny seeds float on the air and others pinwheel in different directions painting the blue sky white momentarily. I smiled knowing thistle was almost in season and there was a good field about a half hour south with stands of golden rod that were soon to be thigh high.

Matt McGuirk teaches and laughs at his puns by day and scribbles stories nightly. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. Stories published or forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Goat’s Milk, Idle Ink, Literally Stories, New World Writing, Sledgehammer Lit, Sleet, Versification and others. Follow him on Twitter @McguirkMatthew and Instagram @mcguirk_matthew.

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