This is the first post of Fiction Friday, a series born out of my ongoing desire to be a novelist. These stories are meant to be read independently. They are fictional vignettes inspired by glimmers from my life.
Except for the bamboo, Maya loved everything about the house. It had skylights in the living room, a tiled kitchen, an extra bedroom that could, maybe, be painted baby blue when the time was right. But the backyard was half eaten up by the bamboo, so thick she could hardly thrust her arm through it, and when she finally managed to, the joints along the stems scratched her skin, as if warning her to back off. This is our spot, it seemed to say. Our roots run deep.
What she wanted was a little garden. She wanted arugula, beets, and snap peas. And a sunflower. Her sister's garden had one, a bright burst of yellow amongst the leafy folds of green. "It's nice, isn't it?" her sister asked, when the two of them had stood in the narrow path that ran down the middle of her garden. "Well, besides the slugs. You have to keep those little suckers in check. You put out cups of old beer, and presto, they're good and drowned. It's gross, but it works."
But maybe Maya's garden wouldn't attract any pests. Bigger miracles had happened before, right? Maybe she wouldn't have to put out traps for them, or empty the traps when they became bubbly and discolored. The thought made her mouth taste sour. Think of something else, she told herself. Like mint. Mint and cherry tomatoes. Or butter lettuce. Or sage.
Back inside, the house was rich with the sweet smell of fried onions. Johnny was hunched over the stove, spatula in hand, little specks of oil splattered on his shirt. He'd always been messy when he cooked, but somehow the food turned out tidy and precise. He turned when he heard Maya come in, lifting a sliver of onion to his parted smile. "Five minutes," he said.
She put silverware on the table. She shuffled the scattered mail into a pile and tucked it under a book on Johnny's desk. Bank statements, bills, pre-approved credit card offers: it was always the same, always more of the same.
"I met the neighbors this morning," Johnny said when they sat. "They're retired. A little crotchety, maybe, but nice enough."
"Did they say anything about the bamboo?" Maya asked.
"Yes. The bamboo. Does it go into their yard, too?"
"I don't know, Maya. I barely talked to them."
"I just wish it wasn't there. Our yard is already small enough. You think we could dig it up?"
"Really? I don't think it's so bad. Actually, I think it looks alright."
"There's no space."
"Space for what?" he asked. He broke his gaze from her to take a drink. Maya watched the muscles on his throat tighten as he swallowed.
Johnny wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and picked his fork back up. He began again, "So, the neighbors, like I said, they seem a little grumpy, but they–" and Maya shifted her focus to the window behind Johnny's head, a perfectly square window, curtainless, that looked out to the backyard.
She could see the leafy tips of the bamboo, just barely, and she felt a kind of heat start to build up in her hands. Tomorrow, when Johnny was at work, she would find their moving box that was still packed with the yard tools, find the shovel and the pruning shears and her barely used gloves, and she would kneel on the soft grass in the backyard and she would get rid of the bamboo herself, no matter how much it scratched up her arms, no matter how much her body ached from it. She would clear the yard, and dig her hands into the soil, and start anew.