and it takes me a triple-take to realize it's scanning me, or something near my ear—that must be it. No plant’s ever complimented my perfume—wait—there it goes again. Did you see that? [Time passes, drinks] "Sure, I remember when I thought you were a fern but you were! Who could blame me?" I tell the what’s now a magnificent purple tetrahedron, eggplant-sized cilia straining at its corners, just a hint of ferniness remains in its fingertips—enough to blush. We hug goodbye. The scent of flowers lingers around me the next day. Flying home, a decorative airport fern that really is a decorative airport fern says, "You smell nice." I don’t believe it, but it's still a happy ending.
Lately my 84-year-old mother’s been
hearing noises: a party in the street below
her bedroom window—gruff men cursing,
a woman’s shrieking laughter, beer cans going
“dink” off the concrete. Finally she got the nerve
to peek out: nothing but a street light. Sounds
coming from inside her, she says: pops, clicks,
swooshes, gongs, alarms, heavy steps pounding
through her as if someone’s stumbling around
on the roof. Her cellphone rings. “Hello?” No
answer from its flat, gray face. A fist pounding
on the door she never used to lock—so hard she
feared the wood would split—but the peephole:
empty. A voice in the middle of the night: “Joann!”—
impatient to get her attention, clear as day, she said.
“That must be terrifying,” I said. She giggled,
“I don’t know but it was really something!
You know that poem ‘I Sing the Body Electric’?”
“Of course. Did you recognize the voice?” I asked.
“It must’ve been my mother because she called me
‘Joann!’” she imitated her mother’s scolding voice
“in just that way.” “A woman?” I asked. “Yes,
and a stranger might call me, ‘Jody.’” “Yes,”
I agreed, so at least it’s someone who knows her.