blue (1)Years ago, Dad, you asked me at midnight to come outside. I followed you—of course I did—out of our house, into the humid dark. My feet brushed against the cool lick of grass, my hair lay still against my face in the unmoving night.

Crickets whispered. A car on 55th Street hummed as you handed me a flashlight, asked me to hold it above as you bent to earth, began to plant flowers in holes made with your hands. And I felt—with the flashlight, the digging, the hush—like we were explorers stealing treasure underground, or better yet, discovering new worlds.

“Why now?” I asked, twenty but feeling like a child.

“I told your mom I’d plant these today. Forgot until now.”

You handed me a broken flower you couldn’t plant, told me to put it in my room. I asked what kind it was.

“Blue,” you said and smiled at yourself.

“So you have no idea?”

“Nope. Your mom’s the chooser. I’m just the planter.”

I looked to Mom’s window then, her bedroom light aglow above us, imagined her pajamaed body, imagined the quick dose of morphine you’d give her, one day too soon, once you finished tending earth and were on to tending her, her insides cancer-speckled like the marks of black on your soiled hands.

I held the flashlight steady as we shifted right to untouched ground. You dripped sweat into a new hole, buried it with the flower’s roots. The next-door neighbors’ garage door shut softly.

“Goodnight, Cathy. Goodnight, Chris,” you said so only I could hear.

“Goodnight, Moon,” I added, face to sky, face-to-face with that moon, and you laughed and I loved that, your laugh for me in the black-night safety, a laugh I’ll miss when Mom goes, and there are no more too-late flowers, and your lightness gets buried with her.

Maggie Pahos is a writer living in New Orleans. She holds an MFA from Chatham University and her work has appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, Atticus Review, and Hippocampus Magazine. She is currently working on a memoir about the year she spent traveling through thirteen countries following her mother’s death.

Photo by Marcia Krause Bilyk