Maggie planted a butterfly garden. Purple coneflowers, clusters of goldenrod, sea–pink asters. I built the hardscape: flagstone deck and brick wall trailing ivy.
I scrutinize Maggie. “Honey. Baby. Why are you mad?”
She flips her head. “So you’re a mind–reader, too?” She zig–zags through the garden.
I rush after. “Wait, honey.” A thorn pierces my thigh. “What do you mean, too?”
She stretches to prune a young branch from the maple. The tree is a sculpture. Her trees are all sculptures.
“What too?” I repeat.
She gazes at the tree’s delicate limbs; its lacy, leafy fingers. “Honey,” I say. “Tell me. Come on.”
She brushes past me and zips towards the house. “I have sauce on.”
My head hurts. My ears burn. “What too?” I’m chasing. “You’re driving me nuts.”
Her crooked smile drives me wild in good times, destroys me in bad. “I’m driving you nuts?” She lowers her eyes, laughs derisively at me.
“What does that mean?” My voice is a life form beyond my control, ascending and shrill. “What does that mean, `I’m driving you nuts?’?”
She adds fresh basil without tasting the sauce. The kitchen smells great. She pours cab, swallows hard.
“Maggie,” I say, and this is a breach—we always use endearments—but she won’t stand still and won’t look in my eyes. “What do you mean, `I’m driving you nuts?’?” She flies to the garden. I hustle after. “Honey. Listen.” She stands before the lemon tree. Her back is to me. The tree’s heavy with fruit. After working the soil, she rubs juice on her hands. She makes pink lemonade and ginger–lemon tea. “Listen. You said I’m driving you nuts.”
She turns, and the pruning shears gleam in her hand. “No,” she says in a hard, quaking voice, “you said I drive you nuts—”
“Because you wouldn’t tell me why you said too!”
“What too?!” Her voice is louder and shriller than mine. She zips into the depths of the garden.
“The too! That too! We were standing by the pear tree, and you said, `So you’re a mind–reader, too?’” Too, what? What too?”
Jon Sindell is a humanities tutor and a writing coach for business professionals. His flash fiction collection, The Roadkill Collection, is scheduled to be released by Big Table Publishing in late 2014. Jon’s short fiction has appeared in over sixty publications. He curates the Rolling Writers reading series in San Francisco.