Fictions from Hayley Swinson
My sister’s fingers dig deep in the dirt, encircle the bulb. Shorn roots pop, their tips wriggling like slashed worms underground. Can you eat wild onions? We are thirteen years old. Yesterday I was twelve; today, I eclipse her, and we are teenagers together for the first time. When she asks me about the onions, I feel new, a sharp and surprising taste on my tongue. My shrug turns the taste bitter, turns her away. She rinses them under the hose, pops a clove into her pink mouth.
I watch her chew with envy. Tomorrow, she will grow a year older again, as new onion shoots rise, already inches taller than the clipped, even grass.
The garden soon outgrew everyone else’s on the block. It overtook the raised flower beds and climbed up the sides of the house. It stretched across the lawn and arched overtop the sidewalk. The neighbors had to duck to avoid overgrown elephant ears and banana plants. They asked me where it had started, what was the germ. They wouldn’t have believed me if I’d told them the truth. Everything has roots, they’d say. No skill sprouts overnight. I told them that my green thumb came from my mother. Who would have believed me if I’d said I’d just thrown seeds among the lava rocks to see what would happen? That I’d watered them like mad because it seemed like the right thing to do? My mother, for her part, was mum about the lie. She was pleased that her legacy had become more than what I told my therapist on Tuesday afternoons. And when the honeysuckle climbed over the walls and onto the roof of the house, everyone marveled at the delicate pink and yellow flowers, at the hummingbirds buzzing around what used to be the brick facade of my house, and when I shut the door and pulled the blinds, shoving the vines out of the door jamb as I did so, the neighbors whispered amongst themselves. How lucky she is to have such a natural gift. How lucky.
Hayley Swinson is an overeducated troublemaker who loves learning, teaching, and everyday adventure. She teaches English and creative writing in Wilmington, NC and edits books in her spare time. Her writing has been published in various outlets online and in print, including Cutbank Online, VALVE Journal, The Messenger, The New Southern Fugitives, and Edinburgh City of Literature’s Story Shop.