Cleaning out my desk for the first time in twenty years, I found the seed packet. The seeds had sprouted at some point and there was dark earth, scattered inside the paper pouch that held them, and in the musty papers in the drawer where they’d been sitting all this time.
I wondered about the seeds, and remembered a time in Portland, before our two sons burst into our life like great klaxons of color—a time when we could walk quietly down Hawthorne and stop in the stores and buy little things.
But no, my wife told me, we got them at the farmer’s market in Gainesville, when Josh was six months old. Didn’t I remember?
They had grown significantly since then, but somehow were not yet plants; you could still see the seed forms, but huge green shoots poked out from the swollen tan pods like whimsical curvy flagpoles, tossing their green leafy banners all around the drawer, which seemed much too big now to have ever fit inside my desk.
How could I have kept all these old papers for so long? There was Tim’s birth certificate and a photograph of my dead mother, looking much younger and so alive; there was also one of my wife, looking as she looks with her sharp eyes fixed on something just out of sight.
I nudged a green tendril out of the way to see better and the plant recoiled with a sound like a baby’s cry. It was wounded somehow, something had taken a chunk out of its rather sizable stalk. It was oozing an opaque liquid onto the papers.
I tried to follow the plant back to its source, to the packet of seeds, but it seemed to go on forever. Somehow I found myself in the backyard, where my son was standing, looking out at the mountains with his hands on his hips.
What are you doing with that plant? he said.
I smiled and looked down at the green stalk, which was now as thick around as my wrist, and was turning from green to white, desiccating before my eyes.
Do you know where this starts? I asked him. Does Tim, maybe?
He shook his head. Tim’s at college, he said. And I have to run too. He took off jogging down the mountain.
Zacc Dukowitz holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Florida, and his work has appeared in PANK, The American Literary Review, The Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives on Lake Atitlán in rural Guatemala with his wife and two dogs. You can follow him @ZaccDukowitz, and find more of his writing at zaccdukowitz.com.