by Staci Mercado
You’re out in the yard digging up dandelions with a hand trowel. Back burning, you brush off your knees thinking you’re done, but no—you see a couple more lurking by the downspout, sucking moisture from the rooftop.
You’ve done this so many times the neighbors think you’re a lawn ornament. Even in winter you burrow after them. Your pants are always dirty.
It’s supposed to be an unending sea of bluegrass out there, but instead it’s an ocean of questionable decisions. Maybe you should just turn it all into a meadow; it might be nice to be the scourge of the neighborhood as long as there are a thousand lemon yellow beauties winking at you.
Someone keeps sticking pamphlets for the local weed control company inside your storm door. You know it’s not the man in coveralls who drives the chemical truck; it’s that bastard behind the fence. You refuse to give him the leash.
“This beast,” you say, “stays untamed.”
You gaze outside, wondering if you have enough energy for a drive to the store. You’re distracted by the family Asteraceae who huddles like frightened refugees near the clothesline; their yellow heads are arching away from the neighbor’s lawn mower. He has those big earmuffs on that block out sound and sense, and you shout something profane in his general direction while leaping out the door. You pluck a medallion from its stem and rub a swath of golden war paint under each eye.
Late spring comes and you cut off two leaves from every dandelion plant in your yard. It’s enough to make a salad—above ground energy.
In the fall you wash off the garden trowel and dig up a few dormant dandies here and there, gently brush off their taproots, and bring them inside. After a thorough wash, you roast them in the oven for a few hours. That afternoon you have a most excellent cup of tea. You think about sharing it with the neighbor, but your legs don’t move, only your mind.
Another spring arrives. Every afternoon you pluck a handful of dandelions, cradle them in your t-shirt and don’t care a whit for the yellow stains they leave behind. The teapot whistles for several minutes before you reluctantly pluck it from the stove. When it sings you remember your purpose.
The seeds emerge, dancing on the tips of feathery umbrellas, gossamer wings. While you sit on the patio with your feet up, those sunny stalwarts take air and land in your neighbors’ yards by the thousands.
Just ahead, you see it—redemption.
Staci Mercado won a Midwest Book Award for her historical fiction novel, Seeking Signs (Four Feathers Press, 2013). She has work forthcoming in Our Iowa. Staci is an MFA candidate at Lindenwood University and teaches Creative Writing and English language arts at her local high school. She lives in Iowa with her husband, four boys, and a growing animal menagerie. She publishes the Character Files at staciangelinamercado.com and can be found on Twitter @mercadostaci.