Berry Patch

It was not so much that Herbert was gone, although she missed him, but how he’d done it, that bothered Irene. Sometimes she could go a whole day and not think about him, at least not to dwell on it. But her brother John insisted on coming over from Richmond for the first anniversary of Herbert’s death. John didn’t think she should have to go to the cemetery alone. She didn’t tell him that if he hadn’t come, she wouldn’t have gone to the cemetery at all, let alone plant those flowers. Now John had gone home, but his talk about Herbert and questions about why he did it had gotten her mind all spinning again. Did John think after all these months she would suddenly figure out the answer?

She and John planted yellow pansies, the ones with purple centers, next to the gravestone. They were Herbert’s favorite flower, and she’d always planted them in the iron bucket on the corner of the porch for him. “They have such happy faces,” Herbert’d said, which was odd when you think about it, him noticing a flower looking happy.

Irene sat at the kitchen table eating leftovers from the meal she’d made for John the evening before—roast beef, mashed potatoes and lima beans. The house seemed quiet with him gone. Only sound Irene heard was Sweetness at the other end of the table lapping from her bowl.

It had been good to see John again, even with his questions. She hadn’t seen him since the holidays when he’d insisted she come over to join him and his family for Christmas. It was what she and Herbert had done in years past. It was hard being around all that holiday excitement, but maybe it was better than being alone.

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Mary Hostetter’s recent writing has appeared in Prime Number, The Gettysburg Review and the New York Times, as Modern Love Essay. She has taken writing classes at the University of Virginia and at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, and has been awarded several fellowships to Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

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