Every preventive measure he took failed. He aerated the soil, fertilized, went from plastic pots to clay, then back to plastic again. He read up on grow lights, even asked the gardening folks at The Home Depot for advice. Did he have trouble following through? No. In fact, the opposite was true. Sam was a dedicated man, a decorated war vet who served in Afghanistan. He did everything by the book. So, what was up? He watered the plants in accordance with instructions given, sat them near sunlight, went so far as to read aloud handbooks on indoor perennials hoping the audible noise — the puffs of air from his mouth — would spur plant growth. Nothing worked. The pink chrysanthemums died as before. Sam blasted the people closest to him. It’s how he dealt with frustration. He implemented time restrictions on conversations he had with friends and family; he whistled TAPS while in the company of despondent women; he spoke softly on the telephone and dodged make-believe bullets from would-be assassins.
NATE DEPKE is a groundskeeper in Maine. His work has appeared in Crack the Spine.