Something Happened

By Dan Markovich

Van Gogh   You could tell that the people who lived here before hadn't grown anything in the two wooden boxes by the window; there was almost no soil left: blown out and washed by rain, with only some protruding gray grass, carried in on the wind by chance. This grass grew up vigorously and then died, leaving dry crisp stems; dusted with snow, again in spring this obstinate grass reappeared. It continued on this way many years, but one day, in the very corner of the box, where there was almost no soil at all, a thin yellow sprout pushed up and started to grow. A bud grew out of it and a flower unfurled, orange, tender, and rather large. I looked upon it with astonishment, and it stood there amongst that wild grass, inexplicably holding its own. Cold set in, but the flower remained. Then the grass had already fallen, mornings covered it with frost, yet the flower was still alive. I grew concerned, but there was no way to help it, it stood there on its own. One morning I glanced through the window -- and the flower had died. I felt horrible, but of course it had fallen onto a bad spot, and even on better ground it couldn't have grown any bigger... But the following year it appeared once again; again it bloomed, again the wind and freezing rain knocked it from its feet, and an early snow fell -- burying it... Should I have dug it up, so that it wouldn't bloom and torture itself further? But I couldn't, I left everything as it was... And that third year it sprouted, but I travelled much that year and was rarely home. I'd return home at night, look out the window and see it there, its petals looking black in the darkness, but still alive. There was plenty of rain, it had enough water, but was this the place for it, in this desert...? That fall it began to die once again, it suffered and each day I anguished, mornings I awaited its death like a deliverance. At last it died. But the following year it didn't sprout. The grass grew to its full height, summer passed, the rain began -- but no flower. The frost struck suddenly, the leaves curled into little scrolls, and the frost held; of the grass there remained only thin but firm skeletons, which did not give in to the wind... but no flower... Something happened...

(Dan Markovich is a writer living in Russia)

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