After years of moving from rental to rental, they bought a house. Got a loan for first-time homebuyers and moved us into a place on the good side of town. Brand new with a bath and a half, wood-paneled walls, popcorn ceilings, and door locks that worked.
She wanted a larger bedroom for them and a better school for us. He wanted a wall big enough to hang his guns and display my brother’s football trophies. Both were tired of leaky roofs and rampant cockroaches.
The homeowners gift basket arrived with packets of seeds: begonias, sunflowers, and carrots. He said carrots were more useful. I planted several rows in the flower beds and looked forward to enjoying those orange delights.
When a neighborhood boy came by looking for my brother, I realized my attraction to other guys when we got together on their bedroom floor. He told a kid at school that I was queer, which didn’t bother me.
My grades improved from seventh grade “Ds” to ninth grade “Bs”. I joined Spanish club and won the Civics award.
Without even asking, he taught me to drive. That summer I got my learner’s permit and drove her to visit relatives in Memphis while he and my brother went fishing. Our first vacation.
The water company fired him for missing too much work. He sold our home for the three thousand in equity and used the money to buy a bird dog and send my brother to football camp.
A few weeks before we moved, I was watering my carrots when he yanked a handful of sprouts from the ground. He laughed, showing the roots to the new buyer. I could feel my nails digging into my palms as he tossed my work into the empty field next to us. I never knew if any of the others survived.
He moved us to another rental on a dirt road outside of town with linoleum floors and plastic curtains. She found a rat swimming in a can of cooking grease under the sink. After my brother called dibs on the tiny bedroom, I slept on the sofa.
I saved the seed packets and wanted to plant sunflowers along the side of the house, but he said, “Nope. Don’t like flowers.”
The next year dragged by with thirty minute yellow-bus rides to school and dropping grades.
Graduation came and went without much of a mention. I found a job at a toothpaste tube factory where I met Sergio. While moving into a trailer with him, I found those seed packets and planted begonias and sunflowers in pots on our deck. Every morning over coffee, we marvel at the beauty they bring to our lives. If we’re together more than a year, I might plant carrots.
Jeff Harvey lives in San Diego and writes flash fiction. Check out his writing at jeffhharvey.com Twitter: @jeffharveysd