Brandi Wells

I sit on the cracked sidewalk by my mother’s flowerbed. Daisies and clusters of three-leaf clovers push through thick brown grass that only seems to thrive in our yard. The clovers spring up bright green, healthier than the daisies.

The first clover I swallow whole, without tasting. The second one I chew. It’s sour, puckering my mouth, until my tongue curls up and retreats down my throat.

I worry the neighbors will see. They’ll tell my parents. I’ll be declared unruly, my mother will be judged unfit, and we’ll be forced to move out to the country where I will have to pluck chickens and plant rows of corn.

I become discreet. I pull the heads off the clovers and check the undersides for bugs or pieces of spider web. I slip them in my pocket, into a plastic bag I stole from the junk drawer in our kitchen.

Later, I sit in my room, on the middle of my bed, eating them one at a time. I keep the bag hidden under my pillow in case my mother walks in.

Discretion gives way to need and I stuff them in my mouth handfuls at a time. My teeth grind through the clovers and I swallow them, licking the insides of my cheeks, savoring the sour flavor.

Of course, my mother walks in. I hold the plastic bag in my lap, trying to cover it.

She sees.

I open my mouth to explain and there it is, proof. Bits of half chewed clover are stuck between my teeth, curling around my gums. Green pieces are still plastered to my tongue.

I can’t explain. I start several times:

“I just wanted to…”

“They’re only…”

“Well, God made clovers.”

She pulls me down the hallway yelling, “Filthy yard chicken that’ll eat anything off the ground!”

I hold onto her arm so it’ll be easier for her to drag me. She jerks me down the porch steps to the same flowerbed where I gathered my clovers. She picks one of the daisies, an innocuous little daisy surrounded by clover and dry grass.

“Eat it,” she tells me.

I stare at her. She holds the flower, twirling it around so the petals spin like a pinwheel.

“Eat it,” she repeats.

I take the flower by its long green stem. Bits of wet clover are stuck to the backs of my palms and crammed under my nails.

I nibble the edge of a white petal and it is bitter, not sour like the clover. It would be bland except for the overpowering bad.

I shake my head.

She pops me—hard across the face.

I stumble backward and squat on one knee.

“Finish it,” she tells me.

She leans over me, dark eyeliner smeared beneath her eyes and great craggy holes in her cheeks where blackheads have disappeared.

I bite the flower off its stem and try to swallow it without chewing, just choke the whole thing down. I gag and she pops me again. The smack resounds with a hollow thud inside my cheek. The flower comes back up, thick and gooey with syrupy Kool-Aid spit. I catch it in my hands and shove it back in my mouth, chewing it this time, gagging and swallowing it down in soft broken pieces.

My mother stands there, nodding at me. She is tall, so much bigger than I am. And when she is older and smaller, back shriveled with age, she’ll remain to me, as she is right now.

I do not know if she wants me to taste the bitterness of the flower or if she means to wash away the clover. I think it is probably both. She’ll spend a great deal of my childhood washing away those things I love and instilling in me the bitterness I will carry with me, so close to my bones.


“I am a student at Georgia Southern University, pursuing a B.A. in Writing and Linguistics. I have a flash fiction published in Ghoti Magazine and have short stories forthcoming in Vulcan and Storyglossia.” E-mail: unforgiventoo_666[at]hotmail.com