Marigold published in Brilliant Flash Fiction, 2020


Meg Pokrass

I was not occupied enough to avoid this moment in which it came down to Marigold and I taking very slow walks and looking at the sky and saying, Mmmm hmmmm, no good can come of these big grey dogs.

It was summer and everyone was busy with their husbands or their lovers or both. Me? I was being productive at home by not being at home. Walking aimlessly around with Marigold, a nonagenarian, despite the ominous-looking rain clouds. I was Marigold’s sort-of helper but mainly she wanted me to walk around outside with her. To protect her from unsavory animals.

This may have had something to do with me having nothing in my life, causing me to relate to my new old friend, Marigold, ninety-five years young, hardly able to breathe without a bellows.

It was about the wheel of time, spinning and landing on someone else’s life. How each day and each night tasted wrong since Ed left me for a man named Edwin. Almost funny, or very funny. Canned laughter in my mind, at this point.

Marigold, up the street, with nothing but a parakeet, Marigold would understand if she could hear well enough but she had lousy hearing so I didn’t try to explain, and only alerted her when something was a menace to her health or safety. For example when new people with dogs moved in across the street from her, I warned her not to go outside alone, only with pepper spray or a weapon or with me next to her.

She laughed (she had a great sense of humor) and she sometimes cackled on for minutes which felt like serious overkill, but it was as if her laugh switch had been turned on and there was no off switch.

The haystacks of postcards she got from great-grandchildren (or at least some people who claimed to be her great-grandchildren but were now grown up and living in exotic places) were piling up in her foyer. I wasn’t her cleaning person in any formal way, she didn’t pay me, but I did dust off postcards for her and also, I offered to read them to her.

Many of the postcards these relatives sent had no character. They were pictures of office buildings and unrecognizable beaches. They probably just sent her cards to get it over with. Hell, I thought, Marigold must be loaded, and they did not want to be left out of her will.

Marigold was very alone, is what I’m saying, so it wasn’t kind to confess to Marigold about what I had done, but I told her that I’d taken her amber pin. The one in the shape of two lovebirds.

“I stole it from you, you see, Marigold,” I said.

I told her that I needed the pin. Needed two loving birds. Admitted how I just couldn’t keep pace with the world and had started to take things from the people I loved. “I’m sorry,” I said.

She hugged me. I could feel the hollowness of her bones. She was almost gone.

“This isn’t your fault,” she said, in an invisible, high-pitched voice that only dogs and me could hear. “You have always needed a rescue animal.”