Don’t Cross These Capitalist Flowers

"lilac bed" and "the ritual," two stories by Tarah Knaresboro

lilac bus

Don’t Cross These Capitalist Flowers

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lilac bed

We announce our desire to open for business. We are sweet and we are soft and have been told we are gorgeous. Let us make a living, flirting with tourists’ ankles.

What use have you for the standard economy?

We spurn this question. We think it distasteful that it is left to those with no imagination to decide such things. We stare.

He surrenders. What do you require?

We require a sign. At the top, in bold lettering: Visit the World’s Most Beautiful Lilac Patch. Underneath, smaller lettering: Two dollars. Underneath, same size: Tips welcome. Underneath, italics: Children under 10 are asked to maintain a distance of three feet from the lilacs.

Anything else?

That will do.

We begin primping. We get the xylem and phloem running up and down our stems, filling our petals with rich color. We shunt nutrients to the smallest among us. We see the groundskeeper marveling from a distance, in a posture he imagines to be subtle. We notice everything that is subtle.

Within days, we are strewn with bills and coins from the tourists. Dirt can hardly be seen. We now desire to close for business. Please remove our sign.

And of your money?

What of it? We stare. Together we hold hands for our wilting, shrinking and dulling, falling upon our bed and each other to rest, composting our bills into the soil, full as ticks stuffed with blood.

the ritual

We enact the ritual as soon as the child is old enough to absorb it. Usually age three or four. Many life events are suitable triggers: a snake bite, a mean nickname from a bully, a burn from a hot metal slide. For example.

When a suitable event happens, we spring quickly into action. First, we erect a large image of the offending snake or bully or slide and frame it on an altar designated for this purpose. We assemble as many family members and neighbors as can be quickly assembled. With the child in our midst, we circle around the altar and hurl disparagements and caustic materials. “SCUM!” we shriek, coating the image in mud and ammonia and fruit mold. “FILTH!” We shout and shout, maybe for ten minutes. “How dare you aggress upon our sweet innocent child. You are vile to your core, bully child, your soul is filthy cracked tar and we hope you die quickly for the good of all humanity.”

Our job is done once the image is denigrated beyond all recognition, hardly noble enough for a Dumpster. Our job is done once we start to feel badly for the innocent coffee filters, vegetable rinds, and junk-mailings that would now be forced to keep company with this degenerate. “REST IN LOATHSOMENESS,” we yell in a chorus as we shut the Dumpster lid and spit at its feet.

Now we shower the child with hugs and warmth and adornments, we feed the child sweet treats as we kiss their forehead. It is critical the child does not carry a bad feeling, that they know whatever happened in no way reflected a malignancy about their character. Everyone takes a turn proclaiming the child’s inherent good. We have been carrying out this ritual for generations and know how to achieve the most effective result. Lastly, we clean the altar with a special cleansing tonic and now we erect a new image. A blown-up image of the child, framed in gold, protected with a thick plexiglass. We genuflect to it as we enter and exit the house, wishing death upon our enemies.

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