I like to pretend I didn’t plant the seed that cracked the sidewalk that summer. That summer is the summer when my parents divorced and my brother was in summer school. That summer is the summer where the high was ninety-nine and you couldn’t walk on concrete without shoes. That summer is the summer I planted a sunflower in the crack in our sidewalk.
When I was little, my parents say I used to make my Barbies possessed. My narratives were elaborate, and based on Days of Our Lives. The Barbies were constantly pregnant, abandoned, murdered, and coming back to life. It was an exciting time in the Dreamhouse—so pink on the outside, but with Stacy locked in the dungeon. My parents grew worried and encouraged me to play a new game, perhaps with stuffed animals? The narratives stayed the same.
The summer I planted the sunflower my parents were inside fighting. Daddy was possessed. Who caused it? I’m not sure, but I pretend it’s not myself. Bubba was in summer school for bad grades, but he didn’t seem to mind. He said summer school was easy compared to living at home—I didn’t know what his problem was because he was older than me and could easily walk out of the house if he wanted. I was stuck in the yard watching the flower grow.
It was slim at first, the way sprouts are. I was surprised it managed to grow through the slits in the concrete, but there it was, reaching up and out. I put a chalk circle around it so nobody would step on it. Nobody did, but then again I don’t think they noticed it at first. Mom would storm out on daddy and just leap over the flower without even looking down. I’m not sure if she knew she was even doing it. Daddy would sit on the front porch, look at me picking in the dirt and call me over.
He’d ask me questions about what mom did all day while he was gone, and I’d shrug and say nothing. Sometimes though, I made up stories. Stories like I did with Barbies. I thought they were ridiculous and dark, but daddy always took them seriously. He’d drink a beer and tell me to tell another story about Mom and what she liked to do. She liked to party, I’d say. She liked to lock little girls in the dungeon, I’d say. She fed him undercooked chicken, I’d say. Then when mom came home daddy would pick another fight and I’d feel a glow in my stomach. It wasn’t guilt.
By the end of summer, the sunflower had grown tall and the stalk was a hard like a tree. The sidewalk in front of our house swelled and cracked under the pressure. I expected people to be mad at me, but nobody ever said anything. Mom never leapt over the flower on her way out, she walked around it instead. The last time mom stormed out of the house daddy asked me to tell him another story. The game was boring by now, I had exhausted all I knew but I sat by his legs and did anyway. She had a boyfriend that came through the window, I’d say. She’d lick his steak before serving it to him, I’d say. When she stormed out, she was going to a boyfriend, I’d say. This is what daddy liked best. When I said mom had a boyfriend or two, or six. He’d nod and say, yup, and take a drink.
That evening, when the temperature had cooled down, and the sky was turning a light pink, mom and daddy had a fight. She always looked so confused when he yelled things at her. She’d turn bright pink and look away and I couldn’t help but giggle a bit. They didn’t know, after all. They were lost and confused. That night, things didn’t work out the same though. Mom yelled back. She didn’t storm out this time. I heard glass breaking from outside and wondered what was happening. Then, daddy stormed out. He stormed right out and past me and stomped down the sidewalk. He hadn’t left in so long I don’t think he knew where he was going. On his way out he swerved to miss the sunflower, looking back at it as if he saw it for the first time that summer, and tripped on the cracked sidewalk, falling forward, catching himself on the concrete. His pants tore, his hands tore, but it stopped him. He swore and looked up at the sunflower, then kicked it down like it was a twig. The stalk snapped and fell next to me—I wanted to be angry, but I wasn’t. It’s just what happened. He stayed in the yard for a while looking at me and the broken flower, but he didn’t ask me for any stories.