Lilacs Out of the Dead Land
by Matt Mikalatos
The seed cost a year's salary.
It arrived in a small wooden box, packed in pearl-colored satin. He turned it gently in his palm, where it stuttered against the glint of gold on his finger, polished and nut-brown, with swirls of lighter color.
He unfolded the onionskin directions and followed them like a sunflower follows the sun. He washed the smooth seed in warm water before wrapping it in strands of her hair and packing it in pungent midnight soil that crumbled in his hands.
The sapling sprouted and seasons passed but the tree did not speak. It was straight and smooth-barked and in the fall the leaves flared with flame nearly the shade of her hair but only nearly. Sometimes in the spring there were delicate coral flowers, curved and smiling.
He heard from an old woman who bought a box bursting with seeds, straight and black as fire-hardened nails and she had thrown them in her yard and her husband had sprouted messages, thousands upon thousands that jumped up in the breeze and kissed her and reminded her to take her purple pills and whispered remembrances of sun-drenched picnics.