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art by Jeffrey Redmond

The Mobius Garden

James Bambury writes from Brampton, Ontario. More information and links to other stories can be found at jamesbambury.blogspot.com.

When Suriak was given her first watercolors she painted the garden she saw every night when she slept. In the first week she worked through the pad of paper that came with the set, and in the week after she covered the walls of her room with embankments of flowers. Her parents made sure she was never out of paper after that.
"What's that?" her mother asked as Suriak filled a sheet with splotches of yellow.
Brandon had never tried drawing anything his whole life even though he was older than Suriak. He was shocked when he saw the cloud of fireflies over his head while wandering through the city. He chased them through the spiral ramp of a parking lot and saw the swarm disappear through a metal grate in the wall. Brandon tugged at the grate and it swung open on a pair of hinges; inside there was daylight.
A garden opened up on the inside of the parking lot grate. Flowers and plants bloomed everywhere, and a giant banyan tree with draping branches stood in the middle of it all. Brandon went in further, having completely forgotten about the fireflies. He was transfixed by the patterns in leaves, petals, and sepals. He realized he had no idea if he had been in the garden for minutes or hours. There was a sun in this place that stood overhead and didn't appear to move beyond noon. He returned to the grate and climbed back into the parking lot. He turned to look back through the grate and saw only gray.
When Suriak was older she started using more elaborate supplies and tools for her artwork. Boys from school called and asked if she wanted to go see a movie or read books of poetry together.
"No, thank you. I have an important painting to finish."
She hung up the phone and opened up a tube of rusty red paint for the cat she had outlined.
Brandon had met a girl he was falling more and more in love with. He was on the way to her house with a ring in his pocket when he saw the green eyes in the alley.
"Do you remember the garden?" asked the cat.
"Yes," said Brandon, stopping suddenly. "Sometimes I dream about it."
"Would you like to see the garden again? Then you would not have to dream?" asked the rusty red cat.
"Yes," said Brandon, "but I have to see Chloe first. She's going to Europe and if I don't ask her this evening--" but the cat had already turned around and disappeared into the night.
Suriak found work doing filing and other little jobs around an office. She made enough to live on, and she spent her breaks sketching in her books. Sometimes her co-workers would ask her to have lunch, but they soon gave up after always hearing the same reply: "No, thank you. I have an important drawing to work on." The last time anyone asked her out, she stayed by her desk to finish a picture of a toad she painted later that night.
Brandon was so engrossed in his work he didn't hear the toad hopping into his cubicle.
"Do you remember the garden?" asked the toad. "I can take you there."
Brandon looked up from his notes. "Of course I want to," he said rubbing his temples. "I have to defend my thesis in ten minutes. Please, just wait here, or come back tomorrow? Please, I've been working years for this, and Chloe is expecting so I can't risk this fellowship--" but the toad had already sprung away.
It went on like that. Suriak would wake from dreamless sleep, drawing and painting pictures, and strange animals would seek out Brandon and beckon him back to the garden.
Over the years, Brandon became an old, tired man, gradually more bitter with the world. He vowed he would take the next invitation to the garden. He waited, but no animals came for him.
One day, he took himself to the store and returned with a box of oil paints, brushes and a medium-sized canvas. Taking the brush in his hand he outlined the flowers, plants, and the giant banyan tree all surrounded by the sunlight. He peered behind the canvas.
"Nothing," he said, a little disappointed. He looked at the picture again and cracked a smile. It wasn't exactly how he remembered it, but he wasn't disappointed with his first effort at painting. He went to place his initials in the corner and wound up making a splotch of paint. Brandon sighed, then he grinned, biting his tongue as he worked the brush and turned the botched signature into a tiny mouse.
"There you go," he said. "Lovely garden for you."
Suriak was alone. She looked at the walls of the apartment with the drawings and paintings that had accumulated with the years. She looked at the empty canvas in front of her, and as she went to pick up her brush she saw the tiny brown mouse staring up at her with beady black eyes.
"Do you remember the garden?"
"Yes," Suriak paused. "I do."
"I can take you there, if you'd care to join me. Then you wouldn't have to remember."
"Why yes," she said as the brush slipped from her hand. "That sounds wonderful."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, August 30th, 2012
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