Authors Note: this is a short piece of fiction written as an exercise in narrative distance.
Tom and Susan stood silently on the well-manicured lawn, looking at a bed of white lilies.
Beams of light from the patio lamps stretched across the lawn and made the flowers look like little stars. A small trowel stood upright in the loose soil, its red handle peeking up, and next to the flower bed, five small, empty flower pots were stacked. A portable sprinkler clicked in tight arcs over the lilies, spitting threads of water that sparkled in the faint light.
Tom held a glass of white wine is his right hand and the glass sweated in the warm summer night. He lifted his left hand and cupped it around his ear. “Can you hear that?”
Susan didn’t reply. She was looking at the mounds of soil and the lilies. “I hope they’ll grow quickly.”
Tom let his hand drop back to his side and took a sip of his wine. “Me too.”
Susan cocked an ear to the night sky. “I can’t hear anything. I can only hear the sprinkler.”
“Exactly,” Tom said, “Not a single bark. And that’s why you’re a star.” He leaned over and put his left arm around her shoulder, kissed her on the forehead and turned back to face the lilies.
“They’re so white. Innocent little ghosts.” Tom said. He raised his glass to his lips and tilted it and began drinking, his adam’s apple rising and falling until he emptied the glass.
He held the glass upside down over the lawn. “Let’s celebrate, baby. Let’s get fucking drunk.”
They stood listening to the tick-tick-tick of the sprinkler.
A face popped over the fence to their left and spoke. “Hey Tom. Hey Susan.”
“Hello Phil,” Susan said.
“Phil! Lovely night out, neighbour!” Tom said, “It’s so warm! And so quiet!”
“Yeah, about that,” Phil said, “have you seen Ruby? We haven’t seen her for about a day now. Not since a little after she, uh, ate your last Lily patch.”
Susan leaned closer into Tom’s arms. She lifted her glass and held it to her lips, but didn’t drink.
Tom turned toward Phil and pulled Susan in closer. “Haven’t heard a peep, Phil, but I’m sure she’ll show up somewhere.”
Phil shook his head. “Alright then, you two. Enjoy the evening. If you see her, can you let me know?” Phil looked down at their flowers. “I see you guys didn’t waste time planting a new one already! Nice. And hey, I promise I’ll pay you back for the last two patches she ate. You just let me know how much it is.”
Tom lifted his empty glass toward Phil. “No problem Phil! These things happen. We’ll let you know. Take care.”
Phil nodded and disappeared behind his fence.
Tom leaned in close, speaking quietly into Susan’s ear. “You’re such a star. I love you. We’ll be able to sleep at night! The lilies will grow!”
“I hope so.”
They both looked at the loose piles of soil around the lilies. The sprinkler clicked its way back and forth, spitting its silver threads on the flowers.
“Alrighty,” Tom said. “I’ll go get some more wine.”