Coming of Age Fantasy Horror

Maureen Patrick                                                                                                           3000 words

3411 W. Bay Ave.

Tampa, FL 33611





Maureen Patrick

I suppose the ad was in every issue of Good Housekeeping but I didn’t notice it until Moo died. I don’t spread it around, but I actually like Good Housekeeping. My Mom’s had a subscription for years so it’s always somewhere in the house, the coffee table, the sofa, the magazine rack in the bathroom. I’m careful to put it back where I find it but I think Mom knows I read it anyway. Just one of the numerous things she thinks are weird about her twelve-year-old son.   

It’s not that I don’t read the typical magazines – Popular Mechanic, Boys Life, National Geographic – but you can’t find a recipe for Tunnel of Fudge Cake in those. What can I say? I like to cook.    

I certainly wasn’t looking for gardening stuff when I spotted the seed ad. It was serendipity, a word I just learned from Reader’s Digest. My best friend Lena’s best friend Moo died the night before and Lena was so depressed she didn’t even want to make the cake with me. I thought about suggesting we serve it as a memorial to the big black and white cat, but that seemed, I don’t know, cannibalistic. So I shuffled around on Lena’s porch for a while, trying not to look at her red, puffy eyes, and then went home. I’d make the cake myself and take it to her later.

But while I was thumbing through the magazine to find the recipe again, I saw the ad.   

“Forget-Me-Not Seeds”

Plant a living memorial to your loved one

Blooms year-round, self-propagates

12 seeds in a packet

49 cents plus SASE

A memorial plant. That was lots better than a cake. Something Lena could look at every day, blooming away and reminding her of Moo. I taped a fifty-cent piece to a piece of paper and put it inside an envelope I addressed to myself. Stuck a stamp on it, and then folded it into another envelope addressed to Eternity Seed Co., Rural Rte. 2, Abeline, Kansas. I clipped it to the mailbox next to our front door.

I made the cake, anyway.


           As my Dad would say, Eternity Seed was on the ball. I got the seeds in a week. White paper packet inside the envelope, stamped Forget-Me-Nots. No instructions inside or outside the packet. How hard could it be? Dig a hole, put the seeds in, give them water.

           I hadn’t seen Lena in a few days. But when the seeds arrived I took them right over to her house. She looked better than the last time. Still a little sad around the eyes.

           I didn’t even say hello. Just held out the seed packet and said, “I got some memorial seeds for Moo.” Stupid, of course, Moo didn’t need seeds or anything else where he was. “I thought we could maybe plant them on his – his – ” I didn’t need to say it. Lena nodded and gave me a little smile. I like her smile, always have.

           She took me to the backyard and I saw a raw mound of dirt between the rows of Lena’s mother’s hydrangea plants. Still without talking, Lena found a garden trowel and we did the digging, the covering up, the watering. Just like a burial except for the water. I let Lena put the seeds in the hole. She looked at the packet for a long time, then tore it open and shook six of the seeds into the hole. That left six in the packet. It would have been okay with me if she had planted them all. I wasn’t planning on anybody else dying anytime soon, which just goes to show you how stupid I am.

           After the planting and watering, Lena got her swimsuit and her bike, and we went to the Lake. For three hours we swam and horsed around and lay on the dirty sand beach. We had almost a month of summer vacation left and were determined to use every bit. We looked at clouds and talked about stuff we liked and stuff we didn’t. When we finally biked home, Lena was a little browner and a lot happier. I felt good about that.


           Nothing much happened for a week. Then Lena phoned. She squealed so loud I had to hold the receiver away from my ear.

“Come over! I’ve got a new cat!” She made it sound like her family got tickets to Hawaii, so of course I went right over. Lena opened the door with one hand since she was using the other to hold a fluffy white kitten against her shoulder. I said the usual things. Oh it’s really cute where did you get it is it a he or a she what did you name it?

           “He just turned up on the front porch! Dad asked around but nobody in the neighborhood claimed him. It’s a boy, like Moo. I haven’t decided on a name yet. Want to help me?”

           I said sure, so we played with the kitten for a while, tossing names back and forth. With a straight face Lena insisted she was calling it Steve, after me, but as soon as she got the stricken look she wanted from me she fell over on the living room rug, laughing. We finally agreed on Snowman, not that the kitten cared. After a while it fell asleep on the sofa, where there were already patches of white hair.

           Lena went to her room to put on her swim suit under her shorts and top. I got a cold Grapette  from the refrigerator to drink while I was waiting. Standing in the kitchen by the sink, drinking from the bottle, I looked out the window into the backyard. I could see Lena’s mom’s hydrangeas and, in the middle, some tall leafy plants. They looked like they were right on top of Moo’s grave, right where we planted the Forget-Me-Nots from Eternity Seed Co.

The only gardening I do is raking leaves in autumn and mowing grass in summer, so I couldn’t say if those tall green things were Forget-Me-Nots. If the plants in Lena’s backyard were from the mail order seeds, they were sure-fire fast growers, whatever they were. 

“Let’s take the radio.” Lena was back, the straps of her yellow bathing suit top showing in the neck of her shirt. She was dangling her pink transistor radio from its handle.

“Sure. But keep it on your side of the blanket. If one of those dopes from school sees me with a pink radio, I’m a dead man.”

We got on our bikes, went to the Lake, and forgot about tall green leafy things in Lena’s backyard.


Three days later and Lena was on the phone again. This time she wasn’t squealing. She sounded worried. Puzzled. Weird.

           “Steve, can you come over? Like, now?”

           I dropped what I was doing, which was checking the pantry for ingredients for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. When I got to Lena’s house she opened the door before I even rang the bell. Right away I saw the problem. Three days ago there had been one white kitten sharpening its claws on the sofa legs. Now there were four more cats, ranging in age from a calico kitten about Snowman’s age to a chunky orange tomcat with stripes.

           “Wh-Where did all these cats come from? Ow!” I carefully unhooked the calico’s claws from my jeans leg and put her down.

           Lena picked up a black-as-night skinny cat with gold eyes. “This one was the first,” she said. “I call her Halloween. Then him – ” she pointed at the orange tomcat, “ – and the next morning, those two.” She chucked her chin at the calico kitten and a gray number who was blending in with the tweed upholstery on Lena’s Dad’s favorite armchair. “What’s going on, Steve?”

           My parents think I talk too much and it’s true I’m never at a total loss for words, but at the moment I couldn’t even begin to answer Lena. I dodged the meowing, hissing bundles in the living room and went to the kitchen. I needed to look out the kitchen window at Lena’s Mom’s hydrangea patch.

           You could hardly see them, the hydrangeas. The green leafy plants of three days before were now at least six feet tall. They had full canopies of spade-shaped leaves and nodded gently in the breeze. After I saw them the first time, I looked up Forget-Me-Nots in the World Book Encyclopedia at home. The plants that came from the seeds that came from Eternity Seed Co. were definitely not “a small plant with tiny blue flowers.” The plants I was looking at weren’t small and didn’t have flowers. They did have buds, or seed pods, or something. Dangly green bulbs about two inches across.

           “Steve?” Lena had followed me into the kitchen. The cats followed, too, and now they were doing cat things around our feet.

           “I think these cats have to go to the shelter, Lena. Your parents are already saying that, aren’t they?”

           Lena nodded. Her face looked almost as sad as it looked when Moo died.

           “Just pick one to keep, Lena. Maybe Snowman? I mean, your parents – ”

           “Daddy is really mad. Even Mom is starting to sneeze, and she likes cats.”

           I took Halloween out of her arms. “They’re really nice cats. They’ll get adopted right away, I’m sure.” Halloween turned adoring gold eyes up at me and even though I’m kind of a dog person I wanted to buckle. When I tore my eyes away and looked at Lena, she wasn’t looking back. Instead, she was looking out the kitchen window. My eyes followed hers, and for a minute we stood there, watching the seed pods on the tall leafy plants bobble in the wind.


The four-cats-plus-Snowman day was Tuesday. By Wednesday evening, Lena’s Dad had packed up all the cats but Snowman and taken them to the ASPCA shelter. Lena insisted on going but she cried all the way there and back, and her father, who wasn’t happy about surrendering animals either, got irritated and said if he had to take any more Lena was not going to be there when he did.

           I didn’t hear from Lena for a few days, so on Saturday morning I went to her house. I brought the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, which had turned out great. My hand froze as I reached for the doorbell at Lena’s house. I could hear the meowing from the porch. Lena must have heard me groaning because she peeped around the edge of the picture window drapes. She made a circling motion with her hand and mouthed backyard so the cake and I went around the house. Lena opened the screened patio door and met me.

           She looked as scared as I’ve ever seen her look and I’ve known Lena since second grade. Without talking, we set off across the yard to Moo’s grave.

           We stopped about eight feet from the tall leafy plants. A safe distance in case the plants turned Day of the Triffids and reached out and grabbed us. They were like young trees, now, maybe ten feet from ground to tops, and their leaf canopies were dense and green as chameleons. The bobbly pods from early in the week had become flowers, creamy lilies with golden centers. Nice, but too big to go on the dining room table. I mean, who puts a bouquet of ten-inch-wide flowers between the meat loaf and the peas?

           I looked around, spotted some steel garden furniture – a table and four chairs – and put the cake on the table. “Shovel,” I said to Lena. “And an axe, if you’ve got one.”

           Lena found two shovels and a hatchet, weaponry enough. We went to work with energy I never showed when I mowed my parents’ lawn, and twenty minutes later the tall leafy plants were a pile of shattered vegetable matter. I sorted through the pile with my shovel, making sure that the bobbly pods and the flowers were all pulverized. Then I dug around where the plants had been rooted to make sure there was nothing left. I didn’t want to dig too deep. Moo was down there, after all. I had an unpleasant memory of the printing on the seed packet – self-propagates – but I was pretty sure I got it all.

           Lena put the shovels and hatchet back in the garage and came back with a rake. I raked up all the debris and put it into the fifty-gallon oil drum her Dad burned garden waste in. We fired the whole mess. It burned for a while. We both watched it.

           I remembered the cake. I retrieved it from the outdoor table and held it out to Lena with green-stained hands. “I’m sorry about Moo’s grave,” I said. “And about the seeds and the – the – ” Now I was the scared one, scared that the moisture welling in my eyes would escape as real, actual, unmanly tears.

           Lena shifted the cake into the crook of her elbow and put her green-stained hand on mine. “It’s okay. I know you meant well.”

           I nodded glumly. “How many?” I asked, chucking my chin toward the house.

           “Eleven, by this morning. Daddy said when he gets home from work he’ll take them – away.”

           “Except Snowman?”

           “Except Snowman.”


After the funeral pyre in the backyard, neither of us felt like going to the Lake or anywhere else. Lena went inside to spend a little time with the cats before her Dad got rid of them, and I went home to clean up. It was while I was toweling off after a shower that I remembered the seed packet from Eternity. The packet with six seeds still in it. I needed to remember where I put the packet and remember pronto.

An hour later my faint concern turned into panic. I had looked in all the places where I usually put things. No seed packet. How could I have forgotten where I put it? I sat on the edge of my bed and mentally retraced my steps. I had gone to Lena’s and showed her the seeds. She took six of them and we planted them together. She handed me back the packet.

I must have put it in my jeans pocket. Then we went to the Lake and forgot about everything except having fun. I biked home, pulled off my dirty clothes . . .

And put them in the clothes hamper in the bathroom. If the packet was in the pocket of my jeans, it might have gone through the wash. That almost never happened, though. Mom went through my pockets because I had apparently inherited Dad’s habit of leaving things in them. He left cash, I left pencil stubs or gum wrappers.

Mom!” She was in the kitchen just up the hall from my bedroom so I really didn’t need to yell.

“Inside voice, mister,” she said from the stove. She was making spaghetti sauce.

“I think I left a packet of seeds in my jeans, Mom. The pair with the knee patch.”

“Clean and folded in your chest of drawers, Stevie. Minus the seed packet which, yes, you did leave in your pocket. Honestly, between you and your father . . .”

“The packet, Mom. Where is it?”

“I threw it away.” I was so relieved I sighed out loud. But Mom kept talking.

“Except for the seeds. I hope you don’t mind. We lost Mrs. Holcomb last week. She was one of the dearest old ladies at the Home.”

Golden Woods Home. The retirement place where Mom volunteered two days a week. “City Cemetery lets you put in memorial plants, you know. They’re so much nicer than cut arrangements. And I don’t care what people say about how plastic flowers last forever, they’re ugly. So I took your little Forget-Me-Not seeds and planted them on Mrs. Holcomb’s grave. She’d be so pleased. Is that okay, sweetie? Stevie?”

It’s fine, Mom. Super-duper. “When did you plant the seeds, Mom?”

“When? Oh, let me think. Not Saturday before last, I had a beauty salon appointment then. Sunday afternoon? Yes, that’s it. Week and a half.”

           Ten days. Lena had five cats a week after Eternity Seed Co. got its hooks into Moo’s grave.

           Don’t wig out, Steve-o. City Cemetery is clear across town. There’s only Mom to connect Mrs. H. with this house and . . .

           “What on earth is that noise?” Mom left the range and wiped her hands on her apron. We both stood for a few seconds, listening to some rumbling, pneumatic hiss from the street in front of the house. We went to the living room. Like Lena’s house, ours had a picture window. The drapes were open and we got a great view of the lawn sloping down to the street.

           There was a big silver bus at the curb. I looked at the bus windows and a long row of faces looked back. Very wrinkled, very old faces. As I stared, the bus door snapped open and a blue-uniformed driver went down the steps and stood at the bottom, hand outstretched.  

           I didn’t recognize my voice when I finally found it. It was twelve when I sent fifty cents to the Eternity Seed Co., but it was a lot older now.

           “Mom, turn off the range.” I threw the deadbolt on the front door. “I need you to start the car and drive it out of the garage and down to the corner. I’ll meet you there with a shovel and an axe. We’re going to visit Mrs. Holcomb’s grave.”      


March 29, 2022 09:08

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L.M. Lydon
19:49 Apr 07, 2022

I love the macabre twist to this! The narrator’s sweet impulse to comfort a friend goes so terribly wrong. And from the perceived safety of Good Housekeeping, no less! Your vivid descriptions truly bring those ominous plants to life.


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16:48 Apr 02, 2022

I loved this (and not just because I accidentally wound up with four cats)! This was such a fun read. Thank you for sharing!


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Ryan Au
14:13 Apr 02, 2022

absolutely brilliantly written, very epic


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11:27 Apr 02, 2022

Wowww!!! So well written! Awesome story!


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