Author : Angela McQuay

It was a fern. Just a fern. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. Granted, it’s a big fucking fern, sitting over there in the corner of the living room on its sturdy steel legs, like a sentinel keeping watch.

My wife Joy rescued it from Ol’ Mrs. Nesbitt, our neighbor who pleaded with her to find it a new home, that she just couldn’t take care of it any longer. “Take care of it?” I’d asked. “It’s just a fucking fern.” But of course I’d agreed because I’d pretty much let Joy do whatever she wanted. I loved her. Love her.

So we watered it. Trimmed it. Joy even talked to it, something I found amusing until the day Smokey disappeared. I told myself she must have snuck out the door when we were bringing in groceries, as my wife suggested. “She’ll come back,” she insisted. “Cats always do.” But she didn’t. And the thought crept in that Ol’ Mrs. Nesbitt had once had a yappy little dog named Troy who’d regularly wake us up at 5 am with his insistent yipping. Until one day, he didn’t.

Just a fern, nothing sinister. How could a fucking fern be sinister for God’s sake? The fronds aren’t moving by themselves, that’s a breeze from the (closed) window. The grumbling noises coming from the corner of the room are from the apartment’s old radiator (which isn’t that old). A fern, certainly nothing to do with Joy not coming home one night, then the next. Just a fern, I keep telling myself. Smokey snuck out the back door, Troy found a new owner who could walk him every morning, Joy slipped on some ice, cracked her head, is in a hospital bed somewhere I haven’t found yet.

Just a fern.