by Kim Hutchinson

Once upon a time, a traveler came upon a quiet cul-de-sac. His name was Joe, and he was an average working man. He had a pronounced scar on his cheek, a mark of experience. Joe liked this pretty place, and decided to stay.

At first, no one spoke to him. When he began to garden, the neighbors started to take interest. He admired their begonias and petunias, they admired his. Everyone was happy and at peace.

Slowly, the wind began to shift. He heard whispers on it: Improper. Wildflowers. Weeds. Joe knew this was what people often do, but it made him sad. He loved his neighbors' gardens. One neighbor planted crystals between flowers to better reflect his mind as he viewed them. Another planted flowers of different shapes, but the same color and scent. Others wove in statues and animals and whimsy.

He knew they all planted the same way, from seeds and cuttings lovingly tended with bare hands, and that Nature loved wild things--diversity--most of all. She abhorred refinement. Sometimes, she punished purity with weakened genes.  He didn't care where flowers came from or what they were called, only that they were beautiful, only that each was true to itself.

The wind grew hot. The whispers grew louder. One day, he woke to blackened stalks and the scent of fuel oil.

"Must've been spontaneous combustion," laughed a neighbor.  The others turned their faces away.

Joe picked up his spade and turned the scorched earth, replanting.

BIO: Kim Hutchinson is a writer and filmmaker, a former Detroiter, and an AmeriCanadian living on the border. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in journals, most recently Wufniks, redlionsquare, A-Minor, Divine Dirt Quarterly and the 52/250 Challenge quarterlies, thirteen and twentysix. Her non-fiction has played on television and radio and has been featured in print. Kim's short films have been in international distribution and played at film festivals in the US and Canada.