Daphne and Apollo

by Nancy Chenier

Vancouver has enough tree-hugging hippies and Gaia-happy pagans to allow the woman to blend in with her head a tangle of leaves. The back of her hands might just be danced over with henna to create such meticulous patterns. The restaurant on the Drive features locally-grown organics, so most diners figure her guise is part of the ambience.

October is the month of her mortification. Mid-autumn, the annual embarrassment arrives — with the attendant irritation — when the flora starts its cascade, leaving a ruddy and gold dappled trail behind her. Gustav, the busboy, grumbles and seizes up the plastic broom, striking ineffectually at the fall. Pat the manager tsk-tsks, his cat-eye peeled for one goof-up, one excuse to excuse her. Inevitably it happens, not even a hairnet can stop it. An aspen leaf flits its way into the spinach salad, undiscovered until a paying customer partakes of her bitterness.

This year, she makes it to late November before the event–and her unemployment. Pat can barely contain his glee behind the tone of polite termination. We need team players on staff. At last to be rid of the woman who not only shed a baffling amount of vegetation but who inexplicably rebuffed his advances.

The stories say laurel, and she wishes it were true: a nice dark-foliaged evergreen wouldn’t get her into such autumnal turmoil.

Released to the sidewalk, a dry pool of orange and rust spreads at her feet. She’s gotten used to snaking out the shower drain, de-barking the bedspread, discarding catkins before vacuuming. However, she is not — nor has she ever been — okay with it. She flexes her hands into fists, the knots and swirls crackling slightly.

A break in the rain clouds tosses her shadow into the leafy pile. Daphne turns her emerald glare at the sun.

This is all your fault.

Bio: A stint in an occult organization brought me from San Diego to Vancouver, and love made the move permanent. Having traded balmy climes for 300 days of rain, I (barely) endure the loss of sunlight by basking in the warm glow of my word processor.

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