64. The Day I became a Marigold

The Marigolds had to be raised like any animal on the planet born without the ability to walk, build, and feed themselves.

We watched them in our dullness surmount the edges like wild moulds, fold over the rim, and crash the suburbs like geese.

They had us over for dinner once and the kids played Pretend to Drown in the pool. The salads were divine, purple, and crunchy, and the steaks carried an aftertaste of Greece. They never asked us back.

The Marigolds were always in the papers. Community builders, suspects in murders, deep in the webs of philanthropy. A daughter was heard to sup on a Chinese liner where she danced on a table and afterward married a prince.

How we envied the Marigolds and their freckles and their marriages and their uncanny longevity. It was said that when you drove by their house old man marigold could be seen raking leaves in the garden while the children dressed the arms of the oak leaves like decorative lanterns. Others said that they saw nothing, not a hair or a spore, and the house appeared to be sinking.

The Marigolds celebrated on their front lawn. We’d watch from our porches as they turned and turned in unison and then lit fires and roasted pigs and ate with paper plates. The Marigolds sat in the grass. One Marigold drifted out of the sky on a parachute, landed on the highest eave, and declared, “I’m mayor now.”

The Marigolds were many and elusive. I went to school with one of then. He’d tell me on our walks home about the Trips, the Uncles, and the Oddities in various rooms, and when I told him about mine he said, “I wish I were you.”

“Aunt Marigold was born with one hundred teeth,” he said. “She became a pilot. She disappeared in the Triangle.” He showed me her room in the big house that had been built to trick thieves, a small room with stacks of chests. “Don’t open that door,” he said. “We never open that door.”

Next year the teacher said no one had heard from the Marigolds. Tim the least of them. The Principle said, “Who, who’s that?”

But their evidence persisted in the form of footsteps. We would follow them at night. Into the woods, we followed them, to the river we did, which we crossed and picked up the trail again. But that’s all we had, these trails. these footsteps and rumors, and we grew tired and drifted off, some into the river, I home.

Gus said, “I once walked by the Marigolds’ and saw Esmarelda Marigold in the window with her long black hair and additional eye, which never blinked. I swear I saw her. I swear I read in her lips something of secrets and an alienness that could drive men mad.”

I met a Marigold on a trip home from college. She took me by the hand into their keep and we hid behind the curtains and kissed and overheard two others whisper how they’d poison their father and live on his blood.

“We have to tell someone,” I hissed.

She whispered, “Marry me.”

No one could say no to Marigolds, so I said yes, and we threw the curtains aside, and told the room, “We will marry.”

“Him? But the Marigolds only marry themselves.”

We celebrated on the lawn. The children climbed into the trees and became colorful lanterns. We tore the skins from pigs and roasted their meat over fires and danced and when I watched the ball-eyed invitees gather on the sidewalks with their gifts, I felt something new begin to grow.

My love said, “On that night something new in you will grow, something irresistible.”

“And when you feel that new something,” my father told me in secret as he tightened the knot of my tie, “you must either remain or run. I’ll be watching. We’ll all be watching. Will you or will you not become a Marigold?”

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