Stealing Posies by KJ Hannah Greenberg

The media learned little about the Czech who had labored alongside of me, riveting fins and hammering launch lugs. The youngest of her siblings lived too many terrible suns and cruel moons away to broadcast her death. The rest of her beloveds, likewise, seemed entirely disinterested in her: having fallen from the scaffolding surrounding a rocket’s nose, uninterred body, or subsequently doubled share in the proceeds from that space-going vessel’s future payload.

What’s more, the people in charge did not halt construction when that young miss died, having deemed it problematic for the mission’s venture capitalists to catch word of her accident. So, the rest of us shipwrights kept on fastening bits together during the days leading up to her funeral.

Even though she never became a ghost (dead is dead), thoughts of her haunted me. When she had soldered next to me, I had quietly listened to her articulate the peculiarities of her life. That is, I had been a captive audience for her rants about her culpability for her mother’s death and for her “boyfriend’s” departure. She had again and again confessed, while we welded from platforms strung higher than perching birds, but lower than clouds, that she filched flowers.

Intuitive persons, such as that deceased metalsmith, might or might not be concurrently depraved. Their value is their intimacy with truthspeak, with a kind of detachment that is at odds with kingdom building, but aligned with divination. It followed that in her family life, in her “love life,” and in the portions of her life that took her to the floral boarders of many local parks, the departed challenged norms.

As per her kin, she had said little except that she intentionally limited her communications with them to acknowledging their birthdays. Although she valued giving thanks over complaining, that shipbuilder maintained that it was unwise for her to either cackle about or to cover up their misdeeds. In balance, she believed that she ought to honor them by celebrating the anniversaries of their existence.

She alleged that it was immaterial that one of her brothers was an arrogator of dark thoughts and darker actions, which included his rationalizing his physical burglaries and his justifying his Internet thefts, that one of her sisters was given over to sniffing various illicit powders, and that her father was reputed to be a man of obvious eccrine and apocrine glands.

That woman no more held herself accountable for their crimes than she credited them for her accomplishments. She did, however, actualize firewalls and related sensibilities to keep their reach far from her.

Regarding her “erstwhile heart squeeze,” that contractor had claimed that they had met when she had attempted to get reassigned to the graveyard shift. Our supervisor had refused to change her schedule, but had, theoretically, initiated a series of meetings.

During those “get-togethers,” when she had nothing substantive to say, our former cohort talked with our boss about inanities. She spoke of her bucket lists for types of colognes and for types of fried rice and of wild flowers, such as snowbells and miniature roses. She made mention of endemic Czech critters such as air-breathing land snails and parasitic ants and referred many times to the human wonders of Central Europe. Those nations that were late to embrace convergent media were contrariwise progressive in their acceptance of questionable substances and of questionable pairings.

She told me that sometimes she risked raising important topics, such as her earlier, inappropriate efforts to wretch her dear ones from vice. Her talks with our superior, while lacking extreme sentimentality, constituted the sort of stuff most of us would classify as ordinarily the province of institutionalized old ladies, irritating daycare providers, and children too small to be abandoned on tropical islands. Her “amour,” thus, chose to ignore her.

So, she took to supplying herself with chocolates and flowers. The former she sourced from a dollar store’s bargain bin and the latter she obtained, usually in route to our site, from public places. I think she made enemies when she reacted to our overseer’s open flirtation with another member of staff. That other lady, not our gal, received his bottles of chilled water and his gifts of tiny stuffed animals.

Our soon-to-be-dead girl, who had been raised in the relatively pastoral clime of a suburb of Brno, among weed smoking, free-loving people, saw affection and ambition, equally, as paths that should cull exorbitant amounts of perspiration from her work shirts. Yet, dissimilar to the university lady who had hired all of us, our former associate distrusted authorities, viewing all of them as “the Man,” despite the fact that she accepted her pay and used it for groceries and rent.

By the same token, she had anticipated her heart-break. She had confided to me that because of her unrequited love, her soul would stay forever locked, in a realm where the cosmos was unresponsive. She also accused us locals of not being able to appreciate her most personal suffering. Often, she’d add that we individuals, who had never transversed Bohemia, were incapable of understanding a lifestyle that demanded that its followers become adventurers. We simpletons were doomed, in her esteem, to miss out on post-beat veracities.

Meanwhile, as that lady burnished steel and took orders on the shaping of wings, she’d wonder, aloud, whether or not our ship’s captain was smart enough to have correctly engineered our craft and brave enough to actually fly it to gaseous Jupiter. Like the rest of us, that builder doubted that our director was truly going to interact with and take home a sample of alien life. She, singularly, though, voiced those uncertainties.

It was during one such rant in opposition to the establishment that the young woman died. She was gesturing with one hand and pressing iron with another. As was her norm, she was wearing no safety harness. On that occasion, she was blustering over whether or not Dr. W’s status as a science rock star insured that our rocket’s design could withstand the tribulations of space travel and over whether or not, should Dr. W. fail to complete her expedition, we’d receive our agreed upon bonuses.

In the days leading up to that incident, no one save for our would-be gypsy acquaintance had expected Doc’s investors to ask for their money back prior to Doc shipping out or for Doc to have to resort to crowdfunding to pay us. We answered our unorthodox partner’s remonstrations that at least the professor was possessed of adequate decency to realize that her promissory notes would be meaningless to us folks who would be aged or dead before she returned and that, for that reason, the professor had nobly sought and found, for us, other revenues.

Unlike the ne’er-do-wells, with whom some of us had had dealings, who hired teams of servicers and then absconded, before fulfilling salaries, with all of the profits, Dr. W., who anyway connected with us by means of her magniloquence-high-flown language, not only made sure we were correctly compensated, but furthermore, on a pretty reliable basis, brought us cheer. In between pay days, she gave us free pizza and soda and bestowed upon us coupons for legit massage. Our chief had gotten the gist of what made shipyard employees happy.

Nevertheless, up to the time of her demise, the anti-establishment chick, rather than allowing herself to be sated by Doc’s generosity with complimentary hot meals and free treatments, continued to rankle about collective decision-making and about the relative absence of good that participating in Doc’s project begot us. She insisted that Doc was feeding us candy-coated allegories instead of real, albeit painful, insights and that we ought to heed the signs streaming from the situation and to respond to them by mimicking Doc’s thickly nuanced language. Interestingly, that wage earner said nothing of how such words had failed her in familial and in romantic matters.

Additionally, that craftswoman specifically denounced Doc’s foreman, the one whom she had earlier adored, as having served up marketing hocus pocus in order to protect Doc’s launch date, court papers filed against Doc notwithstanding. By the time we were bonding the last of the heat deflecting shingles, that woman was still decrying Dr. W’s lost social consciousness and our team leader’s attempts to make us personnel hostile to each other.

The rest of us struggled to jettison our colleague’s claims. We needed to trust that our imminently-space faring lady was a savior, not a scoundrel and that the person immediately in charge of us was, in the least, benign. Unlike our comrade, we were short of perspective.

Accordingly, we marginalized her appeals. When she tried to link with us, we tried to mentally shut her down. In that process, so evocative had her speeches become that some of us lost pieces of ourselves. Regardless, I can’t imagine that anyone among us had a motive to kill her. Her words were not threatening, but annoying.

Indeed, it’s possible that one of my mates greased the otherwise slip free epoxy ring to which that young woman had clung. All of the people in my gang knew that she was so troubled by her perceived inability to move her life forward that she had gotten careless. Perhaps my peers’ relative developmental age had somehow caused her to die. I’m simply not convinced.

Misconduct experts, led by Doc’s sister, questioned us about the non-nationals among us. They especially wanted to know about the foreign investors, who had donated monies to Doc’s dream, and about the odd Boehme who had perished.

All we offered was that a group of swarthy, last minute “heroes” had pumped up our scientist’s ability to seek Jupiter’s lobsters. It was their coffers that had enabled Doc to keep her original launch date.

We spilled nothing of our other insights, making sure to be silent about the fact that Dr. W. had been forced to sell her antique, nautical telescope, that the antique dealer who had bought it had thereafter sent thugs to our center to seek out more of Doc’s old-fashioned apparatuses, and that our dead Czech, alone, had driven those ruffians away. We supposed that sharing those data would complicate matters.

Similarly, we gave over no data concerning the woman who patronized neither florists nor greenhouses, but elected, instead, to relieve the commonwealth of buds. We suspected that the company’s enforcers would be disinterested in palpable facts about a person whose consciousness has grown strong enough to stand down unaided greed, specifically, and human depravities, in general.

Meanwhile, the length of the period between the death of that gal and her burial ought to have erased some of the sting of losing her. It did not. I remain burdened with trying to honor the essential nature of moral appropriateness, which was preached by that woman who was unbounded by convention, concurrent with trying not to attribute too much meaning to any of my deeds. As a result, I have as much inner peace as a Jupiter lobster has the ability to breathe in Earth’s atmosphere.

These days, I don’t feel beholden to trumpet the dead’s convictions to the police, to her family, to her intended beau, or to our state parks’ rangers as much as I feel an urgency to watch my back. Speaking truth can prove fatal. Just yesterday, our steward was electrocuted while observing engineering changes in our propulsion system. Granting that the goings on in our lives come largely from external determinations, it continues to be that case that no amount of philosophizing can make a workplace safer.

My fellows can’t be blamed for failing to recognize that the lady in question was trying to help us. I blame myself; she was no idiot. Her crazy verbal driftings were more of her warning to us that societal monsters are more dangerous than are alien hatchlings than those words were a private party in opposition to collectively held principles. In hindsight, that young builder never spoke to self-aggrandize but to inspire.


KJ Hannah Greenberg plays in the street with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Hannah’s newest books are: Cryptids (Bards & Sages Publishing, 2015) and Jerusalem Sunrise (Imago Press, 2015).


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