Excerpt from Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Dog Flowers

by Danielle Geller

Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller X
Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller
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  • Published:
    Jan 2021, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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Print Excerpt

and boy it burns me up

My mother left the Navajo reservation almost as soon as she could. At nineteen, she moved to the city, as many do, to continue her education. In a brown and water-stained copy of an incomplete job application, I found evidence of these early years: From April 4, 1983, until July 1, 1984, she took classes on cultural awareness, health education, and leadership at the "Albuquerque Job Corps Center." ("It was the best," a woman who attended the school in the late eighties wrote in a recent Google review. "I will always remember the good times I had.") For work experience, my mother found part-time jobs in retail at Kirtland Air Force Base; as a file clerk at the "Albuquerque Rehab. Med. Center"; and as a typist at the "New Mexico State Labor Com.," a position she held for only a month.

In August, my mother moved to Prescott, Arizona, and began working as a waitress at the "Palace Hotel Restaurant," where my parents met. My father told me they met at the Hotel St. Michael, which was not true, but my father always loved the sound of his own name.

My father worked for his brother's computer company as a traveling technician. Those were his glittering days: He charged expensive rental cars to disposable credit cards and drove back and forth across the country. He gave the keys to his cars and hotel rooms to the homeless and traveling people he met. He dropped acid in the desert and once, he claimed, met a man entirely surrounded by a golden aura—Jesus Christ himself.

The way my father told their story, I always believed my parents fell in love quickly. That after those early smoke-filled nights, she left with him when he returned to Florida, where I was born in the summer of 1986. But the application I found was dated March 27, 1985, a few months after she quit her job in Prescott and moved back to New Mexico. The reason given: "Looking for Another type of job."

When I asked my father how my mother got to Florida, he said she called him months after they first met. "I could come see you," she said.

When I called Eileen to tell her our mother was dying, I wasn't sure what words to use. I repeated the doctor's words: Sick. Heart attack. Nonresponsive. Very, very sick.

She asked, from a distance, what I meant.

Eileen and I were not good sisters to each other. We never held each other, and we didn't end conversations with love. But in that moment, I would have given anything to take her in my arms, to give her some small comfort. "Her heart doesn't work anymore," I told her. "She's not going to get better."

"What?" My sister's voice edged on anger, an anger I had always feared.

"She's dying," I said, simply, and then listened as her anger dropped into heavy, wracking sobs. I couldn't take my words back, and I couldn't think of anything else to say. All I could do was listen to her cry until she finally decided to hang up.

She called me a few hours later. Her voice sounded like smoke rising, faint and curling. She was high. She asked if I planned to go down to Florida.

I had been sitting in front of my computer with flights mapped out, but I hadn't been able to convince myself to buy a ticket. I wasn't sure I wanted to go.

"Someone has to be with her," Eileen said. She was somewhere in Montana, and she said she would try to buy a bus ticket, but she worried she wouldn't make it to Florida in time.

The walls of my room were painted cornflower blue.

"I'll go," I promised.

"You can't go down there alone," she said, but we both knew I would. "I'm sorry, Danielle," she added, beginning to cry again. "I'm sorry."

A few months after my mother moved to South Florida, she was pregnant with me. My father claimed she could get pregnant off a toilet seat. My father's mother convinced her to keep the baby, and she offered them a two-bedroom apartment in a building she owned on Nokomis Avenue, a chalk-white dirt road.

Excerpted from Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller. Copyright © 2021 by Danielle Geller. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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