Kim Magowan_Three Sprigs

Three Sprigs

1.

When planning your garden, be aware that certain herbs are highly invasive, and may overwhelm a garden, choking other plants. Properly managed and carefully monitored, however, these herbs are both decorative and useful. In order to keep them from dominating more docile plants growing beside them, be sure to place these aggressive herbs in separate containers.

Highly Invasive Herbs:

Comfrey Bee Balm

Lemon Balm

All Mints, including Peppermint and Spearmint

Pennyroyal, of the mint family

2.

I don’t remember Margaret Stohlmayer making an impression because of her looks, but there was a polish about her, a shimmer. Even at age thirteen, I was puzzled why my mother did not perceive Margaret as a threat. Perhaps it was because my mother was herself beautiful, and consequently overestimated beauty as an adhesive that would always hold my father close. That summer, 2006, I didn’t get along with my mother, who was trying to transform me into a daughter who would reflect well upon her. She was particularly unhappy with my skin. Her feelings about it would tango from sympathy to castigation about the greasy foods I ate and the inept way I washed my face.

I remember lying on a lawn chair, reading a book about Attila the Hun— that summer, I was obsessed with hostile invasions. Or rather, I was pretending to read my book, while watching the adults. They seemed to me like actors in a play. My clueless mother had her back to us. Shears in hand, she was busily pruning the mint that always threatened to overtake her herb garden. I watched Margaret Stohlmayer smooth her pleated turquoise shorts while my father mixed her a Kir Royale. Margaret’s eyes flashed at him when she leaned forward to take the glass. She accepted it in such a deliberate way—her hand receptively cupped, her fingers forked into a V, smiling at my father, staring directly into his eyes.

In that moment, I recognized without knowing it the future, both immediate and distant: the storms between my parents, my mother’s shock (“But she isn’t even pretty”); the divorce; the withdrawal from me, too, of my father’s attention and affection; the puckered, creamy purse embossed with sprigs of mint that Margaret would give me years later for a Christmas present; the honeyed way she said, “This made me think of you.”

3.

If your garden, like so many, is overrun with mint, here are some can’t-miss mint cocktails to include in your repertoire:

The Mojito: the classic, perfect for hot weather. Chop the mint very finely, with a sharp knife. Make sure to coddle the leaves in sugar.

The Homewrecker: this cocktail is lesser known, partly because the color is peculiar— a shade of light green we associate with sickness— but do not be deceived by its appearance. Those who have tried it pronounce it “addictive.”

Bitter Tears: Bitters gives this cocktail its distinctive burnt-sugar color. What makes this one pop is the addition of cider vinegar. The Bitter Tears has a sharp aftertaste that burns the back of your throat.

The Stepmother: this unusual cocktail blends course-chopped mint with aromatic nutmeg. To complete the effect, the nutmeg should be grated by hand, not lazily shaken from a spice jar.

The Julep: every belle needs this crowd-pleaser in her repertoire! Key to the success of this classic is to serve it on crushed ice, not cubed. If you don’t have an ice-maker, place ice between two cloths and smash it to crystals with your most brutal hammer.

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing (2018) won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her novel The Light Source (2019) was published by 7.13 Books. Her fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many other journals. Her stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50. She is the Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. www.kimmagowan.com

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