When I was little, I never thought my life would be a series of unending and often somewhat ironic tragedies. I was naïve then—some would say that I am still naïve—and the world to me was as boundless as the big blue sky I often looked up to; full of infinite possibilities and endless paths. Little did I know, however, that the world was a big blue sky—of tragedy.
Chapter One: Susie
I was just a girl when I met Susie. It was a hot July day—the sorts of days that residents of Saddlegrind, Georgia, my hometown, are certainly accustomed to—and I was out innocently frolicking about the endless fields of pure snow-white daises that border Saddlegrind sixty miles in every cardinal direction. Things were different then. Or, I should say, things are different now. Today, there are no four hundred square mile fields of flowers that border Saddlegrind: they have given way to roads, and schools, and homes, and businesses, and other practical, evil things. But that is a story for another day.
I remember that day as vividly as I remember my wedding or my first kiss: it was after four hours of frolicking aimlessly through the angelically-colored flowers that I came upon the thing—and the person—that would change my life forever: The Yellow Daisy. My Susie.
I remember distinctly the sea of white being suddenly and abruptly interrupted by a foreign thing, a misplaced color—something that didn’t quite belong. I looked closer. Sure enough, it was a daisy, but it was not like the other ones: this was a yellow daisy. Intrigued, I looked closer.
“Ya’ll like the yellow daisy too?” said a voice from behind. Startled, I turned around. Behind me stood a girl in a yellow dress—a dress as yellow as the daisy we both admired.
“Who are you?” I inquired.
“I’m Susie,” she said, “but you can call me Susie.”
“Nice to meet you, Susie! But what are you doing here? I’ve never seen you before.”
“I don’t go out often,” she said, “my mother doesn’t like it when I go out because it could be dangerous and she fears for my life.”
“Oh!” I said.
From the distance came a voice.
“Susie! Susie! Now wha’di’ I tell ya’ ’bout runnin’ off in the daisy field?”
“I’ve got to go,” said Susie, “maybe I’ll see ya’ again sometime.”
Chapter Two: Subtle Lesbian Undertones
‘Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.’ How prophetic those words would prove to be: Susie and I met again, in the same spot, the very next day. Again, she was admiring the yellow daisy.
“Hello!” I said.
“Oh, hi there.”
“Oh, jus’ lookin’ a’ th’s yello’ flowe’ her’.”
“May I join you?”
Oh, how I joined here. Together we stood, for hours, admiring the yellow daisy. The sun rose and set in the sky, brilliant and yellow as the thinly veiled feminine/fertility symbol we both admired. Finally, I said:
“So, Susie, tell me about yourself.”
“Well, life ain’t too easy when you’re a Black Jewish girl livin’ in the heart of Georgia.”
I was shocked. Being an innocent Daughter of the South, I didn’t see people for the color of their skin, but, rather, the content of their heart. I looked at Susie like I was looking at her for the very first time, noticing her semitism and her black skin.
“Really!?” I implored.
“Mmm-hmm,” she replied. “That why my momma don’t like it when I go out to play, ’ account a’ the Klan, and ev’rythin’.”
“Don’t worry,” I said to her, “I’m sure things will be just fine.”
Every day from then on, without fail, Susie and I would meet in that same spot, and admire the singular yellow daisy in the field of homogenous white. And we did other things, too. We would dance, and frolic, and sing, and pick the petals off the multitude of nearby white daisies, and, later, paint each others’ fingernails and talk about boys we thought were cute. It was the best nine years of my life.
Then, one afternoon, it was shattered—shattered like a vase full of daisies tipped over by a clumsy housekeeper. And I was that housekeeper.
It started just like any other day, I recall: I woke up that morning, frolicked about my front yard in my perpetually-clean sundress until noon, and went to visit Susie and our yellow island in the midst of a sea of white. When I finally arrived, however, I found not the joyous Susie to which I was accustomed, but a saddened and distraught one. Also, she was covered in blood.
“Susie,” I asked, “what happened?”
“The Klan…the Klan…they….”
She couldn’t finish.
“May I…may I stay with you?” she asked, “I…I….”
I hushed her.
“Yes, Susie. By all means, yes.”
We embraced, the cherry-red blood on her sundress covering us both.
“Susie, you’re my yellow daisy!” I shouted.
“You’re my yellow daisy, too!” she retorted. “Jus’ one thing. Please, whatever you do, don’t ever, ever betray me.”
“Oh, Susie, I’ll never betray you….”
Chapter Three: Betrayal
And so it came to be that Susie moved in with my family. My parents didn't approve at first, but I begged and pleaded and begged and begged and eventually they relented. Things weren’t particularly different—we would still go every day and stare at the yellow daisy—only now, she and I could walk together from my house as well. It was just like old times.
One day, we were walking, and we saw something in the distance.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I answered, “they look to be like men wearing white robes. Oh, some of them are on horses! And they’ve got something behind them! It looks like…wait…oh, oh yes! One of the horses is dragging another man behind him. That’s silly!”
“Oh God! We’ve got to get out of here!”
Susie took off, as fast as she could, back in the direction of our house.
“Where are you going!? Wait for me!”
Susie ran all the way back to the house, with me close behind. At some point, the funny men on white horses joined us as well, and galloped behind us, gaining ground all the while.
Susie ran inside and shut the door. I followed her.
“Susie, what’s gotten into you?”
Just then there was a knock at the door.
“Just a second—”I said—“be right back.”
I opened the door.
“Hello th’re, li’l girl,” said the man. “ ‘ Seen anya’ them Jew-Niggers ’round these parts?”
“Ummm…” I looked back at Susie. She shook her head back and forth frantically. Ix-nay on the… she began to mouth. “…No?”
“Hmmm,” said the man. He pulled a big, red lollipop out from under his robe. A cherry lollipop: I loved cherry.
“Now, see anya’ them Jew-Niggers ’round these parts?” he asked softly.
“No,” I said, “but my friend Susie is right there!” I pointed.
“Hagh! I knew we’d find ‘er!”
The man entered the room and grabbed Susie.
“No! NO! Why did you betray me!? Why!?”
Mmmm, cherry! I thought as they dragged her outside. It would be years until I saw her again.
Chapter Four: Years Afterward, When I Am a Grown Woman and Have a Life Wholly Separate But Not Uninfluenced by the Events Earlier in the Novel
I eventually moved away from Saddlegrind. I remember vividly how the day I left, developers came into the town and started leveling the flower field to make room for modern housing. Or maybe that was when I came back one year for Thanksgiving, I forget.
I was the first of my family to go to college. While there studying Feminine Literary Theory I met Jake. Jake was one of those guys that everyone thinks is gay, but really isn’t. In short, he was the ideal man. We married shortly after we both graduated.
After a year or so of marriage, we decided to start a family. Try though we might—and God knows we tried—nothing came. We were concerned. I decided to see a doctor. I’ll never forget the day. Your test results are back, he had said. Then he sighed. This is never easy to do. You…you’re barren. You won’t be able to have children. Also, you have breast cancer. And tuberculosis. And cholera. It’s as if you’ve been hit with several severe cases of literary cliché all at once. Needless to say, this is totally unprecedented in medical history, as far as I can tell. Also, you’re probably going to die. I remember myself thinking: Oh, dear.
Chapter Five: A Glimmer of Hope
I gave Jake the news when I returned from the doctor’s. We sat and cried a while. I explained to him that my only hope was to find someone with the exact same blood type, estrogen level, and favorite color. The odds were slim. Then I got a call from the hospital.
“We’ve got some exciting news,” the woman said over the receiver, “we may have found you a match: Susan Johnson. We’ve scheduled an appointment with your—” I couldn’t believe it. I hung up the phone and called Jake in excitement. After I called the hospital back and asked the woman to finish what she had been saying before, I sat down and starting thinking about my life.
What a life it had been. There was one thing, though, that kept coming to the forefront of my memory—Susie. What became of her? I wondered. What was she like now? Was she even alive? What would she think of me? I couldn’t help but wonder….
I had an odd pain in my stomach the morning of my scheduled hospital visit—a result of the tuberculosis and cholera, no doubt. Undeterred, I drove to the hospital regardless.
When I arrived, I could hardly believe my eyes.
The woman before me looked exactly like the Susie of my childhood. Could it be? Had we been reunited again, after all these years? And—of all the people on the planet—was she going to be the one to save my life? God works in mysterious ways, indeed. Here we were, together again, after years of separation, after years of not knowing. I now knew. Oh, did I know. There she was—my yellow daisy.
I saw the look of recognition in her eyes.
“Susie!” I ran up and embraced her. “Susie! We’re together again. And you, of all people, is fated to be my ovarian bone marrow donor! So will you do it, Susie? Will you give me a part of your body—give me a part of your soul—and preserve my life?”
“No!” she said. “You left me to the motherfuckin’ KU KLUX KLAN, bitch! You fuckin’ crazy' o’ somethin’!?”
She grabbed a lollipop from the receptionist's desk—a cherry lollipop. Now I understood…I think…
“Don’t you give me none’a that honky shit! Fuck. You.”
She walked away out the door.