by Margaret Bail
I planted something I thought was a strawberry in a neat row with my other strawberries, but it turns out that this plant was not a strawberry at all but rather some odd mystery plant masquerading as a strawberry. While the rest of the plants in the row dutifully produced appropriate white flowers and luscious, sweet red berries, this plant produced rebellious tiny yellow flowers and only teased me with bud-like baby fruits which never advanced beyond nubbin size, and remained the color of honeydew melon flesh. While still a small baby plant its leaves were tantalizingly similar in shape and size to other strawberries, the perfect disguise. But as it grew it spread like a garden virus stretching tall and wide, abandoning the deception once it was at home. I was torn about what to do with this plant because I had already adopted it into my garden family and it felt wrong somehow to murder it, even though the rest of the strawberries in the same row were obviously irritated by its creeping crowding presence. It stood out like the Wicked Witch of the West in a Rockettes lineup but in the end all I could do was accept it, as any parent does, my own ugly duckling, a special surprise challenging me every day to learn its secret identity.
Margaret Bail - writer, grad student, mom - is hiding out in the vast, unending northern plains.