Drabble 98 – Urticate

nettle by Leah Oswald

I grew up on an island surrounded by plants that stung and stuck to my clothes and tore scratches into my arms. I spent hours combing burs out of my cats’ fur, piling them into neat little stacks. Everything snagged.

Next to my house was a big open field of grass and blackberries and mice and nettles. The thing I remember most about the nettles was that I never really saw them–I’d run through the field carelessly, not paying any mind to the plants that lived there, and come home with bumps and stinging welts that burned and refused to abate unless you rubbed the bottom of a fern on them.

I have a scar on my knee from where a blackberry bush tore the skin open. Blood welled up there, dark red and juicy. I touched it and put my finger in my mouth, thinking it was a crushed blackberry.

Now my hands are tough and leathery and I can reach into blackberry and rosebushes without fear of thorns. They’re peppered with pale scars and callouses, but I wouldn’t trade them and fear my garden again.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.


(v.) Latin urtica (nettle)

To sting, as if with nettles.

There are better herbs than nettle, but Hettie pinches the leaves from the stem anyway and places them in her basket. She saw Mrs. Ingram kick a cat once out of pure meanness, and a little nettle sweetness would go unnoticed in the potion she’s ordered for her joints. Not enough to make her sick, just enough for bad luck and an upset stomach.

She shouldn’t—cursing your customers is bad for business. But how is Mrs. Ingram to know?

She picks a few fronds from a fern, their undersides heavy with powdery spores. Hattie keeps her options open, always.


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