the museum of americana

a literary review

Zonnebloem—Flash Nonfiction by Laura Eppinger

Cut loose from the beer tent, we brave the open air with no one but our ancestors to watch over us.

 Our tour-guide vader got our group too drunk, too early, so we lumber back to the hotel—me and younger sis. (Cutting beer with lemonade couldn’t quite save us.) Now we are on the move.

We haven’t left the Oktoberfest grounds, an amusement park reenacting the same wedding feast for hundreds of years. She looks up in awe of the Ferris wheel, and guess what, now we’re climbing on.

A gate locks us into a rocking car and I’m scared, dizzy, unable to take in the view. I look at her to calm my nerves—her teeny frame, her feline eyes. Sis got her first passport for the trip—her first time leaving the country, and New Jersey, in twenty-eight years. 

Even though this girl is my best friend and I’m having so much fun, did you know one day we’ll have to die? Swarmed by vertigo when looking down, I want to get off the ride. Instead, I focus on the German teens taking selfies in the car across from us till we’ve been lowered safely onto solid ground.

From there, downtown Munich calls and we answer in staggers. Time to light a cig at last. Bumbling now through an open-air market, past the fresh veg cart. And there they are, those overeager, wide-eyed beauties: sunflowers with spiky stems. I pluck Euros out my jean pockets, thick silver and gold, and I know the locals say, “oy-row.”

Sunnies are my sis’s favorite. Now we have papery babydolls to carry around (between puffs). Now we have bright yellow guardians watching over us on the trip. I’ll slice into husks and place them in hotel room pitcher, our coffee table now an altar.

Dad says we’re descended from Bavarians but we hardly listen; six generations is too far back to feel affinity. We are loyal to iced mochas. To Marlboros. To black eyeliner, liquid. We’ll wear rompers on the same day, dammit, we plan when we match, we are our own heritage.

Could we ever truly know if there are Von Trapps in our past, or witches, or fools? No. Though I do wonder if they are sorry our ancestors went West and we are what they get. It’s a good thing I don’t know how to ask. I barely know how to return.

That was two years ago, but I am still changing. Back in the States I felt the call of the tarot, I learned to read cards and coffee grinds, too. Every day I wake up new and still, I can’t stop spotting sunnies; they came from this New World after all, alongside tobacco. They bloom in manga pages. I embroider them, everywhere. After a reiki reading I was told my energy presents in sunflower form. I don’t know what it means, but I believe it. I don’t know who it’s from but I’ll receive it.

 

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Laura Eppinger (she/her) is a Pushcart-nominated writer of fiction, poetry and essay. Her work has appeared at The Rumpus, The Toast, and elsewhere. She’s the managing editor at Newfound Journal. Visit her here: https://lauraeppinger.blog/workspub/ She Tweets at @lola_epp