from Hot Ink Press
Teaser from The Flower Box
Oliver went back to his wheelbarrow behind the hedge and took a broom from it. He swept the crumbs from the bread Alice fed the swan into the pond. It wasn’t good to get the bird out of the water too much. That’s why it was alone now. Its mate had been killed. Oliver shook his head. Human beings could be incredibly cruel. He didn’t understand it.
He’d finished work down that end of the park and walked back to the gardeners’ sheds past the café. It would soon be dusk. The days were still short that time of year and Oliver packed up his tools. He shouted a goodnight to a colleague as he left the sheds and strode off to the exit. That day wasn’t the happiest for Oliver. He just had enough time to buy flowers and put them on his mom’s grave in the almost adjacent cemetery.
Ten years had passed. He put flowers on her grave only every month now on the fifth. He hardly ever saw his dad since he got remarried and moved. That was okay. Oliver and his dad didn’t see eye to eye on most things. His dad told him he was wasting a good brain and should get back to college to finish his degrees. Oliver liked what he did. He was past wanting to be a dentist. As he reached the corner of the street, Oliver stopped walking abruptly in surprise. An empty space greeted him where the flower stand usually was that sold flowers to people going into the cemetery. Two people behind him on the sidewalk had to stop too and he apologized.
“Sorry, sorry I was just surprised to see the flower stand gone.”
The couple smiled and walked on. Oliver put his hands in his jacket pockets and turned back to walk to the end of the block where he thought he might have seen a flower shop as he drove down that street. If he hurried, he might still catch the last of the daylight. He considered dashing back to his car in the employees’ parking lot and driving there, but hurried on knowing he might not get a parking spot on the busy street where he only vaguely remembered a flower shop.
It started to rain heavily just as he arrived at the shop and rushed in through the doors. He looked around. This place was different from the flower stand. The flowers were in huge colored plastic containers and not already arranged in gaudy cellophane packs. He tried picking up a bunch of bright yellow and orange flowers. Oliver knew they would be expensive. He couldn’t get hold of a bunch and realized the flowers were single stems. He joined the short line-up, knowing he’d have to be served.
He ran his hand through his dark hair to take the wet bits from his forehead. The people in front moved aside and Oliver was face to face with the young woman he’d watched talk to the swan.
She smiled at him.
“Hi, how can I help you?”
Oliver didn’t speak for a few seconds, as he registered that with no trouble at all he’d found where the girl worked. He smiled then.
“I need a bunch of flowers. The orange and yellow ones are good.” He gestured at them.
Alice went around the end of the counter to the container.
“How many blooms, Sir?” She deftly took four out and held them for him to see. “Hand tied?”
Oliver watched her. She’s pretty, much prettier close up than I’d realized. Why is she single?
“Six, seven…sure, hand tied,” he answered her question, as he took his wallet from his back pocket.
Alice carried the flowers back to the counter, tied the bunch, and told him the price.
Oliver took the flowers and handed her money with the other hand. He glanced back at the daylight through the glass front door. He needed to hurry. He didn’t wait for the few cents change. He left the shop. He walked at a rapid pace on his long legs. People walking in the opposite direction moved aside as they saw him coming. The rain was steady and dripped down the collar of his jacket. Oliver sheltered the bunch of flowers a little with his body.
At the cemetery, the path lights were on. Daylight was about gone. Oliver sprinted over the manicured lawn to the last row of graves. He put the flowers in the marble vase attached to the headstone. It had collected rainwater.
“Hi Mom, nearly didn’t get here before dark.” He stood for a few seconds looking at the flowers and then left. He walked more slowly to the park workers’ car lot. The entrance there was never closed. A chain that could reach from one post to another on either side of the entrance lay coiled by one of them. No one cared to, or had the task to pull it across, and block the entrance off after dark. As he reached his car he had a plan to give the pretty girl in the flower shop Valentine gifts.
Copyright Elodie Parkes , Hot Ink Press