Flowers in Your Hair—A Crown of Roses —Elaine Bonow
Florence Williams loved her garden. She was the neighborhood flower lady. She loved dahlias and peonies, roses, lilies and delphinium. You could say she was a flower hoarder. All flowers were welcome in her garden without prejudice, and they rewarded her passion with a psychedelic display from early March’s buttery daffodils and joyful tulips and sweet lilacs, all the way through October’s autumnal cornucopia of oversized dahlias and zinnias displayed in gothic hues.
On this beautiful late spring day, Flo was watering when her husband Jim, came running through the garage door, not a run really but at an old man trot. He was carrying a pink plastic flamingo that was missing one of its metal stick legs. He spotted Flo who blended into her garden in a pink straw hat and a floral print muumuu with green leaves and pink hibiscus flowers.
“Oh Jim, what’s this?”
“Somebody’s been messing around with the birds again. I just fell asleep on the porch for an hour or so and the little thieves attacked Miss Pavola. They took her leg this time. I’m so tired of this. Last week they were content to move them around thinking I wouldn’t notice. I’m getting a bit pissed off.”
“We’ll have to catch whoever it is.”
“I know. My display is getting ruined by this stupid person.”
“Well, we’ll have to come up with a plan. What we need is a large rat trap for humans.” Flo laughed and turned off the water.
“Yes, especially for human children because I think it might be those little boys across the street.”
“Jim, we can’t accuse anyone unless we have some real proof. Those kids seem nice enough. We don’t want to start a war with the neighbors.”
“Proof Smoof. They keep doing this to different flamingos. Yesterday it was Karsavina. Next they will be tearing the legs off Fonteyn.”
“Let’s go and sit in the shade dear and try to come up with a plan.”
They meandered around the side of the old farmhouse where hidden from view was an old bench stashed under the flowing branches of the weeping willow.
“Look what I got today from the store.” Flo held up the jar that was filled with California outdoor grown bud. “Here Jim I know you will appreciate this.” Flo pressed the button on the already filled vaporizer. She passed the device to Jim who pulled gently on the stem and exhaled a faint cloud, like a whisper from his whiskered lips.
Flo refilled the vape and savored the flavor and quality of this special strain of marijuana. As she leaned back against the bench she relaxed into a reverie of her present being. They had lived here for almost fifty years but in the past few months her stable solid world had been subtly changing.
“Jim, remember when we tried to raise chickens so we could have fresh eggs?” Jim, his eyes half open was fast asleep.
Oh hell, I probably shouldn’t have made him smoke that. He’s been falling asleep every time we smoke a bowl. “Poor Jim, he’s going to have a hard time moving from here,” she said aloud thinking Jim was still sleeping.
“Flo,” he said in a clear deep voice, “life has ups, downs and changes that you can sometimes predict but most of the time shit happens and you don’t know how or why.“
“Oh Jim,” I thought you were sleeping, in fact I could have sworn you were fast asleep.”
“These days I seem to go to sleep but more and more I am in what I have come to think of as an alternative universe. I mean–I am here but not here. I’m like that Roethke Poem, The Waking, you know the one “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.”
“Wow, that is really strange. When did this start happening? You didn’t do this before. You have always been so steadfast. You’ve never told me about this, Jim.”
“To tell you the truth Flo, it’s been like this for a while now. I don’t know what the hell is happening to me. At first I thought I was getting senile, after all I am going to be seventy-two soon.” He worked the remaining two wire legs from Pavlova and placed the bird on the grass.
“That’s not so old Jim. These days seventy is the new fifty.”
The two chuckled at that as the willow branches swept a cool breeze full of the perfume of roses in full bloom into this shaded spot.
“Flo, you’ve seen me acting all crazy lately, naming the flamingos, losing my taste for foods I’ve always loved. Being so spaced out especially after smoking the herb. I’ve been feeling like a stoned out kid and that is scaring the piss out of me.”
“My god man. Why haven’t you told me this before? We’ll have to see the doctor. I’ll call and make an appointment today. Maybe there’s something she can do.”
“Flo, let’s face it. You’ve seen how I am these days. Do you really think those over educated quacks can help me?”
“But there could be something simple wrong with you. You could have a deficiency, a vitamin B-12 deficiency or something. Maybe you need more vitamin D. I’ve heard that lack of B-12 can make you go mental.”
“No no, Flo. I feel something in me has changed, something fundamental in my real self. Maybe it is the realization that we have to move, maybe it is something in the universe that is telling me that my time is almost over, that my thread is growing shorter and shorter.”
Flo refilled the vape with some freshly ground bud and pressed the power button on. She waited for the light to go off and thoughtfully took a slow draw. She then refilled the device for Jim but now he was quietly dozing.
I won’t wake him but boy this is not how I planned this part of my life to go. We were going to move in the winter. We had everything planned for a beautiful end game in a tropical paradise and now this so sudden, so soon. I thought we would just drift into the future with ease and now it seems everything is going to change. My life as I know it is going to be radically changed. I’ve always had such a wonderful life. Oh sure We’ve had our ups and downs who doesn’t but after you’ve been together for so long I just don’t know how I am going to handle this. Jim has changed. I guess I’ve seen it coming but I sure pushed his behavior quirks under the rug.
Flo got up quietly from the bench so as not to wake Jim. The pink flamingo sat at his feet as if nesting. She pushed aside the fresh pale green branches of the willow and stepped out along the path through the stands of white lilies propped up by stiff emerald leaves. The heat from the late spring sun broadcast the heady perfume into the air smelling virginal and fresh.
Her peonies, riots of pink and fuchsia, drooped heavily laden petals sweet enough to kiss. This year her roses were profusely spectacular. Some wet years the roses suffered from powdery mildew, aphids, root rot and black spot, witches bloom and cane cankers.
This year’s early dry spring produced heavy buds and bright fragrant yellow and coral roses. Huge trellises of pale pink tiny florets, bushes of tree rose hybrids and magenta tea roses. Big white roses spiraled in perfect symmetry.
Flo made her way to the center of the garden. She loved this time of the year, late spring almost summer with big fat bees buzzing with pollination.
Jim opened his eyes and stared out beyond the willow screen. He could see a movement of beauty. There was Flo in the distance, her head surrounded by the flowers of her labor in a kaleidoscope of color. He didn’t recognize reality. He thought he was dreaming.