The second round brief for the NYC Midnight flash fiction competition saw me get the brief: a sardine can, a flower shop, a ghost story. I came up with the idea fairly quickly then spent ages re-writing taking into account the feedback I got from my last story. Part of it was that I had to explain things more for the reader. I did so as I re-wrote, but now I worry I explained too much and lost some of my original voice. Here it is, you be the judge:
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Any More
I moved the sardine can another fraction so they would open the door. I felt a great need to get out right now but I had to sit and wait until they noticed. They’d been so much panic at first but they finally figured out that things stopped moving as soon as the door was held open for a while. I couldn’t walk fast so the swift movement of the self-shutting door I had insisted on being installed because I wanted a near constant room temperature for our blooms to be at their best meant that I could only leave if the door was deliberately held open. Our returning clientele knew the wrath they would bring on themselves from Sarah if they dared do that for too long at any other time. Getting back in was never a problem, pulled, it seemed, by an invisible thread.
The sardine can had been placed on the counter by Sarah to remind Solomon to feed the cat his favourite treat. I thought the can was important to them both, that’s why I choose it. But it was not important to Solomon, who deliberately ignored it as masterfully as he deliberately ignored the cat. “How can she bear the smell in here of all places?” he thought whenever the sardines were brought in. He had tried once to feed the damn cat outside but got shrieked at by both animal and Sarah. Violent-coloured lilies were in at the moment and while some found them overpowering, he adored their harlot scent and relished the bright staining of his fingers from the stamens that needed to be delicately removed for fear the bride’s dress would be ‘ruined.’ Surely a reminder of the day, a drop of red wine, a smear of chocolate cake, a dirty hem from the night spent dancing and an orange splash from a deep pink tiger lily bouquet would be what they wanted preserved, not a dry-cleaned, boxed-up, well-stashed garment rarely to be seen again.
My gown still hung where I had had it taken off me in our bedroom. After the long, exhausting day the plan was passion or at least romance but Sarah had, in the end, had to tell me to stop moving as I drunkenly swayed, desperate to get out of the constriction of the now well worn-in wedding dress and to get into bed and to fall into sleep. Her dress was floaty and comfortable in comparison, both in opposition to what we were in real life, beyond the fantasy day that could have been over in 10 minutes if we’d chosen but, like so many before and after us, we went instead for a lavish event that cost time and money we didn’t have. If not the biggest ever wedding, it at least had the best ever floral decorations that all and sundry, from parents of the brides to the coy waiter, were encouraged, some later joked ‘forced,’ to take home by the arm-full.
I loved that Solomon loved the flowers as much as I had. I didn’t mind that he didn’t like the cat, he was an old bugger by now and not even supposed to have sardines but Sarah indulged him because he was still ours. I was glad Solomon was there and not some replacement for me, I just wish he would pay more attention to when I wanted to go outside. The vagaries of what I could channel the little force I had into meant I had to pick my target carefully. At first I tried moving the flowers but that went unnoticed by all but the cat. Knocking didn’t work either as the constant movement in the shop, always something to do, someone to help, always with music in the background, Alice Coltrane or some equally wonderful piece of abstract ethereal beauty, produced noise far greater than the mild drumming I could barely muster.
A customer came in so I moved the can again, but he was busy picking out his favourites. “Just for me today” he explained, “to treat myself after a very hard week.” He took his time, explaining his colour choices and needs in a detail I adored. I would happily have spent an hour with him getting the much-deserved bouquet together that for the next few days would remind him of his achievements. Or was it a reminder to carry on despite a failure? I would have got that out of him soon enough, but in a way that made him feel less probed and more counselled, all the time explaining that he needed to balance not only the colours but also the scents as they too would take up residence in his living room for a while.
Solomon carried on this tradition of listening and caring for our clientele, but it was still my shop, my initial was still one of two above the door. But ‘S & S’ was easily transposed from Sarah and Sylvia to Sarah and Solomon and the new customers just presumed that’s what it was. I noticed recently that he no longer corrected them and then I had to go outside so I could slowly soar up and away and scream and scream in the sky with the rest of them. And I needed to go away right now because weeping in the middle of the room I had designed and inhabited for so long, body and soul, felt wrong but I didn’t think I could bear to hold the tears in anymore. “We should maybe make it official,” Solomon said tentatively that morning after the last customer to enquire had left. “S & S,” he paused, “Sarah and Solomon.” And there had been a much longer pause from Sarah, of Sarah and Sylvia fame, and a look at the cat and a deep sigh and, for the first time ever, though it had been only 5 years, Sarah had answered quietly, “Yes, maybe it is now time.”