September 26, 2010
By alurie BRONZE, Westport, Connecticut
alurie BRONZE, Westport, Connecticut
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Jackie was getting ready to close up. It was nearly seven thirty and she had kept the flower shop open an extra half hour in case any husbands had suddenly remembered a looming anniversary or any sons had put off birthday shopping long enough that flowers were their only chance for redemption. But it was seven thirty now, and Jackie couldn’t reasonably keep the store open any longer. Her boss often drove past the store after closing just to make sure Jackie had locked all the doors. If he drove by tonight and saw Jackie was still here, he wouldn’t be pleased.
Jackie swept flower stems from the arranging table and into the garbage. She couldn’t understand her boss’s aversion to her keeping the store open. Why wasn’t he pleased? She had told him she wasn’t looking for overtime pay. But maybe he thought she’d change her mind one day and bill him for all the extra hours. Silly, really. It meant a chance for more business. A last minute sale meant more money for him, and calmed the breathing of the customer. Besides, Jackie didn’t have anything to rush home to—Hecate would be alright if she didn’t get her kitty salmon until later—so Jackie liked to stay in the store as late as she could, getting ahead on the next week’s orders, organizing the ribbons, alphabetizing the seed packets, and not locking the doors until the absolute last moment. In fact, Jackie felt saintly when she kept the store open. She didn’t have any children, didn’t have any grand way of servicing society and, apart from donating the occasional soup can, she didn’t do any charity work. And, actually, for every ten nights when no customers came late, there was always that one night when a frantic person rushed through the door needing something. Like the last guy, who needed a dozen sunflowers to greet his girlfriend at the airport. Jackie grabbed a broom and swept the clean floor. She hoped whoever was in need of flowers would realize it soon, because she was running out of things to do.

Just before eight, an hour after closing time, Jackie decided no one was coming. She had put the flowerpots in order according to the color of their flowers and swept so well that there wasn’t a single petal, stem, or grain of dirt lying on the floor. She went to lock the front door, but just as she reached it, so did a man of about thirty, dressed in a wrinkled brown sweater and jeans and red house slippers. He knocked on the glass even though his eyes were already looking straight into Jackie’s - a plea, she thought.
“I need a couple flowers,” the man, breathing hard, surveyed the plants. “Daisies. Roses. Whichever’s the girliest; my daughter lost a tooth just now.”
“I’ve never heard of getting flowers for a tooth,” Jackie said, “Quarters definitely, maybe a dollar or two. You hear rumors of kids who get ten. But I never heard of anyone getting a flower.”
“She loves flowers. Floral dresses, floral shoes, floral nightgowns. We always put a flower under her pillow when she loses a tooth, but she lost this one after dinner and I didn’t think I’d be able to get her one in time. Thanks for letting me in.”

“Not to worry,” Jackie said, and as she rang the man’s daisies up she felt content—smug, almost, as if she’d proved her boss wrong. This man is the exact reason why I have to keep the store open late, she thought. The girl at home with a fresh gap in her teeth. How come my boss doesn’t understand that?
“Thanks again,” the man said, as he went out into the night.
Jackie locked the door behind him and pressed her nose against the cold glass. A puff of breath made a dime-sized circle. She peered out into the night, this way and that, just in case someone else needed some last minute help. No one came, so she turned off the lights. That’s good enough for tonight.


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