Island Flowers

May 13, 2008
By Nicole Varney, Stevensville, MD

Skipping across the black cement I waved and greeted the familiar face of a woman who sat smoking on the porch. My choked lungs jumped with joy as they filled with the cool September air. As the sliding glass door opened with a loud swoosh the eyes of the many busy workers drifted to where I stood. After many ‘Good afternoons’ and polite conversation I broke through the ranks of women and clambered up the stairs after my two younger sisters. If I stayed downstairs I’d inevitably be given a tediously dull job. But as I reached the top of the stairs, almost to safety, my mother’s voice drifted up the stairs seeming to wrap around my ankles and drag me back down to her.

After I was given my irksome job of cleaning the roses I managed to sneak a chocolate truffle from the display in the front of the store. The milk chocolatey taste of the truffle battled hand to hand against the fierce yet more subtle hint of raspberry flavoring. But then I was forced back into the stuffy back room to clean flowers. By myself in the shady room I began the dangerous battle of girl versus rose. Yes, they definitely look pretty and smell quite nice too. However, their thorns make it difficult to hold one and as a florists daughter I’ve been pricked one too many times! To clean a flower sounds like a delicate and simple task. Much to the contrary it is a messy business and almost every night my mother and I will come with our fingers stained green. It becomes especially tricky when you get a thick stemmed flower. It’s like trying to cut a tree branch. However, this job can last hours on end and soon the routine becomes boring. Often I find myself daydreaming and my eyes glaze over as I absentmindedly clean roses or fill buckets with no real motivation.

I had been chopping and scraping at flowers for quite awhile, stopping every now and then to fill a bucket or tend to a small wound. Through the gargling noise of the shop I could hear a telephone ringing but everyone seems to be occupied, quickly I approach and pick up the receiver. ‘Island Flowers and Tuxedos, this is Nicole speaking how may I help you?’ But the party at the other end of the line began asking questions I could not answer and making demands I could not fulfill such as ‘I‘d like to place an order for delivery. How much would it cost if I added chrysanthemums?’ ‘hold one moment please.’ I heard the frustrated voice on the other end but did not hesitate to drown him out as I the pushed the little red button reading ‘HOLD.’

All the flowers had been cleaned and buckets washed. It was nearing the end of a long day and most of the employees had left the little shop. As I prepared the little shop for sleep I noticed the orange glow of the sky like the color of the wilted daisy lying in the trash. My mother sat in the front room concentrating on bills, receipts and checks spread out across the countertop. Finally it was closing time. As I gathered up my sisters and flicked out the lights I looked around at this place I loved and realized just how much I loathed it.

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