by Bob'n Around
Invisible matters of the mind turned real into the written word.
|1632 word entry into March's "SENIOR CENTER FORUM" contest. Prompt: Spring
Spring means digging out old habits, putting on my green thumb and helping awakening plants, well, spring up. “Just a minute,” I called out to a rat-a-tat knock on my front door. Spring was not yet in my step. It took more than that minute to respond.
“Package, for a Missus Thomas?” The UPS guy was in his work zone mood, barely glancing at my muddy face and dirt covered hands. I signed and he disappeared, big brown van chug-a-lugging vapors down the street.
“So. You finally arrived.” I spoke to my new plant, not my neighbor. I waved to Margo Smith, half hiding behind her front window curtain. “Snoop.” We were barely on speaking terms. Her mouth branded her as the town gossip. I kept her in check by trying to bore her to death with my prattle during the neighborhood weekly girl get-togethers where some of us played bridge.
It was to the basement I went next. I keep an indoor garden during cold months, gotten hooked on fresh greens and sprouts. I like bringing species that wouldn’t otherwise survive from the outside, in. “Here’s your new home until you get adjusted to your move.”
Yeah, I talk to my plants, even give my favorites personal names. The one I unboxed showed off broad white flower petals scented a sweet gentle breath of softness. I was in love. “You’ll have to earn your name, sister, but you’ve made a good start. I think you’ll feel right at home here.”
She nodded her petals as I fit her under the grow lights, moving some lentils away to make space. They were almost ready to become lunch. “Hmm, tasty. Hey, now. Don’t act like that.”
My newest roomy’s leaves shivered before settling again. It made me laugh. A trick of imagination, I thought. Plants listen but never talk back. “I won’t eat you if you behave.”
That heady scent brushed my nose. I closed my eyes taking it in. “I promise. We’ll become such good friends.”
“Honey, I’m home.” It was my husband, Jack, runs a flower shop, the business end. I do the real work with the plants. We’re a team.
“Down here.” I like to trade plants, heirlooms, the more ancient stock the better. Some cost me. Jack hates shelling out money for that. I felt guilty about this last purchase. Prize winning Peace Roses no longer adorned our store. I’d filled the space with flowery blossoms of cheaper models hoping he wouldn’t notice.
“Got to run. Got an order for those roses you got ribbons for. Jacked up the price. You move them?”
“Uh. Yes. Sold them already.” And so I had but not for profit. I’d lost money in the bargain. “You should have checked.”
My little white lie was met by a groan. “You’re supposed to tell me when you do stuff like that, darlin’.” I was lucky to be let off the hook as easy as that. Jack would use it for a bargaining chip to get even later. I knew it. He knew it. It was just a matter of what.
The front door slammed. It made me shiver. I turned, noticed the white petals reflected my mood. “Got your name tag, honey. You earned it by making me tell Jack my first little white lie.”
We hadn’t been getting along so good lately, my husband and I. He’d hired a pretty young assistant at work. He was spending too much time training her. I wondered if he was offering a few little white lies of his own.
“You are my secret,” I told my plant. The afternoon had fled by with me sitting lost in my thoughts, talking things out with my plant. It would nod in understanding as I caressed its white petals. For the first time in ages, since the kids were young, I locked the basement door when I left. I’d trained the rest of the family to respect this as my personal space.
“Where’s dinner?” Jack peered around the kitchen. Did you forget to pick the kids up? Are you feeling sick? What’s wrong?”
“Sick?” I suddenly was heart sick. “Yes.” I hate when Jack gets mad at me. He holds it inside, takes it out on himself and his ulcers. What was becoming of us? “Why are you always working late?”
Instead of answering, Jack blushed an angry red. Or was it guilt showing there. Instead of answering, he said, “I’ll pick them up and some pizza. You’d better call a doctor and get checked out. You’re not running on all cylinders, babe.”
Which one of us was using this confrontation to misdirect who? Black suspicion clouded my thoughts. Almost in tears, I fled back to my ‘Little White Lie’ to sob and water her with my tears. “Is he having an affair?”
Jack knew something was terribly wrong when I didn’t join the family for dinner. We both gave each other the silent treatment. The kids felt the worsening atmosphere turn chilly and quickly left for their rooms.
Another first. Jack slept on the front room couch. I fled back to my basement, locked myself inside. Two could play this game. “What do I do?” I asked the white petals that bobbed at my frenzied approach.
That heavenly calming scent eased my heartache. It was almost as if the plant spoke the answer in my mind. I had the sudden impulse to call Jack’s best friend’s wife, Alice. Those late night excuses for not being home included going off with her husband to ‘help him’ with home repairs. “Thank you.” I kissed one of the little white petals.
Jack and the kids were gone in the morning. He’d left a note behind. “We have to talk about my new assistant. I have something to confess.”
My stomach wanted to crawl up in my throat. I burst outside, wringing my hands, knocking my head against my closed front door. “My world is falling apart,” I cried.
Gone was any thought of calling Alice. I needed to vent. I am a private person, much like my Jack. Or was he now? When I vent I take it out on my garden. There are always enough weeds to kill and destroy.
“Something wrong, dear?”
It was Margo Smith, long nose poking up at me from my bottom steps. “I saw your husband and kids arguing when they left and you don’t look happy at all.”
“A small family crisis. We can handle it, thank you. Bowser, the kids pet dog ate chocolate the kids left around.” Another made up little white lie.
Margo Smith sniffed, detecting something not quite right. “Let me know if I can help.” She couldn’t get away to her phone fast enough.
The word spread. I fought back from curious phone calls from a widening number of neighbors and friends. More white lies. After brief counseling sessions with my plant, I was getting quite good at them.
She stared me in the face, not asking whether I was going to invite her in. “I shouldn’t be here. I promised not to. Is there somewhere we can talk?”
Margo Smith’s drapes were flapping as fast as her mouth was against her phone. I grabbed Alice’s hand and led her to my basement hide-away. “I’m afraid of what you are going to say.”
“What a beautiful plant. That scent. Can I have a start?” Alice seemed unable to take her eyes off my ‘Little White Lies’.
I had to shake her. My plant nodded in agreement. Alice seemed to awaken out of a daze. “Oh. You think Jack is doing-the-do with that new pretty young assistant. He’s not.”
“What?” I had to sit down. The cold cement floor became my chair. “He’s not? And how did you know I was worried about that?”
Alice nibbled on her lip, “My husband, Jack and that assistant are planning a big vacation birthday surprise for you. I’m not supposed to whisper a thing. Can you tell a little white lie when Jack get’s home?”
I had completely forgotten my birthday. I was so into my deep despair. Alice had to nudge me and repeat what she’d said. She smiled, “I did right, didn’t I? We both can tell little white lies or it will spoil all the work they are putting into it, right? BTW, can I have a start of this heavenly scented plant. It speaks to me.”
She had to help me up. I was that weak with relief. “Take it. The plant is yours. I don’t need it any longer.”
Sometimes, I go visit Alice and we do a bit of group counseling in her basement with our plant. Joint ownership until she has a baby. You never know when you’ll need another perfect little white lie to make Spring bring a spring back in your step.
Jack turned over the daily work at the plant shop to Mable, his assistant. He said he’d been working too much and missed me. He hired a gardener of all things, to pry more time out of me. I had to make room for prize Peace Garden Roses. It was a small price to pay.
“We and the kids are going to spend the season up in our new cabin,” I boasted to Margo Smith. I had spring in my step again.
"Oh, my. That is good news." Margo Smith raced off for her phone. I knew by the end of the next hour, our two room rustic lodge Jack and Alice’s husband, Mark, had been working on, would become a mansion.
Little white lies have a way of making things bigger than life. Be careful how you grow and spread them.