I can’t believe it, but it’s almost FOUR YEARS since the release of my first book, “By The Ounce And Other Tales?” That little tome has traveled the world. From here to Norway and Guam, “By The Ounce” opened my eyes to the craft. Today’s entry is one of the more lighthearted entries in the short story collection, “The Plant.” Actually based on a true story, “The Plant” takes me back to an odd encounter I had while living in my first SoCal apartment. It also featured the first time I named a character Celeste, a name I used in one of my spec screenplays “Celeste: The Rhythm of Vengeance.” Enjoy
Another Friday night, another Friday night at home. That’s not to say I’m some kind of hermit—I consider myself awfully social for someone still in his 20s—but lately I haven’t had the drive or the cash to head outside. The whole deal gets to be awfully routine after a while. You get dressed, spend considerably amounts of money, shuffle home the next morning and have nothing to show for it. I’m sure I sound old for my age, but can you blame me?
I spent the evening online looking at pictures for a new barbeque grill for the small apartment we had at the edge of town. Celeste, my girl, loves to cook and I feel like it’s my duty to get her the tools to cook so I don’t have to. She worked nights, so it was just me and the glow of light from the computer screen. I sipped from a bottle of beer while I clicked around, looking for the one grill that would suit us. Charcoal or Gas? Silver or Black? Where exactly was it going to fit in our box of an abode? So many decisions to make.
It was a little after ten when I heard two strong raps on the front door. We hardly get visitors, especially at this hour, so I was caught off guard a bit. I took a parting chug of beer and headed towards the door. With it open, an elderly gentleman stood in the night. He was as tall as my chest, but his eyes bore into mine from behind his thick framed glassed. He was holding a potted bouquet of flowers with roses, lilies and tulips—all of them white. It was about as white as the thinning hair on his head.
“You Kyle Watson, Apartment sixty three?” He spoke. His voice was rough. Perhaps he was a smoker.
“Nope,” I said. “This is sixty one. Sixty three is over there.”
I wasn’t too sure if the person living in sixty three was Kyle Watson. We have been living at this particular complex for just about a year and I can honestly say that I have never met my neighbors. In fact, I’m not even sure if the other apartments down my hall were even lived in. A chilling thought. You could die in your room and no one would look for you until rent was due.
“Thank you,” the man said walking away.
Sad to admit it, but it was by far the highlight of my night. I walked over to the computer desk and took another sip of my beer. I must say that buying beer from the supermarket is a tad more enjoyable and a whole lot cheaper that doing so at the bar. My friends are the ones missing out tonight, not me.
There were three more knocks from the door. This time, they were as loud and as determined as ever. I quickly swung back the door to find the man standing in front of it once more with the floral arrangement.
“Can I help—“
“He ain’t there,” he said aggravated. “Do me a favor and sign for these plants.”
“Why would I sign for plants that aren’t even mine?” I asked. “If the person your looking for isn’t there, can’t you deliver them some other time?”
The man frowned. He shifted the weight of the arrangement in his arms.
“Listen,” he said. “The person who paid for this delivery had very specific instructions that these plants get here by midnight tonight. If I don’t do that, then I’m in trouble. Do me a favor and take these flowers and when Kyle gets in, you give them to him. I’ll leave a note on his door.”
For fear of getting into a prolonged argument with a person I just met, I took the flowers off his hands. They did look pretty nice. After signing for them, the man walked away. It would be the last I would time I would ever see him.
I put the flowerpot on the nearby kitchen counter and gave it a once over. First impressions aside, it was a gorgeous collection of flowers. This Kyle guy had class. Leaving the bouquet on the counter, I went back to work on the computer. The quest for the perfect barbeque grill was still on.
The next morning, I awoke to find Celeste eyeing the bouquet in the kitchen. She had almost instantly taken a liking to it. I felt I had to tell her what happened, rather than have her believe I would buy those flowers for her. Not that I’m against buying flowers for a woman, but if you do it too often, they start to expect it.
“And you took them?” She asked after listening to the tale.
“What was I supposed to do?”
“You got to go over there and hand them over to him,” she said.
“If he hadn’t come for them yet, how do we know he even came home last night?” I said, using my own brand of logic.
“I don’t care,” she said. “They are not ours and if they are not ours I do not want them here.”
Just like that, with the clothes I slept in the night before still on my back, I went into the hallway with the white bouquet of flowers in my arms. I always wondered how I tended to get myself into situations like these. I figure if I kept thinking about it, I would end up with a headache.
The note that the man left on sixty three’s door was still attached to it by adhesive tape. It flapped in the inexplicable breeze that lumbered throughout the hallway. I knocked on the door and waited for an answer. Nothing. A couple of more knocks for good measure, but once again no response. Defeated, I carried the bouquet back to our apartment.
“He wasn’t there,” I said hoping to ward off another ‘discussion’ about the flowers.
With a thud, I rested the pot on the counter in the kitchen that was rapidly becoming his home. Celeste, who was also in the kitchen, had finished her morning cup of tea to unwind before bed.
“Maybe we could just keep it,” I said. “We don’t even know who this Kyle guy is. Maybe he won’t miss it.
“No way,” she said. “Check the card. Maybe there is a return address in there or something.”
Doing what I was told, I pulled back a tulip stem to reveal a small envelope about the size of a credit card. I opened it while telling myself to not feel guilty of the imposing nature of it all. In the envelope, the card read:
Your mother was a sensational woman. I offer you nothing but my wholehearted condolences
“Well damn it,” I said sliding the card over to Celeste. “There is no way we can keep it now.”
She nodded in agreement. We spent the afternoon discussing what were we to do with the flowers we didn’t particularly ask for. Actually, I did most of the discussing and she napped for work that evening. I decided that I would just leave it outside of the door, but then thought about someone stealing them before Kyle got home. I called directory assistance for his home phone number with the hopes of calling and leaving a message, but it turns out in this day and age of technology and cell phones he didn’t have a landline telephone. There was only one way I could assure these plants got back into the hands of Kyle, and that was to stake out his apartment. After Celeste had left for work at sundown, I was home alone. This time however it was not by choice.
I slid a chair out into the hallway and sat next to the potted bouquet that had been placed on the floor. They weren’t as spectacular as they looked the day before but they were still a work of art to me. Hours went by with no one going into, or coming out of apartment sixty three. The notice was still on the door, just like how it was yesterday. Maybe he was on vacation and I didn’t know about it.
After getting my fair share of odd looks of being out in the hallway with only white flowers as my companion, I tried knocking on Kyle’s door again if nothing but for the heck of it. This time, I decided to cause as big commotion as possible, so I banged on the door with both hands for a while then playfully trying the door knob.
It was unlocked.
Deciding this was my chance to rid myself of a plant that had be cared for as if it were a child, I opened the door all the way and eyed the room. It was dark, as no lights were on in the apartment but judging by the small amount of light coming from the window, his apartment was much smaller than mine. Taking the bouquet into my arms, I stepped inside.
“Hello?” I raised my voice. “Kyle, you there?”
I put the potted arrangement on the ground and headed for the door. I stopped short when I came chest to chest to a large man who stood in the doorway. Being well over a foot taller than me, I wondered if he moonlighted as a sumo wrestler. His hand caressed the nearby wall to flip on the sole light switch. Seeing his enormous frame didn’t make me feel any better. His onyx eyes were in a sharp glare.
“What are you doing in my room?” he bellowed.
“Just being a good Samaritan,” I tried at a joke.
Kyle dug into his jean pocket and picked out a cellular phone. In one motion, he flipped it open and began dialing.
“Wait. What are you doing?”
“What does it look I’m doing?” he said. “I’m calling the cops you creep.”
“Look,” I said. “I’m not doing anything shady here. I mistakenly got your bouquet of flowers and I was just delivering them. I saw the door open and I decided to drop them off personally.”
I picked up the bouquet and handed them over to Kyle. He took a look at the different kinds of flowers that were in the pot. I bet he too was impressed at the work of art. He closed his clamshell cellular phone and stuffed it back into his pocket
“Well,” he said. “I guess I owe you an apology. But next time, please don’t come in unless I’m here. Got it?”
The giant was right.
“Got it,” I said.
With a nod, I squeezed past him and made my way out into the hallway. With my task complete, I doubled back to the apartment to say my goodbyes.
“Hey,” I said. “Thanks again for not calling the police, Kyle.”
He cocked his head to the side, perplexed.