A carload of ladies stopped in front of my house, the passenger door opened, and she got out. The lady approached my front porch so I assumed that she was selling cosmetics or wanting to convert me, so I opened my door. The poor gal was surprised and embarrassed.
“Could I help you?”
“Uh . . . this is embarrassing.”
“What’s the matter?”
“I wanted to feel your flowers.”
Normalcy is not a way of life in Arenzville and I’d become accustomed to a variety of strange requests over the years, but this flower feeling was a new one. She went on . . .
“We drove by your house twice and we have this bet . . . “
“We wanted to know if your flowers were real.”
This left me with three alternative motives: 1) the ladies thought that it was amazing that a clod like me could grow pretty flowers, 2) the flowers truly were beautiful, or 3) I had a carload of kooks in my driveway. I took a chance on number one. “Yep, they’re real.” She smiled and told me that they were beautiful, quickly got in her car and no doubt collected her bet. To tell you the truth, I was flattered. I didn’t mention that I’d bought the flowers already fully grown and potted at a Beardstown greenhouse the day before. Any beauty these buds contained were due to other hands and not mine. It usually takes me three days to kill them.
I hired a young fellow to build me a new porch some years ago and the rascal had the nerve to install permanent flower holders of all things. I’d thought about plopping a few plastic flamingos or garden gnomes into the boxes but the idea smacked of Disneyworld on crack, so I went flower shopping.
To say I know beans about flowers is to insult the beans. I’ve heard the rumor that they actually make flowers that come up every year without driving to Beardstown and buying them, but I keep confusing the words “annual,” “perennial,” “bi-annual,” and “orthopedic.” Everything I buy dies when it snows and it never comes back again. If I knew anything about composting I’d have the most aromatic pile in town. To me, there are two kinds of flowers: red flowers and all the others. Anything beyond that and I have to do a Google search. My dad raises beautiful flowers, my brother’s flowerbed is a well-manicured masterpiece, and my flowers die as soon as they see me coming. A kind lady at church once politely suggested that I try watering them and that helped a great deal . . . for a while. Another gal told me that I might try fertilizer, but the thought of spreading manure all over my front porch made the prospect of sitting on my porch swing unappealing.
One year I found a type of flower that actually lived for a couple of months after I placed it on the porch, so the next spring I went back to my friendly petal pusher and asked for another. She asked what kind of flower I was looking for. I said, “Red.”
“Red? That’s all you know?”
“Well . . . it had leaves and stuff.”
She smiled. “Over seventy percent of household blooming plants are red.”
I wondered what sort of dull life this lady had led to be able to memorize such a thing. She told me to stroll around the greenhouse until I found the flower I was looking for. This was futile. They all looked like my previous year’s blooms so I brought home a trunkful of flowers that lasted most of the week.
The ultimate humiliation came when a lady offered to tend my plants for me. She said, “You have such a beautiful porch and it’s just made for plants. You put whatever you like in your flower boxes and I’ll take care of them.” This was more than I could take. She’d taken pity on this hitchhiker of horticulture and was willing to rescue me from the embarrassment of having the fastest-dying plants in Arenzville. That’s when I started looking into statuary to put on my porch . . . maybe those really classy cutouts showing the rearview of a lady bending over tending her flowers. At least it’d take the attention away from the dead petunias.