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Story 4

Susan P. Sinor

Sue didn’t start out wanting to write, but after meeting her husband, writer Bradley H. Sinor, she found out that the urge to write was contagious. She has a lot of beginnings of stories, and is gradually finishing some of them. She has been published by Yard Dog Press a number of times: in the chapbook “Playing With Secrets” and the anthologies “International House of Bubbas,” “Houston, We’ve Got Bubbas” (in collaboration with her husband),  “A Stitch In Time Saves None” and “I Should Have Stayed In Oz” (also collaborating with Brad).

You can contact Sue on Facebook.

Petal Attraction is my first story. I wrote it in the early 1990s. It was published in an obscure computer mag, and it's been laying around since then.

 -- Susan P. Sinor

 And we are happy to pick to pick it up....

House plants aren't dangerous, right?. But is that strange flower that appears in your backyard vegetable garden that no one has ever seen before, really harmless?






Susan P. Sinor


Edna looked out her kitchen window, mentally listing the day's chores. First, she would work in her vegetable garden in the backyard of her two-story house. The house faced east, so the backyard would be in shade for awhile. She worked there each morning, and when the shadow of the house moved over to the front, she worked in the front yard, in the flower garden. Edna didn't like being in the sun, but she did love to be outdoors in her gardens.

            She was proud of the vegetables her garden produced, but the weeding, spraying and thinning were so boring and time consuming. 

Working in the front garden was so much more enjoyable. That's where she grew her flowers: hyacinths, tulips, marigolds and roses.

             Edna especially loved roses. Her father had planted a rose bush, just for her, in the front yard of this very house on her eighth birthday. It had been her favorite-ever birthday present. From that time on she had cared for it, eventually caring for all of her father's flowers after he died. She had wanted to care for them while her father was still alive, so he could see that she did a good job, but he wouldn’t hear of it. In fact, he never thought she was a good caretaker of her own rosebush, although it always bloomed beautifully, with no problems from pests or diseases. 

            After her father’s passing, she had married George and they had come to live in the family home. George had fancied himself quite a gardener. Without so much as a by-your-leave, he had taken over the flowers, relegating Edna to the backyard vegetable garden.

             No matter that her vegetables had won more awards at the county fair than his flowers ever had, George still considered himself the gardener of the family. Mentally, she compared him to her father, lumping them both in the generic group: MEN.

            Then, after thirty-five years of marriage, George had died, and Edna got her front garden back. A stroke had left him sprawled across the delphiniums, where Edna had eventually found him. She had rushed him to the hospital and had stayed with him every day for hours, listening to him complain about the nurses, the food, his doctor, and the fact that he couldn't go home to tend to his flower garden, until he finally died of a heart attack.

All-in-all, Edna considered it to be an even trade, George for the flower garden.

            Today as usual, after finishing her duty to the vegetables, she would sit in her front porch swing, eating lunch and reading a gardening book.  Then she would get to work on her flowers. She loved tending the flowers; loved sitting under the big willow that shaded the house, just looking at her beautiful flowers.

            With a start, Edna woke from her daydreaming and looked at the clock over her kitchen range. It was just now 8:00. She dried her last breakfast dish, put it away, and then tied a kerchief around her gray hair. It wouldn't do to muss it so soon after her visit to the hairdresser. Now, time to go out and weed.

She went to the gardening shed in the back yard, picked up her gloves, a trowel and the hoe, and proudly surveyed the plot before getting to work. There were a dozen neat rows, each one labeled in her precise handwriting: tomatoes, broccoli, squash, beans, cucumbers, lettuce and the rest.

            Suddenly, she saw something that didn't belong.

            "My heavens, what on earth could that be?” she said.

            She put down her trowel and hoe, and looked more closely. Midway down the row of half-grown lettuce heads, neatly fitting in as if it were supposed to be there, was something.

            Something red.

            Edna knelt down next to the lettuce row, staring at the intruder. It was a flower of some kind, but like none she'd ever seen before.

            From the next yard came the screeching of two of the neighborhood cats as they clashed over something, which set off the dog in the yard beyond that. The sound faded from Edna's hearing as she studied the intruder.

            This coloring was impossible. The outside of each petal faded from deep red at the base to pale pink at the tip and was a vivid blue on the inside. Each perfectly formed leaf was attached to the stem at exactly positioned points.

            Whatever this was, it was simply the most incredibly, wonderfully, intensely beautiful flower she had ever seen.  

            Edna had to know what this flower could be. She ran to the house, almost tripping on the back porch steps. In the living room were gardening books: hers, her father's and even a few of George's.

She had always considered herself to be quite knowledgeable about plant life typical to this particular region of the country, but this species wasn't familiar to her at all.

            Three hours later, Edna laid down the last of her books. There was nothing, not the slightest reference anywhere, to any kind of flower, or even a vegetable, remotely like this one.

            A new species! Was it possible that she had found an entirely new species?

            She hurried out to her shed, got spade and pot, and took them to where she had found the flower. It was still there, smiling up at her.  Edna gazed down at The Flower, enraptured.

            Protect it. Yes, Edna knew what she needed to do.  She must protect it, save it from garden vandals: marauding rabbits, neighborhood cats, dogs out to bury their bones, moles. Carefully she set her spade, digging into the black earth. Cautiously she lifted the spadeful of earth. Oh, so gently, she placed the precious plant in the pot, making sure that none of its roots was injured. She patted the soil down around the stem, watered it and took it into the house.

            How proud she'd be at the next Garden Club meeting when she showed off her new discovery. How envious the other members would be.

            Wouldn't they wish they'd elected her president instead of that Norma Baldridge? Norma, who couldn't grow a good iris or cabbage if her life depended on it. Well, she would show them. She had never felt that she had received from her fellow club-members the proper respect due a "true" gardener such as herself. They were just like her father and George.

            Edna cleared off a small table and set it in front of the south window in her dining room. This would be an excellent place to put this lovely flower: in the dining room, where everyone who came to visit could see it. She watered it well and gave it a pinch of the best plant food she had.

            For a fleeting moment, she wished George was still alive, just to see this gorgeous creation that had grown in ‘her’ garden. Then he'd have to admit that she was just as good a gardener as he was. Not that he would have, of course. That wouldn't have been George.

            Every once-in-a-while during the day she went to the little table and looked at her flower. It seemed to look back at her. She imagined it saying to her, "You are a wonderful gardener. You have rescued me from a miserable existence among the carrots and onions. I owe you my life, and I shall repay you."

            Repayment? The proper respect from her garden club would be payment enough.

            The next day was her club day, but she wouldn't take The Flower with her. It was too precious to be taken out. Instead, why not invite some of the women to tea on Friday? Yes, and just happen to leave the new flower where they could properly admire it. She wouldn't let on that she had anything special to show them, but when they got there, they'd see.

            Edna sat up late that night, looking at the flower. It made her feel special; gave her confidence. She could have looked at it all night, but that wouldn't get her work done. She knew that she had to go to bed; she had a big day tomorrow.

            The next day, Edna almost decided not to go to the garden club meeting; she'd rather just stay home with her flower. But then she thought about showing it off: the expressions on their faces when they realized just what she had. She did want her friends to see it. She was looking forward to her little tea party. 

            There would be three for tea. Two were friends, Thelma Hanson and Caroline Rogers; the third had to be Norma Baldridge. She especially wanted to see Norma's expression when she saw "The Flower". 

            The women arrived precisely at 4:00. They exchanged greetings, and Edna invited them into the dining room where the table was spread. She had prepared sandwiches, cinnamon cakes and a special blend of tea, but she fully expected her table not to be noticed because her Flower was in that room. 

            The women chattered as they entered the dining room. They exclaimed over the table, and then their attention was drawn toward the little table under the south window.  

            "What an interesting flower," Thelma said. 

            "Where did you find it?"  Norma inquired.

            "Oh, it's my own discovery," Edna admitted, proudly. "I don't think there's another one like it."

            "Well, it's a very lovely flower, Edna.  You should be proud of it. Now, weren't you going to tell us about your granddaughter, Norma?”   Caroline said, turning away from the flower and ignoring it.  

            They all gathered around the table, filling their plates and looking for chairs.

            Edna was astounded. Where was their admiration, their awe? Where was her respect for having this glorious flower in her possession? She didn't understand their reaction, or lack of it, to her Flower. Well, they were obviously not the right people to have shown it to; it was apparent they didn't have the good taste to recognize a true work of nature's art.

            Edna could barely conceal her contempt for them as they chattered away over their cake and tea. She hurried them off, then, with the excuse of a headache, and went back to the dining room. The flower sat there, nodding in the late afternoon sunlight. It didn't seem upset at being ignored by the clubwomen. Indeed, the plant seemed oblivious to the whole episode.

            "I'm sorry,” Edna told it. "I should never have brought common people to see you first. I should have known they'd not appreciate you.  I know; my cousin's son-in-law is a professor at the university. I’m sure he knows someone there who would be interested." 

            Edna called her cousin right away, only to be told that the son-in-law was out of the country on sabbatical and wouldn't be back for months. No, the cousin didn't know anyone at the university who might be interested in seeing her plant. Edna hung up the phone, disappointed. Maybe someone closer to home. No, she couldn't think of anyone important enough, influential enough, to show her prize to.

     She went back to look at her flower, pulling in a comfortable armchair from the living room and placing it in front of the table.  She couldn't get enough of the sight of the strange flower.

Hunger and a need for sleep were what finally drove her away for

the night.

            The next morning, Edna took her breakfast to the same chair. The flower seemed to have grown some overnight. She watered and fed it again. And then just looked.  

     She thought she should perhaps go out and work in her vegetable garden, as she did every day. Reluctantly, she went out the back door and approached the garden. It looked so bleak with nothing but vegetables in it.

            She pulled a weed or two, set the hose to water it, and then gave up.

            She just wasn't in the mood to stay there. She thought about the flower garden in the front yard. Wouldn't it be a good idea to vary her routine this morning and work there first? She walked around the side of the house and looked. It was the nicest flower garden in her neighborhood, but today it seemed washed-out, pale in comparison to The Flower. She didn't feel like working there, either.

            "I hope I'm not getting sick,” she thought to herself.  "I just don't feel like being outside today."

            She went back in, got herself a cup of tea, and resumed her place in the dining room. It was so restful, just looking at the flower. In fact, it was somewhat like a trance, like meditation.

            "I'll just sit here for a few minutes, and then I'll do some housework," she thought.

            A loud noise from outside woke her suddenly.

            "Goodness, I had the strangest dream. Well, I'd better get something done around here.” She looked at the clock and was astonished to find that it was one o'clock.

            "Could I have slept three hours? It seemed like only a few minutes. I do feel better, though."

            Edna puttered around her house for a while, then went back to sit in the chair. She felt drawn to the flower, as if looking at it was the most important thing in the world she could do.

            During the next week Edna spent much of her time in that chair. 

She would get up, eat breakfast, work half-heartedly in her gardens, do some housework, and spend the rest of the day in the armchair.

            Looking at the flower, she seemed to see backwards, into her past, into her past lives, back to the beginning of time. At the same instant, she could see all the lives in her future. How very nice to suddenly become omniscient.

            Over the next few days, she would rouse for food and sleep, but little else. At the beginning of the third week Edna began sleeping in the chair. She started bringing food from the kitchen and setting it on a table by her chair so that she wouldn't have to get up when she got hungry.

            The flower seemed to be thriving under her care. It had grown and was forming buds. Soon there would be several flowers just like it on the same plant. A bigger pot was fast becoming necessary.

            Soon, she had forgotten about everything else. The vegetables were ripening, then going to seed, while the flowers were being strangled out by weeds.

            Edna's neighbors thought something might be wrong because she had never let her yard go like that. Even when she was gone, visiting her daughter, she would hire someone to take care or the gardens and yard.

            They had no idea that she was inside, mesmerized by the strange flower she had found in her vegetable garden.

            Her friends grew concerned about her when she missed the next garden club meeting, but when she didn't answer any phone calls, they decided that she must have gone to her daughter’s and neglected to tell anyone.

# # #

            "Mrs. Hanson, this is Margaret McAlester, Edna Conrad's daughter.  I can't seem to get hold of Mother. I've tried for several days. I even called Mother's sister, my Aunt Gertrude, and her cousin, as well.  Neither one of them had heard from her, either."

            "Oh, dear. We all thought that she was probably visiting you,” Thelma replied.

            "I don't like this; I don't like this at all. Would you please go by her house and check for me? I'm getting really worried about her.  Call me or tell her to call if she's all right,” Margaret asked. “I'd really appreciate it,".

            "Certainly, dear. I'd be glad to. I'm worried, too."

            Thelma left right away to check on Edna. She found the yard overgrown and the house locked up tight. The mailbox was stuffed with mail, and weeks' worth of newspapers were on the front porch.

            Thelma went back home and called Margaret immediately.

            "I'm sorry, dear, but I think something's wrong. The yard is a mess. The papers and mail haven't been taken in for, it looks like weeks. I couldn't get in because the house is locked, and the shades are drawn, too. All except the one at the dining room window, and I'm too short to see in."

            "Now I’m really worried. Thank you for checking for me. I'll fly in just as soon as I can. I have a key to the house; I'll be able to get in."

            "Margaret, have you thought that there might be foul play involved? I think that you should have a policeman go with you. Why don't you come over here, first, and we'll call the police department,” Thelma suggested.

            The next afternoon Margaret, Thelma and a police officer arrived at Edna's house. They knocked on the door, and, when there was no response, unlocked the door with Margaret's key and entered.

            They found Edna in the chair in the dining room. She appeared to be looking at the flower, which had grown considerably since it had first been dug up from the garden, but which was now beginning to wither. Edna seemed withered, too, and much older than the last time Thelma had seen her. She had obviously been dead for at least a week, yet she still sat in her favorite armchair.

            After the medical examiner had been there, and Edna's body had been taken away, Margaret at last looked at what apparently had held her mother's attention for so long. She went to the table under the south window in the dining room and looked at the flower.

“What a curious looking flower,” she thought. She had never seen one like it before. Margaret sat down without thinking in the chair so recently vacated by her mother. As she looked at it, the withering flower seemed to come back to life. Its petals became once again healthy and straight.

            "What a beautiful flower," Margaret thought. "How perfect in every way. I can't leave it here; I must take it home with me and care for it."

            The flower seemed to say to her, "Please take me with you. Don't leave me here to die. Take care of me and I will repay you."          

The End

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