Susan P. Sinor
Edna looked out her kitchen window, mentally listing the
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
# # #
"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
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
"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
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
“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
"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."