the short story project


G.G. Hamilton

French Flowers

Todd stared at the bouquet of flowers. His mind was somewhere else, leaving a shell behind on the sidewalk.
The boutique clerk got up from his stool and stood beside Todd.
“Pansies,” the clerk said.
Todd’s conscious rushed back to him. His eyes widened and he took a step back.
“Excuse me?” Said Todd.
The clerk pointed to the bouquet, “Pansies, that’s their name. I could already tell you were going to ask me what the name of these flowers were. You were going to turn to me and say, ‘Hey! What are these?’ And I’d say, ‘Pansies,’ because that’s their name. Those flowers are named pansies.”
“Oh. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. You considering buying them?”
“Considering it.”
“Let me tell you, they’re a good buy: real cheap, easy to maintain, and chock-full of colour.”
“Yes, I can see that. A lot of colours.”
The clerk snatched the bouquet and took it inside his boutique.
“Look,” he said, “I’ll wrap these up for you right now and give them to you for five euro. How’s that sound?”
“Oh, I don’t need them wrapped.”
“It’s free. Plus, makes them look nicer.”
“Okay then. I guess you have a deal.”
The clerk pulled a roll of translucent paper and cut a piece off diagonally.
“For someone special?” he said.
“You could say that.”
“A girlfriend?”
“A love interest, perhaps?”
Todd watched as the clerk wrapped his flowers. Each layer of binding was put on more gentle than the last.
“Care to describe her?” Said the clerk, “If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Oh…” Todd looked into the distance as he gathered his thoughts.
“Porcelain…” he said, “Her skin is like porcelain: smooth, beautiful, dream-like. And her hair… It’s chestnut, and it glows. It really glows.”
The clerk smiled. He had a bright smile.
Todd continued, “Her eyes are this deep green. They’re piercing… Have you ever seen the portrait, Afghan Girl?”
The clerk shook his head.
“Well, you could search for it on the Internet. Piercing green.”
The clerk finished the wrapping and stuck on a red bow.
“She sure sounds like something.” Said the clerk.
“Yes, she’s something.”
The two made their exchange and Todd took the metro home.
The metro was busy. It was Tuesday and it was late in the evening, but it was July. The tourists made the metro busy at all hours of the day during July.
Todd was standing, holding his bouquet of flowers against his chest, being careful not to squish them. A girl standing at his side began talking to him.
“Ce sont de très jolies fleurs,” she said, “Vous avez beaucoup de couleurs. On dirait que vous avez toutes les couleurs dans l’arc-en-ciel.”
“Oh,” said Todd, “Je ne parle pas francais.”
The girl smiled.
“Les fleurs,” she said, pointing to Todd’s bouquet, “C’est un arc-en-ciel.”
She made an arching motion with her finger.
Todd smiled.
“Pour une fille?” said the girl.
Todd paused.
“Oh… Oui.”
The girl smiled at Todd again.
The metro stopped and new passengers flooded aboard. The new passengers pushed themselves between Todd and the girl. Todd felt his bouquet being squished and retreated deeper into the metro car. He looked for the girl, but could no longer see her.
The metro made more stops and more people got off. Todd found a seat and looked through his bouquet for a flower that matched each colour of the rainbow.
When Todd arrived at his apartment, it was dark. He placed his bouquet on a nearby counter, walked to the living room window and withdrew the curtains. Outside the window, Todd had a beautiful view of the Seine River and The Louvre on the opposite side. Hanging on the side of The Louvre was a large banner that seemed to glow. The banner was an advertisement for the latest iPhone, with a picture of a white woman with brown hair. The banner took attention away from the view.
Footsteps entered from another room. Todd closed the window curtains.
“You’re back!” Said Gary, Todd’s roommate.
“I am,” said Todd.
“Great, I wanted to catch you before I left.”
Gary was wearing nice clothes and there was a sheen to his hair from what must have been fresh pomade. His face was clean shaven and his skin looked smooth. It was possible that he was wearing some of Todd’s makeup.
“I’m going out with this French girl I met this morning,” he said. “I told you about her, right? The one from the café?”
“Yeah,” said Todd, “you told me.”
“Great. Well, if I’m not home in the next couple of hours, don’t wait up.”
“I won’t.”
Gary walked to the doorway and noticed the bouquet on the counter.
“Ooh,” he said, “who are these for?”
Todd retreated to the couch.
“No one,” he said.
“Well, they’re nice. They’ll really add some colour to the place.”
Todd was staring at the ceiling.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Where’d you get them?”
“Some boutique.”
“Did the clerk give you a hard time with the price? I hear they try to overcharge people they think are tourists.”
“No,” Todd paused, “he was actually very nice. Gave them to me for a cheap price, too.”
“Bien. Peut-être qu’il pensait que tu étais français?”
“Non,” Todd paused again, “il a commencé la conversation en anglais.”
“Sounds like you got lucky.”
“I guess so.”
Gary leaned over the couch. He was wearing Todd’s make-up.
“Where does your mind go?” He said.
“It just goes.”
Gary laughed. He had a charming laugh.
“Are you going to put the flowers in a vase?”
“I don’t think we have one.”
“Well, are you going to at least put them in water?”
“I will, soon.”
“Okay, I’ve got to head out. I’ll see you later.”
“See you.”
Gary left the apartment.
“Wait!” said Todd.
Gary came back inside.
“What is it?” He said.
“Take them,” said Todd.
“The flowers.”
“The girl will love them.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, a girl actually stopped me on the metro today to talk about them.”
“Sorry, that’s not what I meant. I’m sure she’ll love them, but are you sure you want me to take them?”
“Oh, yeah. I didn’t even plan on buying them. Plus, they were cheap.”
Gary grabbed the bouquet.
“I’ll make sure to pay you back for them.”
“No. Don’t worry about it.”
Gary smiled.
“Thanks, man.”
“You’re welcome.”
Gary left again.
Todd stayed on the couch and let his mind wander. He didn’t notice Gary’s black cat approaching until it jumped onto his chest. Todd’s whole body convulsed as he came back to reality. He grabbed onto the cat and lifted it to his face. The cat stared into Todd with its bright green eyes.

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