Once upon a time, in the small village of Hopedale, in the land of Worcester, there lived a talented lady who loved to spread the joy of flowers to all that stepped upon the footing below where she hung her shingle. She was a pleasant soul with friends and family, near and far. She was a good neighbor, a pillar of the community, a supporter of the arts and recreational events. She loved gatherings on the Town Common, and opportunities to socialize and share in the cheer of the seasons.
But, one winter, a grumpy old man approached her with a blustery tone and a fierce disposition. He hated flowers and the happiness they brought to people. He carried a monstrous dark cloud over his very being. He was extremely cold to all the people of Hopedale. But, he was especially harsh to the florist.
Then one day, the florist noticed that the old man hadn’t been seen in a while. The townspeople all seemed to be happier in his absence, but the florist’s caring nature had her a bit concerned for the old man. Another day passed, and still, there was no old man.
Very worried, the florist bundled together some flowers and went to where she knew the man lived. It was a rickety old mansion that hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint in decades. The windows were half frosted over and the chimney showed the faintest stream of smoke. The darkest cloud in the sky hovered directly above.
The florist stepped onto the porch, nearly falling through a couple of freshly broken planks. She reached for the lion-head door knocker and gave it a couple of taps. There was no response, so she knocked the lion-head even harder. Then she heard a faint grumbling. She yelled into the house to see if the man was alright.
“Dear sir, may I come in to see you?” she asked.
There was no answer, just silence except for the howling of the frigid wind. She turned the knob on the front door to see if it was unlocked. It was. As she slowly opened the door, a loud creaking noise was heard. Then, much to her surprise, she saw the old man sprawled out on the floor, shivering and a tear in his pant leg. She set the flowers on a nearby table and quickly tended to his needs.
Weak, he still tried to resist any assistance, but the florist insisted. It didn’t take long for him to accept the gracious gesture as she found a first aid kit in the bathroom and started to wrap the gash on his leg. Once he was stable and comfortable in a recliner, she grabbed him a glass of water and another for the flowers she brought. As he sipped down the refreshing water, she placed the flowers in the other glass and placed them on the living room table in front of his recliner.
“Sir, are you comfortable?” she asked. He nodded positively, but without saying a word.
Then she tended to his fireplace which was faintly smoldering. There was kindling and a few small pieces of wood that would help get it back up to a roar and bring heat back to the frigid home. As she walked back towards the old man, she saw a blanket on the couch which she grabbed and placed over him.
“Do you have anyone that can help you while your leg heals?” she asked.
“I don’t need any help!” he barked.
“I refuse to accept that.” she said in a gentle reply. “I’m going to help you.”
The old man grumbled, but didn’t say a word.
Every day for the next week, the florist stopped by in the morning and made the man breakfast and made sure the fire was maintained. After she closed her business for the day, she’d stop by to make him dinner, tended to the fire, and added another small batch of flowers. She also made sure he got on his feet and walked around the inside of the house to strengthen his healing leg. Their conversations were always brief.
Then something amazing happened. The florist was about to have lunch in her shop when the bell rang at the entrance indicating a customer had entered. As the florist went to greet this individual, she noticed that it was the old man. He had managed to shave, shower, and put on a clean navy blue suit with tie.
“Good afternoon, madam,” he said.
“Good afternoon, sir,” she replied. “You look quite dapper,” she continued.
“Thank you,” he replied with just of a smile appearing on his face under his rosy cheeks.
“I’m glad to see you up and about,” said the florist.
“Well, I’m here on business,” he said.
“Oh, really!” she said in shock.
“Yes, madam, I need to order flowers for a kind friend of mine,” he continued.
With a very puzzled look on her face, as she didn’t think the old man had a friend in the world, she said – “Let’s see what we can do to help.”
“I’m not very good with these things, perhaps you can create an arrangement like one of those you put in my house,” he said.
“Okay,” the florist replied.
She worked her magic and arranged a gorgeous array of flowers in a wicker hand basket.
“That is quite stunning, I think she’ll love them!” said the man.
He paid her for the flowers, grabbed the basket, and started to walk toward the door. She walked along side him. With his hands full with flowers, the florist went to grab the door for him. That’s when he turned to her and said, “These are for you, madam.”
“What do you m…” she tried to speak, but he stopped her.
“Madam, you have treated me - a tired, cranky and cold man with warmth and kindness. You helped me even though I never had a kind word for you. You always smiled at me even when I was mean to you. I want you to enjoy these flowers the way others enjoy flowers when you send them along. The flowers you placed in my home lifted my spirits and allowed me to remember the good times when my loving wife was still alive. Thank you for bringing a beacon of happiness to my life and to those in this community.”
The florist was absolutely shocked by what the man had to say. She was so taken by his gesture and his words that tears of joy ran down her cheeks.
“You’re a happy soul and everyone can see that you do what you love,” he said. “Oh, and my name is William.”
“William, my name is Elsie. Thank you for the flowers. Nobody has ever given me flowers.”
After this very special day, William stopped by to say hello to Elsie at least once a week and a great friendship grew. The townspeople recognized that William was a much happier man and was warmly acknowledged at community events that he never missed after that day he walked into the flower shop.
The spirit of Hopedale was bright again and everyone lived happily ever after.
Robert Stanhope started creative writing during his Junior year of high school. In his twenties, he became a motorsports journalist and was published in a number of local, regional, and national trade publications. Now in his early 40s, Bob has returned to creatively writing, including embarking on his first novel, The Last Lie.