Spotless

Prompt: Elaborate


Greetings, Wednesday!

I need to feed the roses today. They provide us with an elaborate show all summer long– not a detailed or complex show, but an ornate one in red and yellow and pink.

There’s not much more satisfying than taking to the rose bushes with a wide-brimmed straw sun hat and some good sharp secateurs, while waiting for Miss Marple to stop by and ask you, over the fence, if you noticed any strange comings and goings from the Winthrop residence across the road.

“Why, I noticed Mr Winthrop arriving home rather early, looking somewhat flustered.”

“Are you sure it was Mister Winthrop?”

And so goes the story: Distant, pastoral England in the summer, roses, straw hats, murder, and cross-dressing.

The first of my favourite cartoons this fine Wednesday is related to today’s prompt, “elaborate”, and the others have precisely nothing to do with it. Enjoy!

cartoon tattoo at party

cartoon clean underwear

cartoon mormon literature


Peace and gardening,

~~FP

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Unsaid

Prompt: Abide

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Abide with me,
Fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens,
Lord, with me abide

Now that Jerry Plankton had become comfortable with the old pipe organ in the church, he preferred it for many of the hymns he was asked to play, like Abide with Me, a 19th century classic specifically requested for the funeral of Louisa Perez by her son, Dominic.

The score key was E flat major, which was not difficult, but Jerry couldn’t really hear while he played if the congregation was comfortable enough with the key to sing along. He played with great flourish, even though it was a solemn occasion deserving of calm respect. No one could really see him up in the organ loft, and he liked to move to the music as he played and pumped the pedals.

The mourners were few, despite the fact that Ms Perez, in her heyday, had been a very famous, exquisitely beautiful young Hispanic actress, with a television program that revolved about her fiery personality and expressive eyes. The series was broadcast in Spanish-speaking states throughout the world.

Yet there were perhaps a dozen people populating the polished, maplewood pews, scattered like random pebbles on a beach; silent, heads bowed, handkerchiefs brought to distraught faces.

Dominic sat alone in the front pew, staring at the coffin and the framed picture of his mother. It looked like a publicity photo from the television studio under which she was contracted. Black and white, but showing a woman full of life and sparkle. Red roses billowed and cascaded down the coffin.

Partway through the service, two young men came and sat behind Dominic. One came from the back of the church, the other from across the aisle. They met, quietly acknowledged on another, then after each silently greeted him with a brief hand on his shoulder, they took their seats.

Jerry wondered if the service was comforting to the boy. It had never been the kind of service that comforted Jerry, but then Jerry thought everything Father Hector said was a lie, and that the hymns were full of false hope and deception.

He knew Dominic had no money for the casket or flowers or sandwiches, and that Father Hector had discreetly petitioned some of the regular congregation for support. Jerry chipped in twenty dollars. He knew what it was like to lose someone, and feel like the loss was the end of your own life.

When other helpers
Fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless,
O abide with me

After the service, Jerry did something he had never done before. He made his way down to the main floor, where mourners were migrating towards the staircase leading down to the modest reception. He joined the silent procession.

He spoke to Dominic, shook his hand. He spoke to the two young men who had moved to be near him. One was named Dennis, who said he was an old friend of the family, the other was Xavier, who didn’t know the family personally, but loved and admired Louisa Perez, who was on the television screen every day when he was a small child. Both lads seemed nice enough.

Jerry Plankton ate half an egg sandwich, and passed potato chips to young Xavier, who looked of an age when no amount of food was enough.

When Dominic suddenly looked so frail that he might faint, Jerry alerted Sister Bernice, who went to his side and took him in her arms; what Jerry called the big nun hug. He remembered those from his youth, along with the nun discipline, which was less welcome.

When the sandwiches and potato chips and peanut butter cookies were gone, Dominic and everyone else slowly drifted away. Jerry stayed to help clean up.

Sister Bernice washed the sturdy white serving platters and the coffee mugs, while Jerry dried and put each away in a cupboard in the church kitchen. 

“Nice of you to come downstairs,” she said. “And unlike you.”

“He seemed a nice young man,” said Jerry. “Such a loss for the boy, you know? But so few people to share the grief.” Unsaid: When God fails, who will be present to provide comfort; if not me, who?

“And you know what that feels like,” said Sister Bernice.

“I do indeed,” said Jerry.

The Gardener

Prompt: Green

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Jerry Plankton was pulling up his lawn– again, the second time in as many years. Technically, he’d hired Lloyd to do it, and Lloyd was actually, begrudgingly pulling up the existing green mat, a task that was taking much longer than he anticipated, as he hadn’t expected super glue-like adhesion to the ground. The rolls of sod he had planned to lay after lunch languished in the trailer he towed behind his red F250, and one of his guys put a hose on them every so often, so they wouldn’t completely dry out or die out in this unseasonable heat.

Ms Roades, Jerry’s new next door neighbour, came out to observe for a few minutes, and chat with him about the warm, late summer weather. Her full name was Lily-Rose Roades, which Jerry thought had a nice ring to it. She was the new teacher at the high school, quite young, unmarried, and perfect for the tiny starter home next to Jerry’s sprawling ranch house. She had a cat, Friendly, who was not, and who peed on and pooped beside Jerry’s beloved roses. But that wasn’t Ms Roades’ fault.

She didn’t say anything about his roses, despite the fact that they had been talked about up and down the block, and should have been talked about. Nor did she mention his shasta daisies, feathers of astilbe, or the impatiens, larkspur and nicotiana that filled in the front garden. His famous throughout the town, his White and Blue garden, was now a travesty.

He was seventy-two years old. Lately the perfect lawn had been hard to maintain and water. When he was younger he loved to get the hose out and leisurely water the grass and plants after supper, when the air was soft and cool and quiet. But it became problematic to stand on his feet for any length of time, and to bend over to dig out the dandelions, and to run his hand mower over the lawn every five days. But how could he part with the green grass that framed his white roses so exquisitely?

Enter Super Green Grass-X Ultra Titanium. His natural, blotchy green lawn was replaced with this state-of-the-art artificial lawn, which, to be honest, really did look real, for awhile. It wasn’t bright green, or lime green– it was a dark, earthy green that the salesman, Alvin McCartney, dared anyone to tell was not the real thing, from a distance.

Until the hot spell. The blades of artificial grass seemed to fuse together, and form spikes that were painful to walk on in bare feet, and what was worse, the lawn turned varying shades of yellow and a strange, ashy brown. Jerry called Alvin, upset and distressed, but Alvin had the solution. And he wouldn’t even charge Jerry for the labour, just for the paint.

Alvin’s team of spray painters arrived early one Friday morning, and were almost done by the time Jerry came out with a cup of coffee in hand, just as Ms Roades was getting into her car to go to work. They waved. Jerry thought the new green colour was fine. He was relieved Alvin had solved the problem so painlessly, and the spray paint wasn’t even that expensive.

“Don’t walk on it,” one of the sprayers told him as they packed up their gear. “It takes a while to dry.”

In fact, it did not dry. Clouds rolled in from the south, dark and flat, and a deluge followed. Jerry, despondent, looked out the window as the green tint washed away, leaving the yellow and brown spikes to be pummelled with rain.

Less than a week later the heat returned, and his roses, white astilbe, nicotiana, impatiens, shasta daisies and larkspur bloomed in a colour Jerry had never seen before. Was it the colour of alien vomit? It was a bright, lemony green, mottled with darker green.

His precious showpiece became a Blue and Alien Vomit garden. Unique, to be sure, but not what Jerry had in mind. Ever. The neighbours were curious, and took pictures. Linney Sitwell, who couldn’t grow yarrow in a barrel, snickered every time he walked by. Jerry kept his cool. He never knew when Ms Roades might be looking out the window, or picking her tomatoes from the containers on the front porch. He didn’t want her to think he was ill-tempered.

Jerry waited as long as he could before pruning all the flowers back. He wasn’t sure what colour they would bloom the next time. He didn’t know how pernicious the green dye would be. He would have to be patient.

Jerry decided not to call Alvin McCartney and tell him what happened, nor did he dispute the bill for the green spray paint. Life was too short. He called Lloyd, Dennis Keeley’s boy, who ran a small lawn maintenance company, to pull out the plastic grass and lay some new sod.

Even though it grew dark, Lloyd did Jerry a favour by not leaving until all the sod was down and he had helped Jerry set up some sprinklers to shower the grass with water overnight. He did not charge overtime.

Lloyd wanted to install a sprinkler system for Jerry, in addition to the lawn-cutting service Jerry hired him for. It seemed the logical thing, but Jerry decided against it.

On soft, warm evenings after supper, Jerry sat in a white plastic lawn chair with his garden hose, spraying his new lawn and all the roses and flowers, and the oregano plant which volunteered in the corner by the hedge.

Ms Roades liked to water her tomatoes and herb garden in the evening, just before dark. They had conversations. Sometimes they had a cup of decaf coffee, or a glass of white wine. Except for the cat, Friendly, Jerry Plankton was pretty happy that Ms Roades had moved next door.