Monday, September 29, 2008

Charity's Shadow -- Part I

Hello! I have a new story for you to enjoy. This one is a little longer than most, so I have to break it up into small pieces. I originally intended for this to be a play, and I might yet convert it, but once I started developing the story, it took an unexpected turn and is no longer a practical play. Mostly because I wrote into the story a scene at the beach--and I would not be comfortable sitting in a play with a beach scene, for obvious reasons. I originally intended for this story to be set entirely in a flower shop, but I got distracted and my story got out of hand! Well, if I convert it, it will be returned to the flower shop in it's entirety. I now present to you the first part of Charity's Shadow:

Charity’s Shadow
A young lady glided among the plants and balloons lining the walls of the flower shop. Her fingers tenderly brushed along the petals of a rose and paused while she leaned forward and sniffed gently,savoring the fragrance. Though she looked at the flowers in the case, she saw romance and love. She smiled warmly and almost seemed to curtsy as she regretfully made her way to the door and into the street.

The elderly woman sweeping the sidewalk glanced at her and frowned. “Charity, you’ll be late for work again if you don’t mind the time.”

“Oh, Edna, you’re so sweet to worry about me.”

“Nonsense, child. Now run along. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

With that, Charity turned and made her way down the sidewalk and around the corner. Edna, long familiar with this ritual, now turned to witness the final act of the play. A young man, unaware of Edna’s gaze, was staring wistfully after Charity’s shadow as she walked into the sunrise around the corner. For months, the young man watched Charity, but never developed the courage to chance meeting her. So he watched from the safety of his window, secure in knowing that he would never have to face this unnamed beauty.

While the boy watched the girl, Edna watched the boy with an understanding in her heart. She herself had once walked through fields of flowers in search of the very thing that surrounded her. But, Edna decided, this time it will be different.

The young man straightened himself from the window and grabbed his jacket. “I’m going to leave now, Mom.”

A tight faced, narrow eyed woman leaned through the bathroom door and spoke over her cigarette. “Benny, don’t you leave without kissing your mother.”

Ben sighed and walked across the room. “It’s Ben, Mom. My name is Ben.”
“But you’ll always be Little Benny to me.”

Ben resigned, pecked his mother’s cheek, and disappeared through the door. “Don’t be late, Benny!” She shouted after him. “Dinner is at six."  She blew smoke into the air.  "Sharp.”

“Bye Mom,” he shouted over his shoulder as the door shut behind him.

Once out in the street, Ben stopped and breathed deeply, as if the air outside was more meaningful than the air in his apartment. He crossed the street and stepped over the broom lying in front of the flower shop. Thinking it odd that Edna would leave her broom on the sidewalk, he retrieved it and leaned it against the window. He glanced through the large glass window and saw that Edna lay on the floor just inside the door. He hesitated, unsure of what to do, and then cautiously opened the door. “Ma’am?” he called. “Miss Edna? Are you okay?”

Edna stirred on the floor and glanced at Ben as he reached a hand toward her. She grasped his hand firmly and sat up. “Oh my. I must have fallen.”

He was fighting to restrain panic. “Well? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, really. Could you help me to my feet?”

He nodded kindly and lifted her by her hands. “My, you’re a strong one,” she said.

“Well, I, uh…” Ben had no idea how to respond. “Thank you. Are you okay?” he repeated and let go of her firm grip. Edna seemed to wobble for a moment and then started to lean forward.

Ben steadied her. “Why don’t you sit down for a moment?”

“You’re nice,” she observed. “And caring, also.”

“I’d better call an ambulance,” Ben offered.

“That won’t be necessary, I only tripped.” Then her face squirmed in pain. “I think I twisted my ankle.”

“It’s a good thing you’re sitting down. Does it hurt?”

“And compassionate,” she noted.

“I beg your pardon?”

“And polite.”

Ben looked confused.

Edna smiled warmly. “Don’t mind me. I’m only an old woman who talks to herself. What is your name?”

“Ben Greene.”

“Oh, yes. I knew Beulah Greene, who lived just a block down the street.”

“That’s my mother, Ma'am.”

“Please call me Edna.”

“Okay.” He hesitated. “Hi, Edna.” He glanced out the window. “If you’re okay, then I’ll be on my way.”

“Oh? Where are you off to?”

“I have to go to the pharmacy. Then I need to go by the Workforce Commission.”

She put her hand on his arm. “Dear boy, did you get fired?”

His face turned red. “No, nothing like that. But, I did get laid off from my last job. I have a job coming in a few weeks at the museum, but it won’t start and I need something to tide me over for a few days.”

Her eyes brightened. “So, you’re looking for work?”

He glanced at the floor. “Yes, ma’am. Sort of. Well, temporary work.”

“What a stroke of luck. I need to hire some help. How about it?”

His eyes narrowed in thought. “In a flower shop?”

“Is there something wrong with a flower shop?”

His face flushed crimson. “No!” He responded, too quickly. “It’s just that I don’t know anything about plants or flowers or…” he glanced around. “Balloons.”

“Well, I’ll teach you.”

He hesitated. “About flowers?”

She nodded. “Of course about flowers. But what I really need, is someone to make deliveries for me.” She looked at her legs. “I’m getting too old to run all over the block and make my deliveries. My old feet swell and I shouldn’t get too far from the shop.”

“Oh.” He didn’t know what to say. Finally, he settled on, “So, how much does the job pay?”

Now Edna frowned. “I haven’t thought of that.” She shook her head as if disagreeing with herself. “Never mind. How much should I pay?”

“Well, my last job was for twelve dollars an hour.”

Her eyes grew large. “Twelve dollars?” Again she shook her head. “And there are some things that are worth more than money. It’s a deal. You’ll just have to get it done quickly.”

“Get what done?”

“What you have to do.” She pressed imaginary wrinkles from her apron. “Do you have a girlfriend?”

He was startled. “Does it matter?”

“Of course not.” A silly laugh escaped her while she watched his quizzical expression. “Well?”

“Well, what?”

“Don’t be coy with me. Do you have a girlfriend?”

He gazed out the window as if he could still see Charity’s shadow. “No, I’m afraid not.”

“Good! Now, can you start in the morning?”

He shrugged. “I suppose I can.”

“Great. I’ll see you at seven o’clock.”

He frowned. “But I can’t be here until eight.”

“Eight?” Now Edna was frowning. “That won’t do at all. You must be here before eight for it to work.”

His eyes narrowed and his forehead wrinkled. “For what to work?”

She smirked. “For work to work. What else could I mean?”

“I’m not certain.”

“Then you must be here earlier than eight.”

He hesitated. “Well, it’s just that I—can’t leave my mother before eight. She needs me to help with the house.”

“Oh! You also wash windows?”

His lips pursed together. “I can, if you need me to.”

“What? These windows?” She pointed. “Don’t worry about these windows. I’ll take care of them. What about dishes?”


“You said you helped your mother with the house. Do you wash dishes?”

“Uh…” He glanced at his watch. “I have an appointment with the Workforce Commission for my scheduled job search. I need to be going.”

“You don’t need to go there. You have a job, right here with me.”

Ben frowned. “Well, I… I don’t know much about washing dishes at a flower shop.”

“Whatever are you talking about, Ben? We don’t wash dishes here.”

“But you said…”

“I said nothing about such things. You’re the one who said you washed dishes.”

“But I didn’t say that. I said I helped my mom with the house.”

“Of course that’s what you said."  She smiled and placed a gentle hand on his cheek.  "You will work out just fine.”

He was concerned. “Miss Edna, are you certain you’re feeling well? Did you hit your head when you fell?”

“Now don’t worry about me. You just be here before eight o’clock in the morning.”

He gazed wantonly toward the long gone shadow. “It’s just that… I can’t leave before eight. I have to meet a friend.”

“Oh, I know!”

“You do?”

“Never mind that. You just show up before eight and I promise that everything will work out.” When he hesitated she responded. “Trust an old lady. I know what I’m doing.”

“Well, I don’t know…”

“Listen to me, Ben. I need you to be here at seven o'clock. For things to work out, you must be here early.”

“What needs to work out?”

“Dear me. You worry about the details, don’t you?”

“I’m confused. I thought you said something about…”

Edna stopped him short. “Ben, I need you here early. We have stems to cut and leaves to pull, and it all must be done before eight. If we get it done early, then you can take a break around eight and go tend to your mother.”

“Tend to my mother?”

“I’m beginning to think you’re a scatter brained boy. You said your mother needs your help in the morning.”

“I did? I did, didn’t I? Well, if you need me here at seven, then I’ll be here at seven. Good bye, now.”

Tune in later for the next installment!


Alison Bryant said...

I have a love/hate relationship with your stories that come in installments. Love them because they're entertaining; hate them because we have to wait! I guess people listening to old radio shows endured this hardship.

So far Edna reminds me of a kindly, deeper version of Mrs. Bennett. I also like the quick volleying of the dialogue; it's like a new version of "Who's on First?"
Don't make us wait too long for the next part.

Travis said...

Now that you mention it, I can see the similarities between Edna and Mrs. Bennett.