A Pot of Yellow Chrysanthemums

She poked her right lobe with a one-inch wide, thin 14 karat gold hoop, unconsciously slamming the shiny wood grain box closed. Bending down to grab her black patent heels, she stopped herself from almost knocking the sliding closet door off its track. A last look in the mirror reflected the obvious.

 

Ruby checked the contents of her black leather bag again. Will she be late? Yes. No. Yes! Then there’s time to put away last night’s dishes: an octagonal off-white dinner plate well known for its Braille-like white design; a Waterford wineglass, a Colleen, in voice and pattern; and the generic mug silently sermonizing about the rewards of friendship, which she had sipped from while finishing up the last few pages of Love Story into the early morning hours.

 

Now, standing in front of the bay window, looking over the withering brown lawn, her nostrils flared like the horse who came in last the week before at Belmont. She looked down at her nails. Red polish overlapped the cuticles and she picked at them until the last unwanted piece landed onto the beige carpet, leaving behind a small splattering of plastic blood at her feet. She glanced at her watch then walked into the kitchen and stared down at the microwave until it gained a minute. There was a clock in the bedroom striking the hour early.

 

“I could use a cigarette right about now,” she thought out loud. But she didn’t smoke, anymore, only when she was – – well, hardly ever “still, I sure could use one now.” Her usually wide-open blue eyes squinted as she glanced over at a small picture frame resting on the coffee table.  She walked over and picked it up.  She quickly put it back down, accidentally scratching the highly polished surface.  She looked at her watch again. “Not yet,” she encouraged herself, “not yet.”

 

She went from room to room straightening up crooked cushions, dusting dirty spaces, and picking up at least ten pieces of assorted colors of lint from the beige carpeting throughout the house.

 

He was early for a change. He didn’t know why she had been watching, looking out from behind the corner of the bay window’s beige drapes.  Several particles of dust spiraled upward, tickling her nose, captured for an instant by the sparkling of the late afternoon sun’s rays. He sat there, looking at the house.  He gripped the steering wheel with both hands yet the motor was silent.  Carefully she moved into the background, maintaining her invisibility. His knuckles glared white. Paralysis set in. He finally flexed his fingers, each crack of the knuckle resounding in the car’s silence, so loud he wondered if she could hear the racket. Inside, she took out a dust cloth and meticulously dug out several years of lint clinging to intricate corners of delicately designed dark oriental carvings hanging in the dining room, carefully shielding a red fingernail in the soft flannel. She couldn’t resist stealing a glance in the bay’s direction, but he was out of range now.  An antique clock chimed fifteen minutes past the meeting hour. She stopped abruptly and put the cloth away.

 

She walked back into the bedroom. She smoothed imaginary wrinkles out of the one-way glass reflection.  The red pale afternoon yellow sun peaking in the window highlighted one solitary blonde hair out of place. Quickly she pushed it back in line with the others.

 

“That should do it,” she said out loud.  She had finally made up her mind to tell him. “Might as well tell him,” she mumbled as she wiped away a guilty tear and moved toward the screen door. It was time. He knew it. She knew it.  The time had finally come. Her hand grabbed the cool metallic handle as she pulled hard. The door stopped short in his face.

 

He almost dropped the flowerpot of six yellow chrysanthemums. There they stood. Seven little faces and only one wearing the dearest smile she had ever seen.

 

Copyright 1984

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