This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of two of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man and Becomes God’s Silent Prophet.
The man picked a flower.
The man stood on the road and picked a flower. The flower was a yellow flower. A yellow flower that grew alone along the side of the road. Grew alone along the side of the road opposite the side of the road where a large patch of yellow flowers grew together.
The man picked the flower, the yellow flower.
The man examined the yellow flower. It was still yellow after he picked it.
The man tried to remember the last time he had picked a yellow flower. He tried to remember the last time he had picked a flower at all. But he could not remember.
The man held the yellow flower by the brown stem and thought about his wife. The man thought about the other beautiful woman who had become his wife long ago, and he tried to think how much she would like to have a fresh-picked, wild, yellow flower from him and not the standard bunches of red flowers he sometimes bought for her on special occasions.
The man thought about how much his wife would like to receive a flower—any color flower—for no special reason. No special occasion. No special occasion other than wanting to share his love for her through the gift of this yellow flower. This yellow flower with the brown stem. This yellow flower that had grown alone along the side of the road opposite the side of the road where all the other yellow flowers grew together.
The man walked down the road. The man walked down the road past other flowers. Red flowers. Blue flowers. Other yellow flowers. Green flowers. Red flowers with green stems. Blue flowers with orange stems. Yellow flowers with purple stems. The green flowers all had green stems. The man saw no more yellow flowers with brown stems.
The man wondered how long flower season would last in the land to the north, the land of snow and ice. The man could not imagine the flower season lasting very long, but the first autumn snowfall had already come and gone and the flowers still grew along the roads as brilliantly as they had earlier in the year.
The man was grateful for the return of good weather. The sun shone as warmly as in the summer, and the dust of the road coated his sandals. But the snow would return soon and return for the remainder of the year and well into the next.
The man held the flower, the yellow flower, and counted its petals. He counted twenty-one. He calculated whether that would mean she loved him or not, and then he realized it all depended on which one he started with, and then he remembered it did not matter which one he started with because he had never been very good at playing she loves me she loves me not with flowers because he always missed at least one or two petals along the way, and that was enough to defeat any kind of arithmetic guarantee for the answer he wanted.
So the man played she loves me she loves me not with the flower, the yellow flower. But he did not play it by plucking petals. He did not like dismembering flowers, especially yellow flowers, so he touched each petal without plucking, and he alternated she loves me and she loves me not. He started with she loves me, and he ended with she loves me. He knew that he had skipped one or three, maybe five but probably not seven or more. He realized then why people pluck the petals when they play she loves me she loves me not. It would be harder to skip a petal; or rather, it would be easier to see when he skipped a petal if he plucked rather than pointed at each petal. But the man knew he was just as likely to mix up the count if he plucked instead of pointed at each petal, and being reluctant to dismember any flower—and especially a yellow flower—the man played again by pointing at the petals rather than plucking them.
The man started with she loves me not and ended with she loves me.
The man was not sure if he had skipped two or four, but probably not six or more. Maybe he had not skipped any. He had no way to verify his own count.
The man realized he might have miscounted the petals to begin with, so he counted again and found twenty-one again. He repeated his count and came up with twenty-one yet again. The man was confident the flower had twenty-one petals.
The man played again. He started with she loves me and ended with she loves me.
The man began to wonder if the flower, the yellow flower, might be telling him something about how his wife felt about him.
Then the man wondered if he was somehow telling himself something about how his wife felt about him.
Then the man decided no one and nothing was telling him anything about what anyone felt about him. He was simply playing a child’s game and contemplating frivolous ideas as he walked down the dusty road surrounded by colorful flowers in the warm summer-like air of early autumn in the land to the north, the land of snow and ice.
The man played again and again, but each time, no matter how he started, he ended on she loves me. He wanted to play until he came up with she loves me not, but by then the sun was setting and he realized that his walk might end before he came up with she loves me not.
So the man picked a weed that grew among a patch of blue flowers with orange stems, and he played by plucking the petal-like appendages of the weed. He had no problem plucking weeds. He ended with she loves me not. But he immediately dismissed this as a statement about the weed, not about him, and certainly not about his wife.
So the man continued to walk down the road, the dusty road, with the flower, the yellow flower.
The man wondered how long the flower would last in a container of water in the place where the man and his wife ate their food. That was the place where his wife liked to keep the red flowers that the man bought her on special occasions. The man knew she would keep the flower, the yellow flower, in the same container, in the same place, even though it was not a special occasion. The man hoped the flower would last longer in the container of water in the place where the man and his wife ate their food than it would have lasted by the side of the road with the long, cold, winter weather coming soon.
The man smelled the flower. He smelled the yellow flower. The man smelled the yellow flower and found that it smelled the same as all flowers he had ever smelled. The man thought something was wrong with him for not being able to distinguish smells from different flowers.
As the sky darkened, a law enforcer approached the man. A law enforcer approached the man from behind along the long, dusty road. The law enforcer overtook the man and made him stop.
The man held up the flower, the yellow flower, and he showed it to the law enforcer. The man said it was a flower.
The law enforcer said it was a nice flower.
The man said he had picked it where it grew alone along the road about two hours ago. The man asked if it was against the law to pick flowers along the road in the land to the north, the land of snow and ice.
The law enforcer said only on private property.
The man asked if it had been on private property.
The law enforcer said she did not know. She asked how she could know as she hadn’t been there.
The man asked why the law enforcer had stopped him then.
The law enforcer said because his wife was worried about him. She was worried about him and his long walks in the land to the north, the land of snow and ice.
The man asked why she would be worried about that. He said he had never had problems before on his long walks in the land to the north, the land of snow and ice.
The law enforcer said because it was cold and icy and winter had set in long ago, and the man was dressed for summer.
The man said he could work hard all day in any weather, and he said he could walk hard all day in any weather.
The law enforcer said the man and his wife had fought and the man and his wife had both said hard things they probably regretted.
The man did not say anything.
The law enforcer asked the man where he was walking to anyway.
The man said he did not know, he said he was just walking.
The law enforcer said the man’s wife missed him and she had said it was time to put the past behind them and she wanted him to come home now.
The man asked the law enforcer if she thought his wife would like the flower.
The law enforcer said very much.
The man asked if she was sure it was okay for him to go home.
The law enforcer said yes.
The man asked how she knew.
The law enforcer said the man’s wife had said she loved him.
The man rode with the law enforcer all the way back to the place where he lived with his wife in the land to the north, the land of snow and ice. His wife who had been the other beautiful woman but was now his wife, although she was still a beautiful woman. The man rode with the law enforcer through the snow and ice and through the cold landscape devoid of any color. He rode with the law enforcer back to the place where he lived with his wife.
The yellow flower no longer existed.
The man thought about his wife, and before they arrived at the place where he lived with his wife, the man told the law enforcer she loves me.
Try Becomes the Happy Man and Becomes God’s Silent Prophet.