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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Flowers (10/03/05)

TITLE: Agnes of Herberville
By Deanna Wessel


Herberville only has 287 residents, and Agnes Richards knows every one of them. She’s 87 years old and has lived in Herberville all of her life. Her house is right next door to the town’s only shopping establishment—The Grocery Stop. So, Agnes sees almost everyone in town on a regular basis, since every family needs bread or milk now and then.

Agnes is the kind of old lady some youngsters try to avoid. She sits out on her porch in her brightly colored dresses and waves to everyone who passes by, calling each by name. She dons a different feathered or beribboned bonnet, vintage 1940-something, on Sunday afternoons as she sings hymns and blows kisses to everyone she sees.

Agnes has three white plastic boxes that used to be attached to the first floor windows of her old frame house. However, Agnes decided long ago that folks would be more blessed if the window boxes were located on the ground at the edge of her yard, right along the sidewalk.

As far back as anyone can remember, Agnes has planted brand new plastic flowers in her sidewalk boxes almost every month. There would be glitter covered poinsettias for Christmas, red roses for Valentine’s Day, and green daisies for St. Patrick’s Day. One year Agnes even had the audacity to stick plastic red, white, and blue zinnias in her sidewalk boxes to celebrate the Fourth of July! How anyone could really believe Agnes’ flowers are real is a mystery. After all, who ever heard of green daisies or red, white, and blue zinnias?

Three years ago this past spring, a great tragedy befell Herberville. Agnes Richards suffered a stroke which left her entire right side motionless. She stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks and then spent another month or so in a rehab facility.

While Agnes was gone, her green daisies lost their fluorescent hue. The sun turned the plastic blossoms into shadows of their former selves, bleached and brittle. Everyone was concerned about Agnes and no one noticed that her beloved flowers were dying.

Agnes came home the first week of June. Her granddaughter, Katie, came to stay with her for a while. Katie would wheel Agnes’ chair out to the porch every afternoon the weather permitted. Agnes would sit and stare, nearly as lifeless as her faded daisies. She seemed not to notice those who passed by, lost in a world of hurt and sadness. Agnes had lost her love of living.

No one is sure who came up with the idea or who was the first to do it, but on the first of July Agnes’ sidewalk boxes overflowed with a fresh batch of brand new red, white, and blue zinnias. They appeared overnight and no one in town was willing to take credit for planting the new crop.

Katie wheeled her grandmother out on the porch that Thursday afternoon and something happened in the old lady’s heart. Her eyes clouded over with long overdue tears. The brightly colored flowers transformed something in Agnes, bringing her back to life.

Nearly every month since, new plastic flowers have magically shown up in Agnes’ sidewalk boxes. And, when Agnes sits on her porch, she raises her wrinkled left hand to wave at everyone who passes by. She shouts an unintelligible “hello” and wears a comical grin since only half her mouth is in working order. The people of Herberville smile and wave hello to Agnes, glad to have their eccentric old friend home once again.

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This article has been read 702 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie Sickler10/10/05
I really enjoyed this. I have a friend who lived in the desert and planted plastic flowers in her yard because real ones wouldn't grow. I liked the good deed in secrecy in the end. Some times secret actions are the biggest blessings to the heart of others. Thanks for this sweet story!
Anita Neuman10/10/05
This is a delightful story! I'd love to know if it's true. Well-one.
Anita Neuman10/10/05
That should be "well-done". Sorry. :-)
B Brenton10/11/05
This was fun and sweet. I really like it. You get a double thumbs up and hope to see this in the editors favourites (hint, hint Deb :) ) I will remember this story for days to come (which is a good thing, trust me).
Katherine Douglas10/11/05
Great story!....It gives me a new appreciation for plastic flowers planted in the dirt. I never could understand why anyone would do that. Now everytime I see that I will think of this lovely heartwarming tale.
Cassie Memmer10/11/05
I enjoyed your story. It was a pleasure to read. Thanks!
Jeffrey Snell10/12/05
Wow--terrific job! You've managed to paint quite a vivid picture of Agnes and her community. Excellent job injecting just the right amount of emotion without it becoming maudlin.
Garnet Miller 10/12/05
This story is very heartwarming. It's nice when people pull together to help someone other than themselves.
Alexandra Wilkin10/13/05
A wonderful portrait of how a lovely lady, and a great story of how one person can touch the lives of a whole community. Holds the reader very well, God bless.
Julianne Jones10/13/05
What a sweet story. An enjoyable read. Well done.
Phyllis Inniss10/17/05
A truly enjoyable entry. You've managed to show love and appreciation in this well-written stroy.
Deborah Porter 10/17/05
Deanna, this was lovely and I wanted to let you know that you ranked 8th in the Level 1 listings, which really is very good. You also ranked 29th overall - that's out of a total of 145 entries, so I think you really do deserve a pat on the back.

I really loved this story - it was delightful, and you painted the small town and Agnes on her porch beautifully. The only thing that let it down - slightly - was that the flow was a tiny bit stilted in parts, and you used Agnes' name a little too often. Try to think of alternatives instead. But really, these were relatively minor things. I know we're going to see a lot of wonderful things from you in the future. Keep up the great work.

With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)