Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Flowers (10/03/05)
TITLE: Too Late to Say?
By Donnah Cole
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Tucker and Connor jumped.
"Uhhhh...we, uhhhh...hit our baseball in here, Mister."
"Pffft. Hurry up and git out of here. Don't you see the tractors over there? If they make it over here before you find that ball, why...you'll be chopped up with the <I>silage</I>." The farmer spat at a stalk.
"Sure, mister." The boys began to push their way through the maze.
"Hey! Don't be stomping on them stalks!"
"My name's Weaver. Here...do it like this."
He crouched his tall frame to the dampened earth and pushed five stalks away with gentleness.
The freckle-faced boy furrowed his brow. "Oh-h-h...I see." With his knees pressed into the mud, he peered through the labyrinth. His hefty friend joined the search and continued their interrupted conversation.
"Anyways, Tucker...I bet my daddy tells my mama more..."
"No way Connor! Mine does..."
"Shoot! I'll betcha 5 bucks!"
Tucker glanced at the farmer. "How 'bout you, Mr. Weaver? Do you tell your wife that you love 'er?"
"Naaaah - I don't have to. She knows it."
Connor gave a fleeting look towards him. "How does she know it?"
"She just does..."
"Do you give her flowers or sump-in like 'at?"
Perturbed, Mr. Weaver leveled his eyes on the youngsters. "Boys...it's like this - " He stood and slapped his hands against his trousers. "See them cows?"
"I take care of 'em. They can count on me."
Baffled, the boys probed further.
"What's that gotta do with the Mrs.? Are you saying she's a cow?"
"Sppfttt-" Connor slapped his hand over Tucker's mouth.
"Naw! You know...she can count on me. I provide for her. It's that simple. She knows how I feel."
Giggles broke the tension as Tucker gathered the courage to speak. "I don't mean to offend, Mister, but...I think...you can't say it!"
"I love you."
"Pfft...I told ja', I don't have to tell her."
"I bet she'd like to hear it."
"It's too late, boy."
"Well, when I grow up, I'm gonna tell my wife <I>every</I> day that I love her so she'll always know for shur-"
"Here it is!" Connor's fingers clutched the baseball, and the two ran away waving goodbye to Mr. Weaver.
The sun bore down on the farmer, but he didn't notice. He was too busy pondering the younsters' taunts.
<I>You can't say it...</I>
Compelled by guilt, he switched off his John Deere and walked to her flower garden. There it was...her favorite, the butterfly bush. Lilac blooms covered it, providing a stage for hundreds of butterflies to dance a delicate ballet. He began to break off the beauties. One...four ...as many as his arms could hold.
Clouds concealed the sun's rays as Weaver traversed through the woodland. Crossing the creek, he climbed the knoll to their meeting place.
<I>I must say it.</I>
As expected, she was there. He reached out to her and laid down the flowers.
"Mae, I brot' you these from that butterfly bush."
He shuffled his boots and cleared his throat. "Anyways...It's been a long time since you've heard me say what I'm gonna say to you now. I just wish I hadn't waited so long to tell you."
He wiped the sweat from his brow.
"Mae...I love you."
His body began to shake as tears cascaded down his leathery face. He hadn't cried in years.
He hadn't even cried when she'd died.
But, now, he was inconsolable. He fell upon the hardened ground, clutching the dirt between his fingers.
"Oh, my sweet Mae...please forgive me. I should've told you every day. I always thought it...but I should've <b>said</b> it."
Inspired to ignore strong beliefs on how he should repress emotions, he stood and shouted,
<b>"I LOVE YOU, MAE!"</b>
His voice was carried on a breeze towards the heavens, and the clouds shifted at its impact. A sunset of ethereal proportions mesmerized him, and he was only able to break from its beauty when a sweet-smelling fragrance tantalized his senses. He glanced toward her grave and movement caught his eye. A beautiful swallowtail fluttered over the flowers. It didn't land there though. Rather, it chose to light upon his outstretched fingers.
He lifted it up hoping to release it with a breeze, but it stayed - united with him as they observed the sunset together.
The clouds closed and hid the beauty beyond. The swallowtail took flight, brushed against his cheek, and Weaver preserved the memory in the recesses of his mind forever.
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