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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Bloom (11/22/12)

By James Dick


The old man ignored the hustle and bustle as he hurried home. It was late Friday afternoon and he was glad the week was over. Nearing seventy, he continued working as an industrial welder because he couldn’t afford to retire.

Despite the hard work and painful arthritis, he never complained. After all, he was headed home to his beautiful bride of forty-five years who helped him raise two wonderful sons. The oldest was a doctor and the younger a rising military officer.

Sam Henderson realized that his boys had learned their love of hard work and achievement from him. Never advancing beyond journeyman welder, he had been a loving and giving father who instilled strong values in his boys. And he knew it couldn’t have been done without his precious Eloise.

Nearing his apartment building, he made his usual stop at the neighborhood flower shop. Stepping inside out of the cold, Mrs. Fleming, the owner smiled at him while finishing with another customer.

Helen’s Flower Shop was a wonderful place reminiscent of years gone by. It had beautiful flowers and fragrant aromas. Lavender, spice, cinnamon and other scents filled the air. It was particularly pleasant on a cold afternoon. The soft glow of multiple colored candles added to the ambiance.

“Same as usual, Sam?” she asked. “Sure you don’t want to try something new?”

“No, ma’am,” his eyes twinkled as he answered. “Just a dozen red roses, please. Don’t forget, fresh buds just about to bloom. Eloise loves them and I love how they make her smile like a schoolgirl.”

“Don’t worry, Sam, I remember,” she answered softly. “I hope she knows how lucky she is.”

“Well, Helen,’ he chuckled. “She knows that I am the lucky one.”

Picking up the flowers, he said farewell and headed home. Entering the apartment house, he began his weary trudge to the fourth floor. As he rounded the third flight, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his neck and left arm. Also being short of breath, he decided to stop and rest on the steps.

Sam was having a massive heart attack. He tried to get up but couldn’t move and he couldn’t speak. His last words were to his Lord, asking Him to take care of Eloise and make sure she got her flowers.

When Eloise noticed Sam was late, she walked into the hallway and looked down the stairs. She cried out as she saw her loving husband slumped over against the rail.

An ambulance arrived within minutes but it was too late. Sam died almost as soon as he sat down.

Four days later a graveside service was held at Olive Grove Cemetery. All of Sam’s family, including his wife and two sons, as well as friends, neighbors and the workers from the machine shop were present.

Eloise asked Mrs. Fleming to say a word since Sam knew her just about better than anyone else. He had been buying flowers from her every Friday for over twenty-five years.

Mrs. Fleming was choked up and had trouble speaking. After a few moments, however, she composed herself and looked out at the large and attentive audience.

“I knew Sam for a lot of years and I can probably tell you better than anyone how much he loved Eloise. He was also extremely proud of both of his boys and loved to talk about them and their achievements.

“But one thing most of you might not know is that Sam loved flowers and especially roses. And nothing made him happier than to stop by my shop each Friday and pick up twelve beautiful red roses for Eloise. And they had to be just at the point where the bloom was beginning to open. Nothing else would do.

“So in memory of Sam, I have brought several boxes of fresh, ready to bloom red roses. I ask that each of you, as you pass the casket, place one rose on top. Sam’s memory will live on in the roses.”

And with that, the congregants began one by one to pass the casket paying final respects, each leaving a single rose.

Over ninety roses were lowered into the ground on the top of that casket. Each was fresh and each was nearing bloom stage. It left a lasting impression on all in attendance. No one would forget Sam.

And in Heaven above, Sam was smiling.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Shellie Bailey11/29/12
Wonderful story. You made your characters feel very real.
Christina Banks 11/30/12
I have tears in my eyes. What a beautiful tribute to Sam.
Lynda Lee Schab 12/02/12
This really is a beautiful and tender story. If there's one constructive suggestion I would make it's to try to "show" more instead of "tell" the story, with sensory details. I felt like an outsider, looking in, when I wanted to really know and feel what Sam was feeling.

Overall, good job!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/02/12
This is such a bittersweet story. I liked how you set the scene and created an air of mystery. Lots of things went through my head--perhaps his wife had already died and he was buying them for her grave, or maybe he was having an affair. However your idea was far better than mine and it really tugged at my heart. Now this may seem like a little thing, but it's a mistake even talented writers make but you got it right which really impressed me. When you mentioned the younger son I smiled because when comparing between two things you use younger not youngest. It's a silly thing of mine but for me it spoke volumes that you used it properly. They way you showed this couple's love for each other was even more powerful than selecting the right adj. :) This was a delight to read.
Sandra Wells12/04/12
This was so sweet, tender and touching. What love. It brought tears to my eyes.
C D Swanson 12/04/12
Awww...This touched my heart deeply. Beautiful job.
Thank you. God bless~