by Dave Smith
The garden store opened at seven o’clock in the morning. Its large, glass storefront displayed a variety of manual and gas-powered garden tools and overlooked the cemetery across the street. Cassie, a new girl in town, was shivering in the cool air of an early spring morning. She had arrived a few minutes early, hoping to make a good impression on her first day at work. She was waiting outside for Amanda, the store owner, to get there and unlock the door. Her eyes were fixed on something in the distance.
“Hey, Cass, whatcha staring at?” asked Amanda.
Cassie, lost in thought and suddenly jolted back to the present, jumped at the greeting.
“Oh, hey, Amanda. What’s up with that old guy over there?”
“That’s Arnold. He and his wife, Dora, used to own this store.”
“Why’s he in the cemetery this time of morning?”
“He’s done that for years. That’s Dora’s grave. She died on her way here one morning. A dumptruck swerved to miss a kid on a bike, overturned, and crushed her car,” Amanda explained.
“Oh, God, that’s horrible!”
“Yeah, it was. Arnold never came to terms with it. He sold the store and pretty much barricaded himself up in their house. She was his best friend, so he comes back to her grave every day at five in the morning, the time of her death. Rain, snow, ice – doesn’t matter. He always stops, spends a few hours, lays a single lavender rose – her favorite – from their greenhouse on her headstone, then leaves quietly.”
“He ever come in here? Y’know, to chat or see if the business has changed?” asked Cassie.
“No. He’s never been back in. Hardly ever see him in town for anything anyway. Just necessities. He mostly just isolates himself. I think he’s afraid of making other human connections, just in case he loses them too. But what do I know.”
“Such a sad way to live,” concluded Cassie, as she straightened up the window display.
In between customers, Cassie watched Arnold through the window. She saw him talk to whatever part of his wife might still be there listening. He kissed the headstone, left the rose, then walked to his pickup truck and drove away. Cassie surprised herself when she felt a teardrop, ever so slowly, creep down her cheek.
Probably just from allergies, she thought. Read the rest of this entry »