#2 Flash Fiction B&W Challenge
Lost in the woods, an elderly man lived alone. His name was Patrick.
By the side of the pathway to his house, he grew white daisies, hundreds of them. He loved all sorts of daisies, but he had a special fondness for white ones. They reminded him of snow.
During winter, he could see the orange dots on the snow and that always made him think of spring. He didn’t know why his daisies bloomed all year long, while others only bloomed during spring and summer. He didn’t know why he never had to replant them either. He wasn’t much of a gardener. However, he was sure that these plants wouldn’t last decades. His did. He would water them every day. He would look at them, smile at them, touch them softly and even talk to them. They never replied, of course, at least not with words. Yet, there they were, framing the pathway leading to his house.
One day, Patrick saw a young man walking up the path, coming from the woods. Now, that was strange. No one ever visited him. He didn’t think anyone cared, honestly. He had no family, no children and definitely no neighbors.
The young man wiped his feet on the rug and knocked. Patrick stood still behind the door, hardly breathing. Perhaps the young man would go away. But the young man went back on the path and walked around the house towards the back. Then, he knocked on the glass window of the kitchen.
This is all I needed, thought Patrick, someone snooping around.
The young man wouldn’t give up though. He walked back to the front of the house and sat on the steps, taking his coat off. Patrick waited. He waited for an hour, and for another hour. It was close to sunset when Patrick decided he wouldn’t wait anymore. He opened the door abruptly, startling the young man.
“What do you want?”
“My name is Patrick and I was walking about in the woods. I enjoy long walks, you see.”
“And…?” asked old Patrick impatiently.
“Well, I spotted the beginning of the path leading up to your house. It’s beautiful. All these daisies are absolutely…”
“Yes, yes, yes… What do you want?”
Young Patrick smiled. “I was wondering how you manage to keep them so beautiful.”
“You bother me for hours to ask me for gardening tips?”
“I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful job you’re making. I am sure you enjoy them much as you walk to town and back.”
“I never walk to town.”
“You should, you know. There are a few orange daisies at the edge of the path that are just the right color.”
“White daisies, you mean.”
“No, no, orange.”
“There are orange daisies on my path?” asked old Patrick perplexed. “That cannot be. That is wrong.” And he started pacing back and forth. He had to solve that. “I need to pluck them out.”
“No! They are amazing. Don’t do that.”
However, it was too late. Old Patrick walked in the house, grabbed his gardening tools and hurried away up the path. Young Patrick struggled to keep up.
When they arrived at the edge of the path, the woods opening up to a clearing where a road would take them to town, old Patrick looked at the daisies and he simply couldn’t see any orange ones.
“Where are they?”
“They are right here.” And the young man pointed towards the town.
The first building he could see was the local pub. In the flower pots at the door grew dozens of orange daisies.
“Those are not mine,” replied old Patrick, ready to head back home.
“Wait. They are. I saw the white daisies every year, as I grew up, and I always wondered how we could bring you back to town. So, one day, I thought I could plant some daisies of a different color, something that would draw your attention when you reached the edge of the woods. But you never did notice. And today, I decided to go fetch you. You see, we have daisies too!”
At first, old Patrick became quite irritated. He didn’t understand what the young man was trying to say.
“This is nonsense. I’m going home.”
Young Patrick grabbed him by the sleeve and gently pulled him towards town.
“My parents told me about you. They told me how you decided to live away from everyone after your wife and daughter died in a terrible car accident in town, many years ago. They told me people tried invite you over, but that you never walked away from your daisies. I know why you chose daisies…”
“Let go of me.” Old Patrick desperately tried to free himself from a past the young man was forcing him to revisit.
“We are here for you. Always were. Look.” Young Patrick pulled old Patrick farther into the main road of town.
That’s when old Patrick noticed it. All the houses, with no exception, had planters with daisies. White, orange, blue, pink, yellow, purple daisies, there were daisies of all colors. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
“Unlike yours, these daisies have to be replanted, but they never go to sleep at night. We kept planting them over and over again, as many as we had to, as often as we had to. We haven’t forgotten you, we didn’t go to sleep.” And the young man continued. “Do you know which day it is today?”
Old Patrick made an effort not to remember. He kept silent.
“It’s been 30 years since your wife Margaret and your daughter Daisy died, my parents told me. Today is also my birthday. It seemed like a good moment to let you know we thought of you every single day. Come.”
Inside the pub, young Patrick’s parents waited. The place was crowded. There were all the familiar faces old Patrick knew from back then, plus a crowd of new faces, their children and grandchildren. He was speechless.
Old Patrick couldn’t help noticing the daisy carved on a dark wood panel, hanging behind the bar; underneath, the pictures of his wife and daughter.
Since that day, he walked his path many times to enjoy the company of the town folk.
And whenever old Patrick told young Patrick he had become a good friend, the young man would protest vigorously.
“We’ve always been friends. You just didn’t know it yet.”
Note: daisy (n.) Old English dægesege, from dæges eage "day's eye," because the petals open at dawn and close at dusk.
Source: Online Etymology Dictionary