A Morning in the Flower Garden

Contributor: John Laneri

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Bernard stepped toward the flower garden, his movements slow and measured. It was time for his customary morning walk through the flower garden.

Near a gazebo, he spotted Millie Boyd sitting on a bench beside a red hibiscus. He waved to her and continued on, his attention going to a line of roses along the quiet secluded paths.

To him, Millie was an old friend, another elderly resident at the Happy Years Retirement Home.

“Bernard, darling. Could you come here a minute?”

Never one to deny Millie, Bernard turned away from the flowers and ambled toward the gazebo where she sat with a friend.

“You’re looking quite lovely, Widow Boyd.”

“Why thank you, Bernard.” She indicated the woman beside her. “Have you met, Georgia?”

Bernard cocked his head to the side and bowed. “I haven’t had the pleasure.” He studied Georgia a moment, his eyes searching hers. “You remind me of a woman I met during the last war.”

Georgia smiled brightly. “Was she beautiful?”

“She was,“ Bernard replied, looking away distantly. “Her hair flowed to her shoulders. And, her eyes were as blue as the sky.”

Millie touched his arm. “We have a secret to confess.”

“And, what is that?” Bernard asked on returning to her.

“Georgia and I were discussing you only a moment ago.”

“You were discussing me?”

“Yes dear, we were discussing you. We were wondering how old you are? Your body is so masculine and so, so….” She turned to Georgia.

“So, erect,” Georgia added, with a smile.

Bernard blushed, his cheeks turning a bright red. “Most women are fooled by my age. I’m older than I look.” He stepped back to dance a little shuffle. “But, there’s still plenty of punch in this old body. I bet you can’t guess my age.”

Georgia reached for her purse and placed it in her lap. “I have a dollar. I’m good at guessing ages.”

“You’re wasting your money,” he said with a twinkle. “My age is a well kept secret.”

“I’d like to try… just for fun,” Georgia said. “Can I see your hands? I can always judge a person’s age by the skin on their hands.”

Confidently, Bernard extended a hand and held it poised in front of her face.

Georgia adjusted her glasses. “Interesting,” she said turning to Millie. “That odd color around the knuckles. What do you think? Your eyes are better than mine.”

Millie took the hand and began examining it, turning it from side to side studying every detail. “I see what you mean. The little lines and the way the skin….”

“Is something wrong?” Bernard asked, withdrawing his hand to look it over.

“No… No,” Millie said. “Your hands are fine.”

“Then you can’t guess my age. I win a dollar.”

Millie continued. “Bernard darling, your hands are only a part of guessing your age.”

“What more do you want?”

She smiled softly then said, “The only way to truly judge a man’s age, especially one who’s lived through so many wars, is to see everything.”

Bernard hesitated. “But, I might get into trouble with the nurses.”

“Bernard, darling,” Millie purred, “All I’m asking is for one little look.”

Bernard thought a moment. “Only one look?”

“Just one teeny-weeny look.”

Bernard again glanced about the garden searching for nurses then reached for his belt and let his pants drop to his ankles.

The two elderly women sat there for some time staring straight ahead, their mouths agape. Eventually, Millie spoke up. “Can you turn around a couple of times?”

“Turn around?”

“Yes dear, you need to turn in little circles so we can see everything. We’re trying to guess your age.”

Bernard turned a couple of circles then stopped. “How’s that?”

“You need to remove your shorts too,” she continued, pointing to his underwear. “It’s easier with the shorts off.”

“My shorts?” Bernard asked, confused.

“The shorts please… and the shirt too.”

After some time, Bernard finally spoke up. “Have you seen enough? I’m getting cold.”

“I’ve seen all that I need to see,” Georgia said, turning to Millie. “Truthfully, I think he’s older than he looks.”

Millie touched Bernard on the arm. “You can get dressed dear. We’ve seen enough.”

With his pants in place, Bernard asked, “How old am I?”

The ladies looked to one another. Then, Millie replied, “You’re ninety-eight years old.”

Surprised, Bernard did a double take, his head bobbing up and down. “How’d you know?”

Millie chuckled, her cheeks brightening in pleasure. “You told us yesterday, dear. We were just wondering if you remembered.”

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit can be found on the internet and in several print edition periodicals.
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