Peggy’s Flower Basket by Russell Holbrook
The bell attached to the front door jingled, making its cheery announcement that another customer had entered the store. Peggy looked up from the flower arrangement she was working on and smiled. Resting her shears on the table, she scurried to the front counter.
“Good morning,” Peggy said. “How can I help you?”
The young man’s eyes darted around the flower shop. “Um, yeah, I, uh, need some flowers in a vase. It’s for my friend. He’s getting married.”
“Oh, I see,” Peggy replied. “Well, let me…”
“He’s my best friend,” the man said, interrupting. “And he’s marrying the only girl I ever loved. And he knows I still love her. He’s always known and he doesn’t care and she knows and she doesn’t care either.”
Tears welled in his eyes. Peggy’s brow crinkled. The man sniffled. Silently, Peggy waited.
After a moment, the man went on. “I don’t want them to be happy. That’s what I told them. I told my aunt Emerian about it too. I can tell her anything, cause, um, she always listens. Anyway, she, uh, she sent me here. She said you could help. She said you can, uh… do things.”
Peggy’s eyes sparkled. “Well, I have been known to do a thing from time to time.” She smiled and walked out from behind the counter. “Now, just come with me and we’ll see what we can dig up.”
The young man turned and followed Peggy as she led him to a room in the back of the store. Beams of bright, mid-morning sun streamed in through large windows, filling the space with warm, natural light. Cameron entered the room and stopped in the center. Peggy walked to the back wall and began looking through the vases, of which there seemed to be every shape and size and type, sitting on ornate shelves that ran five high across every wall. Peggy’s high, blond bob bounced as her head moved back and forth, her eyes scanning the vases until they settled on one in particular. She reached up.
“Ah, here we go,” Peggy said, “I think this one is just what you’re looking for.”
Peggy held the container out for Cameron to examine. He peered down at the vase, a seafoam green ceramic piece with faded etchings running along its round base.
“This will, uh, help me?” Cameron asked.
“I think you’ll find that it will,” Peggy replied, her eyes and lips radiating optimism and joy.
Cameron sighed morosely and said, “Great, I’ll take it.”
“Wonderful!” Peggy chirped. “And what kind of flowers would you like to go in your beautiful new vase?”
“Succulents, please. They’re her favorite. The, uh, the bride’s favorite, I mean.”
Peggy smiled her tender and winning smile. “Oh, of course. And what a lovely choice.”
Cameron shrugged. Peggy left the room. Cameron listened as her shoes clonked across the hardwood floor, creating an echo that sang through the quiet store as she made her way back to the front. The sad young man looked around at all the unique and ornate vases and thought of how pointless and absurd they were. Just like life, just like everything. He hung his head and shuffled back to the front of the store where he found Peggy the flower lady filling the vase with fresh, aromatic flowers.
The phone was ringing. Peggy answered on the third ring.
“Peggy’s Flower Basket, how may I help you?” She said in her bright tone. She paused, listening, and then said, “Why yes, Emerian, he just left.”
Another pause, then, “Yes, I did. I made sure he got that exact one, just as you asked.” She smiled wide. “Yes, I’m sure that it will. The bride and groom are sure to have a wedding that they will never, ever forget.” She tossed back her head and let out a loud cackle, causing her hair to jiggle and crow’s feet to sprout on the corners of her eyes. And howls of laughter rang out through the little shop of flowers.
Cameron held the vase up and examined the stamp on the base. A-Pox Designs, made in Transylvania. Cameron’s eyes narrowed. He huffed and sat the flower holder down on the kitchen table. He brushed his fingers over the soft tops of the flowers and mumbled, “Stupid vase. Stupid flowers. Stupid wedding.”
Suddenly, the hall clock chimed, letting him know it was time to go. Cameron grabbed the vase and headed out the door.
The wedding was boring. The reception was depressing. Cameron sat alone with the vase, watching the guests and the happy couple drinking and dancing. Envying their joy and hating their love, he cursed them in his heart and wished death on them all. No one that happy deserves to live, he scowled.
As Cameron’s thoughts turned in his mind, his eyes fell on the bride. He would never love another woman the way he’d loved his dear Abigail, and now she was gone forever, into the arms of another man.
Abigail twirled, her wedding dress spinning out wide, her face beaming with bright joy. She danced across the floor until she reached the table where Cameron sat. She stopped in front of him and smiled. “Cameron, Brian and I are so glad that you’re here. Really, we are. I know it’s weird but…” She trailed off, the vase catching her attention. She pointed. “Are those flowers for me?”
“Yeah,” Cameron said sheepishly. “I wanted to give them to you myself. I was just, um, you know, waiting for, uh, a good time.”
Abigail picked up the vase. “Succulents! My favorite! And in such a beautiful vase!” The bride’s eyes widened, watered, and glazed over. She didn’t blink.
Cameron smiled. “Yeah, I’m uh, glad that you like it.”
“Oh Cameron, I love it! I love it, love it, love it!” Abigail exclaimed. Brian, the groom, and several of the guests turned in her direction, following her voice.
Abigail twirled around again, holding the vase high. Cameron watched as the guests left the dance floor and formed a circle around the bride. Abigail shouted, “Hear me now: this vase is above all vases, and is the gift above all gifts!”
The groom and the guests cheered and clapped. Abigail took the flowers out of the vase, one at a time, giving one to each guest and saying, “This is my body, eat it in remembrance of me.” And the guests smiled and ate the flowers.
When Abigail got to Brian she held the vase out to him. “Dear husband,” she said, “Drink this holy water. It is my blood, which fed my flesh. Drink this in remembrance of me.” And Brian smiled and drank the water from the vase. Abigail took the vase from him and they shared a long, passionate kiss that made Cameron want to slit his wrists, and that’s when the screaming began.
It was Abigail’s grandmother. Black roses were growing out of her eyes, their thorns tearing through the soft vitreous body. Vines grew out of her ears and wound around her neck, choking her while moss blossomed on her protruding tongue.
Succulents sprouted from the bridesmaids’ eyes. The groom’s best man threw up bloody mud while the hairs on his head all turned to long, brown weeds. All the guests clutched at their eyes and mouths and throats, falling on the floor, writhing and suffocating as vegetation fed on them and grew out of their flesh.
Abigail and Brian were slow dancing in the center of the chaos when Abigail started shrieking and convulsing. The flawless skin on her perfect forehead expanded, cracked, and burst. The red tip of a massive earthworm pushed out of the crevice in her head. Her body went limp and swayed as the worm continued to crawl out of her head, peeling back skin and flesh and bone in its wake.
Brian held tight to Abigail’s deflating body, smiling radiantly as if he was unaware of anything that was happening around him. The giant worm opened its enormous mouth, revealing rows of unnatural, jagged teeth. It hovered over Brian for a brief moment, and then slammed down on him, engulfing the top half of his body and sucking it in. The worm, Abigail’s empty husk, and Brian’s lower half all crashed to the floor with a wet thud.
Cameron watched the worm eat Brian, its long body expanding as it ingested the groom. He blinked and noticed that he was standing, breathing heavy, and that the vase was back in his hands. He took one last, longing look at Abigail and thought about how he wished he could have touched her in all her special places. Then the screams of the wedding guests registered in his ears again, and he ran.
The bell on the front door of Peggy’s Flower Basket rang, announcing the arrival of another customer. Peggy looked up from the arrangement she was working on to see a young, teary eyed woman walking toward her.
“Good morning, dear,” Peggy said. “What can I help you with?”
The woman sniffled. “My friend Cameron, he said you sell…” Her voice dropped. “…cursed objects.”
Peggy smiled. “And just what kind of object are you looking for.”
“I need a vase,” the young woman said. “A vase that will hurt… someone.”
“And would you like some flowers too? Maybe some… special flowers?”
The woman nodded.
Peggy’s smile widened. She said, “Well, I think I might have just what you’re looking for. Come with me.”
“Okay. Thank you,” the woman said, her words slipping out on an undercurrent of grief. And she followed Peggy and they walked to the back room where all the most special vases were kept.