Oh, I was at the bookstore!
The clerk Katelyn…
I said, “Oh, look at these flowers.” There were some blown… I believe is the correct term… roses. I need to look that up. [Throat clearing.]
At the counter there were some pale, pastel, blown and blowsy roses. Uh…
“I resent them,” said Katelyn bitterly, of the flowers. “It’s a charity. They take… discarded flowers from weddings and distribute them…” [Rattling sigh.]
And here I… I… I return to my own voice. Uhm. The voice of your narrator. I… I said, uh [throat clearing], “What, they distribute them to bookstores? I mean, they distribute them to retail businesses? That seems like a strange…” [Laughter.] “That seems like a place not in need of charitable donations of flowers. Why not give them to mental patients or, you know, the elderly? Why start a charity…”
And it was at some point during this colloquy that… Katelyn said, “They could be registering voters!”
Which is not a…
I mean, which is true, of course. [Laughter.]
Everyone who’s doing things that seem stupid to us… maybe wouldn’t be the greatest at registering voters.
And, but, but I was curious what… what sort of insidious… what kind of secret scam are these people running? I mean they’ve gotta be makin’ some… somebody somewhere’s gettin’ money out of this deal.
Uh, it seems suspicious!
And I was remarking on that aspect of it. I was like, you know, “Let’s…” you know, “Follow the money.” Uh… and… “Who’s… who’s getting rich off of this? Somebody is. Some… sneaky bastard with an advanced knowledge of the tax code is using his trafficking in abandoned wedding flowers…” [Laughter.]
I, I, just… I, it, it, it makes no sense as a concept.
“Let’s… I’m gonna start a charity. You know who needs flowers? Retail businesses!” [Laughter.]
I, I still can’t… wrap my head around this.
Katelyn informed me that, uh, churches she had attended in the past had a stipulation that any flowers used in wedding ceremonies would then be donated to the church… and that also sounded like a scam to get free flowers [laughter]… and, uh… but I see a conflict here between the…
“Churches are scams!” Katelyn shouted as I was walking away from the counter. Uhm… a sentiment with which perhaps not all of her customers would be in agreement. They do have a religion section. And a wide array of Bibles. Everything from the Lutheran facsimile [laughter]… God! [Throat clearing. Pause.] I got a Geneva Bible there but it was a… I had to special order it.
But, uh, later, as I thought about it, I saw easily how this flower charity could make sense, and I had misunderstood, perhaps… that… maybe…
It might be that the churches give the flowers to the charity, the charity then distributes them among the businesspeople… the businesspeople give donations in exchange for the flowers…
It’s kind of like the little man who sells pencils.
Who’s that little man?
He’s a man I imagine from a… different time. You know, the guy selling pencils you see in the New Yorker cartoons if you were alive in the 1920s.
And maybe you put a little change in his cup and say “no thanks” to the pencil. My feeling is maybe a lot of—you know, and I’m just making this all up. Maybe a lot of people, the charity comes by: “Hey! Donate to our food bank.” Or whatever it is. “Give us some cash for our… charitable program and we’ll give you some of these delightful dying wedding flowers.”
And then the business most likely—and once again I’m making all this up—the business most likely says, “No, no, here, have a… here’s a ten. Open the cash drawer, Susie!”
[Rattling sigh. Coffee cup placed on wooden surface.]
“Here, take a twenty. But no, keep the—you keep those, uh, dying wedding flowers.”
And then… so the charity gets to go somewhere else in my imagination and r—basically sell the same wilted roses… you know, who knows how many times?
Naaaaayah! It’s diabolical.
But I can imagine some kind of setup in which the poor themselves are, are doled out flowers from the back of the chapel. From the servant’s entrance to the glittering chapel.
And, d-uh, then they go out… and… and it’s the same setup I just described, except with no… middleman. In that case the charity would consist of merely handing out… old wedding flowers.
To Cockney urchins, I guess.
Or… whomever. Hoboes!
You know, th—I’m speaking not disrespectfully of poor people. I’m imagining… uh… I don’t know what I’m doing. Archetypal… you know.
[Long pause. Sound of the clothes dryer running.]
The flowers… not only put me in mind of Eliza Doolittle, but of the hot corn girls. I read about the hot corn girls in a book called Hot Corn.
I read a review, uh, of a Henry James biography? I think? In the New York Times, and… the reviewer, Dwight Garner, whom I’ve slathered with obsequiousness to no effect… [lip smack].
But, uh, he wrote about how Henry James was fascinated by a book called Hot Corn that his father wouldn’t let him read because, uh, it was too saucy for a… young Henry James.
The poor little hot corn girls, out there in the night.
With their cries of “Hot corn! Hot corn! Who will buy my hot corn?”
Man, th—the phrase “hot corn” comes up a lot in that book.
Anastasia, when she was at the Women’s March on Washington, heard a woman crying, “Hot potatoes!” A woman or a man, I’m not sure. “Hot potatoes! Hot potatoes! Get your hot potatoes!”
Which put me in mind of the scene in… in Ellison’s, uh, Invisible Man! [Lavish throat clearing], uh, when [throat clearing] our narrator is given much succor by a… a roasted sweet potato he buys in the street and consumes with relish.
[Coffee gulping. Cup banged down.]
Jack Pendarvis has written five books. He won two Emmys for his work on the TV show Adventure Time. During a period of light employment, he spoke into a digital recorder whenever the mood struck him and transcribed the results, accumulating the two thousand pages from which this column has been extracted.