The Unserved

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt


Friendship Happy Sad

No flowers adorned the grave, and even the blades of grass had wilted and yellowed.

Kemp read the name, his face the carved granite of a gargoyle. His mouth pinched tight together, the lips thin and pale. Back and forth his eyes flicked. Although he could glean in seconds what little information the epitaph shared.

‘LEROY DICKINSON’ read the name. And beneath that: ‘1978 - 2016’. The etched sentence at the bottom of the stone reflected little of the man that had been. ‘May the turbulence of his life finally come to an end.’

Kemp chewed his inner cheek. Storm clouds rolled across his mind, black and nebulous, thick and ominous. He’d been on his way out of the cemetery when the sad memorial caught his eye. He knew the name. Knew it well.

How could he ever forget the man he’d once vowed to kill?

Kemp glanced back down the rows, to the spot he’d laid the flowers upon. The spring breeze ruffled the petals of the daisies on the grave — white, pink, red, and blue. The killer and the victim, a few hundred yards apart.

Kemp chose daisies as he never learned which flower Hazel preferred. He’d kicked himself for it — what kind of husband doesn’t know that? It had taken him all his effort to bite back the thought that tried to surface in his mind: A bad husband. “Be kind to yourself,” that’s what she’d always told him. “And be kind to others.” Without her around to remind him of these things, he had to remind himself.

He supposed he could have gone for the hazel flower, but they weren’t very nice to look at, in his opinion. No, he chose the daisy. Pretty and uncomplicated. Without pretension — like Hazel. They lacked the haughtiness that roses came bundled with. If daisies were people, they’d be down to earth. Not snobby at all. Beautiful without trying. Unaware of their elegance. Dignified simplicity.

Back to the plaque in front of him. He did the maths. Leroy had been 48 when he died. No age for a man to die in this modern century. But a longer life than fate had given Hazel. What had it been? The drink? Had his liver given up the ghost and detoxed its last bottle of cheap whiskey? Or perhaps another crash? Only this time, Leroy didn’t get to stumble his drunken ass away from the mangled wreckage. Didn’t get to throw a slurred ‘sorry’ over his shoulder like a discarded sweet wrapper.

Whatever it had been that severed Leroy’s lifeline with the mortal plane, Kemp knew one thing to be true.

He hadn’t been the one to punch the man’s ticket.

Now that the realisation dawned on him, a bitter cocktail of emotions stung the back of his throat. His father — who’d been alive when the barfly ran a red and t-boned his wife’s car — said revenge was a dish best served cold.

But now Leroy had died. He’d waited too long to enact his retribution. The vengeance he had in store had cooled from the piping-hot rage of the recently widowed. No longer would it be a dish delivered cold.

He’d never get to serve it at all.

The acidic taste of bile burned at the back of Kemp’s mouth. Hatred threatened to rise within him. Rancour for the drunkard who’d taken his wife. Resentment for his father — his father — for the words he’d shared.

But Kemp resisted.

“Be kind to yourself,” Hazel had said. “And be kind to others.”

He let the soothing tones of his departed wife wash over the burned and charred skin. Let it cool and let it cleanse, let it settle and calm. Kemp released the built-up tension in his body, and let out a long breath.

Yes. He’d missed his chance for revenge. But in the meantime, he’d lived. He’d experienced life. He’d loved again. He’d received love. He’d laughed, he’d cried. He’d thrown himself into life’s rich pageant. He’d never forgotten Hazel — her smile, the tinkle of her laughter, the smell of her hair, the glint in her eye. But, until this very afternoon, he’d all but forgotten the name of Leroy Dickinson. For better or for worse. Hadn’t even known the man had died almost five years ago.

Kemp nodded at the dead man’s tomb. And allowed himself to smile. A small smile, but a smile nonetheless. He’d arrived at a revelation, a eureka moment for the soul. In his heart and mind, the sun peeked through the clouds. Golden shafts of light angled like bolts thrown from the hand of Zeus.

Revenge, he realised, isn’t a dish best served cold. It isn’t a dish that you should serve at all. Revenge is a dish that you should scrape into the bin, lest it poisons all those at the dinner table.

Kemp turned, but not to the cemetery gates. He ambled his way down the rows, towards the faded white marble that was Hazel’s headstone.

“I hope you don’t mind,” he said to the etched rock that had come to symbolise her. “But, knowing you, you wouldn’t have minded in the least. In fact—” he pulled some daisies free from the bouquet “—I think if you’d been here, you’d have suggested this very thing.” Kemp stood there a moment, with his handful of flowers. He reached out and touched the marble. “Love you, hon. Miss you, too. Always. Always.”

With that, he headed back down the row, towards the sad tomb of Leroy Dickinson. He read the epitaph once more, then leaned down and placed the daisies on his grave. White, pink, red, and blue. With the assortment of flowers, the grave no longer retained its bitter and lonely glare. Had he been the first to leave flowers at this grave? Kemp hoped not. This wouldn’t be the last time that colours painted the stone, now that he knew they’d interred the man here.

“I forgive you, Leroy. I hope you’re at peace.”

March 22, 2021 12:33

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Traci Neal
21:25 Mar 29, 2021

This story really depicts the emotional struggle any human being can have, when faced with a difficult situation. It's easy to hate and become bitter. Still, the courage to forgive someone can have great rewards.


09:35 Apr 09, 2021

Thanks, Traci! That's exactly what I was going for.


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Holly Fister
23:41 Mar 23, 2021

You did a great job with his thought process and the progression from bitterness to forgiveness. I loved his realization: “Revenge is a dish that you should scrape into the bin, lest it poisons all those at the dinner table.” This flowed well, and I enjoyed reading it!


12:16 Mar 26, 2021

Thanks, Holly! 😊 Yes, that was my favourite bit too. Was quite proud of that line. So glad others liked it too!


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