Flowers for Freddy

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

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Fiction

When Freddy Hayward was killed, everyone was deeply shocked. After all, the snatching of a young and healthy life is just something that shouldn’t happen in the order of things. But mingled in with this was a sensation that somehow, people had known he would die young.

Freddy was what people sometimes called a loveable rogue, which is one of those phrases that means everything and nothing. His surname was too much of a gift and he had obtained, in some quarters, the nickname of Wayward Hayward, but it was said, at least most of the time, without malice and with a degree of affection or (sometimes grudging) admiration.

He got through girlfriends like a tsunami ripped through a beach, and yet none of them seemed to bear him any grudge, and several of them had become good friends. He wasn’t exactly conventionally handsome, but thick wavy brown hair and green eyes with a glint in them more than made up for a certain lack of symmetry in his features, a certain sense of his limbs being too long for him that most outgrew in their teens. And he was a charmer. Oh, my goodness, was he a charmer. He managed to be both a ladies’ man and a men’s man, and old ladies doted on him even as they tried to shake their heads approvingly, while old gentleman thought of their own youth, or the youth they wished they’d had. He had two phrases that seemed to sum him up, “No Worries!” and “All Sorted”, and the odd thing was that when he said them, people did stop worrying, and things seemed to get sorted.

But the love of Freddy’s life was his motorcycle. He called it his Silver Speed Machine, and nobody was quite sure if there was a touch of irony to that. He was qualified to drive a car, but had no wish to. He sometimes confided in people that he felt restless and confined in a car. Not exactly trapped, but as if he were in a box on the road, rather than feeling the wind on his face on the Silver Speed Machine.

And he rode to his death on the Silver Speed Machine. The only witnesses had been people in a farm field as he sped through the countryside, and no real conclusion was ever reached as to what happened. He had been drinking, but it transpired that he was below the drink drive limit, and anyway, he could hold his drink. The rather traumatised farm labourers said that he had been riding quickly, for sure, and possibly over the speed limit, but not recklessly. For Wayward Hayward, people had to admit, was a skilled rider and while a bit of a thrill seeker, didn’t seek unnecessary risk – especially when nobody was there to see, and there was an open road. There was talk of a patch of oil on the road, but if there had been, it had evaporated before the accident was investigated. But Freddy parted company for the last time from his beloved bike, catapulted into a concrete lamp post, and though his crash engine saved him any head injuries, there were massive internal injuries. Those who loved him made themselves believe he had died instantly.

One thing was clear, Freddy wasn’t going to have one of those quiet and simple funerals that weren’t compulsory any more, but some people had decided, or decided on others’ behalf, were preferable anyway. He was borne through the High Street of the town where he lived in a hearse flanked by bike riders. There had been talk of a horse-drawn carriage, but nobody was going to let horses near roaring motorbikes, and in the end, his family and friends decided, probably rightly, that he would have done without the horse-drawn carriage if he could have the bikes. His name was spelt out in a series of wreaths on his coffin, but that was only the start of it. The family had requested donations to the British Heart Society (his dad had died of heart disease, and it was a cause close to his heart) and that was respected, but that didn’t stop his friends setting up the floral tribute to Freddy. With the permission of the landlord, it was in a little outside drinking area of the Griffin, that wasn’t used much now, especially in the winter, and was shaded by clear plastic screens on two sides, but with a space in the middle that was large enough, and just right, to pay Freddy the tribute he deserved.

There were more wreaths spelling out his name, in vivid yellow and bright white, and enormous displays of plump roses (because if you knew the right people, and could pay the right price, the season was no hindrance to attaining roses). There were carnations made into pink love hearts, and a floral teddy bear from his niece Molly, who laid it herself, tearfully and bravely, saying in her clear, sweet voice, “That’s for you, Uncle Freddy!” But the absolute Piece de Resistance was the motor bike. It wasn’t full size, of course, but it stood out proud and magnificent, silver and shining and festooned in flowers.

Most people agreed it was a wonderful and moving display, and if anyone had any misgivings, they realised they were probably best advised to keep their thoughts to themselves. Both natives of the town, and the few winter visitors who walked along the bracing (as the brochures called it) North Sea beaches paused to contemplate the display, complete with messages of love and sorrow and remembrance.

For a couple of weeks, because all of the flowers were of good quality and well tended (nothing but the best for Freddy!) it was resplendent and bright. And when some of the freshness and brightness began to fade, well, everyone agreed, and perhaps they had a point, that it was all the more touching and made you think. One of the plump roses was the first to go beyond being faded and frail, as human life fades and is frail, and to become – well, frankly, not very nice. Well, that was okay. It was snipped out, and the roses rearranged just a little, and if you hadn’t known that rose had been there, you couldn’t have told.

As more time passed, however, nature took its course. People began to remark, keeping their voices low, that, well, it was smelling a bit. That walking past it, instead of admiring and contemplating a life tragically cut short, you turned your head away and held your breath. Finally, some folk, at least, came straight out and said that it had been lovely while it lasted, but the time had come to dismantle it and throw away the flowers that had once been fresh and lovely and moving.

But nobody quite wanted to insist on it. It seemed well – uncaring. Disrespectful. And what would Freddy’s friends and family have to say? But by now the local town council had started to receive phone calls and emails and even old-fashioned letters to the effect that something would have to be done. Of course nobody wanted any unpleasantness or argument, or trampling on the feelings of people who had known and loved the young man who had died so tragically.

The Environmental Health Officer had sighed a heavy sigh as he set out that morning to inspect it for himself, or at any rate, to make an official inspection, for of course he had seen it before. But this was the kind of visit that came with clipboards and led to official phone calls.

The Environmental Health Officer, or Norbert, as his friends and family called him, approached the Griffin, and approached the little partly screened off area where flowers had replaced seats, and wondered if persuasion would work. He did his job efficiently, but he was a kind man, and he liked a quiet life.

Norbert had heard and read the phrase doing a double take, but to the best of his knowledge, this was the first time he had done it in real life. Where the rotting flowers had been, there was nothing. Well, of course, not nothing, but just flag stones and a couple of pieces of paper that had blown in the wind. He breathed a sigh of relief, but wondered how they had done it so quickly and so thoroughly.

His attention was distracted by a roaring sound, like a tsunami breaking on a beach, and he turned back to the road, and he saw, flashing past him, a gleaming silver motor bike, and yet Norbert knew that if he tried to touch it (which would not have been wise) he would only feel air. And trailing behind that shining silver motor bike was a train of flowers, of carnations and plump roses, of yellow and white blooms still spelling out a name, and all of them were fresh again, fresh and beautiful, and glinting in the bright morning sunlight. “No worries, Norbert!” a voice called, “All Sorted!” and he turned, to see green eyes glinting more brightly than the sun, before the sound, and the bike, and the flowers, disappeared.

March 24, 2021 07:18

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2 comments

Elliot G
00:14 Apr 01, 2021

Wow, I really loved this story! The descriptions were very vivid (especially of Freddy) and I really love your writing style:) Keep up the great work!

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13:24 Mar 24, 2021

I love Freddy for the way you write him out, for the life he had before his death. I think this was wonderful and sad. I understand the feelings of the people when the flowers began to smell, not one of them willing to openly say it. I understand that and thought it was funny and sad at the same time. Also, it made sense. The ending was beautiful. Good job on this one.

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