Saturday, July 12, 2008

Five Word Friday #2

Well, so far I've done the first two Five Word Friday's on Thur. and Sat. respectively. I'm nothing if not consistent. One of these days we'll actually get to it on Fri. Anyway, this week continues Michael and Kyra's adventure (see Five Word Friday #1) - and it's a long one! The words for today (picked at random from Velvet Verbosity's write up on the 100 word challenge for Hour - thanks VV!) are: crazy, whipping, smiles, glowing and relationship. Enjoy! And feel free to join in - just leave me a note with the link to your FWF post.

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Maybe I’m not so crazy after all, I think to myself as I linger at the door of the daycare. The entire first week I left Kyra at the Sunrise Daycare she cried when I laid her in the doughy arms of the well-fed proprietor, Mrs. Kice. It killed me. Since she had been born, for the first 4 months of her life, we had never been apart. I held her every chance I got, marveling at her little toes and fingers, watching and noting as her umbilical cord dried up and fell off (I still have it in a jar beside my bed), getting lost in those huge, dark blue eyes. I packed up the house while she was asleep, or while grandma and grandpa were there to hold her. Her mother may have abandoned her, but I was going to be damned if I would let her feel that loss – if there was anything I could do about it. On the way out here she rode in the front seat so I could at least interact with her, tickle her toes or something.

Thus it was like absolute torture, like somebody whipping my heart with a cat o’ nine tails, when I placed her in the caregiver’s arms for the first time and she started screaming.

“Oh, now there,” said Mrs. Kice. “We’ll be fine won’t we?

I stood there arms half outstretched, heart pounding, stomach sinking, half wanting to snatch her back and run. Knowing I couldn’t if I wanted to build any sort of life for us. My savings will only last so long.

“There now, there now,” cooed Mrs. Kice, looking at my daughter but speaking just as much to me, “ this is normal. Nobody wants to leave their daddy, do they, but we’ll be fine. We’ll be just fine, won’t we Kyra?”

I stepped forward and Mrs. Kice looked up suddenly. I looked intently into her eyes, trying to convey how important my daughter was to me, how difficult it was to leave her and that I would rip her limb from limb if she hurt my daughter in any way. She blinked a couple of times then looked away, so maybe something got through after all. Then I bent down and kissed Kyra on the forehead and eyes and started crying myself as I tasted the salt of her tears. I didn’t straighten up until I had turned away.

“Take good care of her,” I choked.

“I will, Mr. Samuels, I will,” assured Mrs. Kice.

I left then, not trusting myself to stay any longer. My heart shrank with every step I took away from my daughter, squeezing into a tight little ball of pain.
She cried every day I dropped her off for the entire first week, Monday through Friday. Somehow it never mattered that she was quiet and seemed content when I came to pick her up in the afternoon. I only remembered the crying.

Today marks the beginning of her second week with Mrs. Kice, and my first day on my new job. There is a nursery (the plant kind) about two miles from our apartment. Ironically it is Mrs. Kice who directed me to it, so I guess I have her to thank for more than just caring for my daughter.

Today I place Kyra in Mrs. Kice’s ample arms and instead of crying she looks up into Mrs. Kice’s face and smiles. Smiles! I am stunned.

“There’s my pretty little girl,” Mrs. Kice smiles back, “Did you miss me, huh? I missed you, yes I did.”

Kyra smiles again, gurgles and reaches for a lock of Mrs. Kice’s hair which is hanging down within reach. I can’t help but smile too.

“There now, Mr. Samuels,” Mrs. Kice says, looking up at me, “didn’t I tell you I’d be taking good care of her.”

“Yes, Mrs. Kice, you did. Thank you.”

“Oh, it ain’t no trouble at all. She’s a joy, she is.”

“Well, I certainly think so. Look, I’ve got to go. Don’t want to be late on my first day.”

Mr. Kice holds Kyra up facing me. “Wish your daddy luck on his first day, Kyra.” Kyra coos and gurgles. I smile and step forward to kiss her on her cheek and nuzzle her neck for a second, breathing in that gentle baby smell as if I could carry it with me for the day.

I turn to head out the door. “Thanks again, Mrs. Kice. I’ll see you guys later.” Mrs. Kice waves Kyra’s hand bye-bye at me, and I blow her a kiss. “Be good, baby girl.”

With that I am out the door. I walk to work with a bounce in my step and a smile on my face. For the first time in months I feel light, as if a great burden has been lifted from my shoulders. Maybe we’ll make it after all. I mean, she smiled! I feel as if my face must be glowing with the memory. The pavement seems to fly beneath my feet and before I know it I’m at my new job.

A bell jingles as I open the front door and my nose is caressed by the scent of a thousand flowers and plants. How a plant nursery has thrived in this area I don’t know. Perhaps, like me, others feel that plants offer the only bright spot in a concrete jungle.

“Well, if it isn’t the plant whisperer. And right on time. Good.” Mr. Jackson, my new boss is pointing a spray bottle in my direction. He is a big black man, an incronguous dark note in a sea of green. When I say big I do not exaggerate. He is at least 6’4”, maybe 400 lbs, with eyes that smile even when his face does not, a voice that rumbles like the sea, and fingers that could tickle a butterfly without bruising it.

I actually came into the shop last Monday thinking to get a plant for the apartment – tulips as it turned out. He was working on an orchid at the time. Finicky plants, orchids. This one was heading down hill.

He heaved a hefty sigh when he saw me. “No matter what I do I can’t get this one to grow. I’m about ready to give up and let it go. But then, you’re not here to hear my woes, are you? What can I do for you, sir?”

“Just looking for a plant for my apartment. Flowers maybe.”

“Potted or stem?”

“Oh, potted definitely.”

“Flowers are this way. Follow me.”

And with that we were off into a wild riot of color and scent. I wished I could have just transplanted the whole thing to my apartment, but with a tight budget and no job prospects in sight I knew I had to limit myself to one for now.

“You live around here?” he asked.

“Yeah, I just moved in to the Royal Crown apartments, a couple miles away.”

“I know ‘em. Misnamed if ever anything was,” he chuckled. “Where’d you move from?”

“Suburb of Chicago. Naperville?”

“Wow, that’s quite a ways to move to end up in a place like the Royal Crown. You by yourself?”

“Just me and my daughter. We just needed to start afresh, you know?”

“Mm-hmmm,” he replied and didn’t push the issue, for which I was grateful. As nice as he was, I wasn’t sure I was up to explaining my life story to a stranger. By this time I had chosen my tulips.

“Well, you’ve certainly got taste,” he said. “You do know that tulips require a bit of work to keep going.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m pretty good with plants.”

He looked thoughtful for a couple of seconds, raising one eyebrow as he seemed to consider something, then led me back towards the front of the store and the cash register. I was looking at his failing orchid while he checked me out, automatically counting out the cash. The soil was dark with damp.

“You know,” I said to him, “I think you may be drowning your orchid. If you let the soil dry out a bit, and then just mist the leaves every now then, they’ll probably do a lot better.”

“You think?” He frowned, perplexed.

“Yep. This particular orchid doesn’t like a lot of water.”

“Well, I’ll give it a try. Nothing else is working, that’s for certain. Hey, can I have your phone number for our reward program – I have a feeling you’ll be coming back for more eventually.”

I smiled and gave it to him and he handed me my change.

“Well, take care of those tulips now, y’hear? We’ll see you around.”

“Thanks,” I replied and headed off to pick up Kyra.

The rest of the week was a big lump of disappointment. Nobody seemed to be hiring. I filled out application after application in the hope that something would open up soon, but nobody gave me much hope that it would. Thursday evening I arrived home with Kyra, tired and dejected and looking forward to a relaxing evening hanging out with her. My eyes were immediately drawn to the red light blinking on my message machine. I had a message?! My heart started racing with excitement. Who had called me? I pressed the button with trembling fingers.

“Hi Michael, it’s Mr. Jackson from the Concrete Jungle Nursery. Well, anyway, I’m calling ‘cause you’re a genius! I did just what you said and my orchid’s flourishing now! I’m going to start calling you the plant whisperer, you know, like the horse whisperer? Well, I was wondering if you might be interested in a job with us. You obviously know a lot about plants, and I need someone to help out around the store. If you’re interested why don’t you come in tomorrow, Friday, and we can talk about it some more. Sound good? Well, anyway, I’ll shut up now and let you go. Hopefully I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye.”

I think my neighbors could hear the thumping of my heart! A job! Yeah! I didn’t know how much it would pay but at least it was a beginning. And doing something I loved! Kyra cooed and I smiled down at her and gave her a kiss.

“I think Daddy just got a job, cutestuff.” She smiled.

Needless to say I went in to see Mr. Jackson the next day as soon as I had dropped Kyra off with Mrs. Kice. He offered me a job at $15 per hour, more than I had hoped I’d get, and asked if I could start at 9am the following Monday. I splurged on lunch in celebration of my new job and our new beginning in California before picking Kyra up early so I could spend the rest of the day with her.

Mr. Jackson’s basso rumble brings me back to the present. “You still with us, PW?”

PW? Oh, yes. Plant whisperer. I smile.

“Yeah, I’m still with you. Just remembering everything that’s brought me here.”

“Well, don’t be daydreaming on my dollar,” he said, not unkindly. “You and me have work to do. C’mon, let me show you around.”

And so began a long and fruitful relationship.

1 comment:

thenightblog said...

Oh man, you write all the good stuff about happy kids and daycare and smiles. I write about abuse. Aah!
Lovely story, btw. Cuute. You must have kids of your own. Maybe that's what I need. To have kids.

http://thenightblog.wordpress.com/2008/07/13/friday-five-2/