A New Lease on Life

Jackson came home from Iraq with one leg. He also came home with a changed attitude. He was happy. He was carefree. Instead of the worrywart that went off to war. He and his brother sat in The Laughing Pony in a quiet corner booth, drinking their beers.

“It’s like the world has been lifted from my shoulders,” he told his brother. “I feel lighter than air.”

Montgomery was the older of the two. “When are you going to see Mom and Dad?”

“I’m not,” Jacks said. “At least, not anytime soon. I just can’t face the Night of the Sad-eyes.”

“What?” Montgomery couldn’t believe what his brother was telling him.

“I just can’t face the Night of the Sad-eyes.” Then Jacks called out to the waitress for another pitcher of beer.

Monty poured the last of the beer from the pitcher on the table. “The Night of the Sad-eyes?” There was anger in his voice. He knew how much his parents’ had worried about Jacks. When they got the call that he was going to live, they were so relieved. Then they turned their relieve into worrying some more about how Jacks would get along with only one leg.

When Monty saw Jacks walk into the bar, he knew their concern was all for naught. The VA had fitted Jackson with a prosthesis. After six months of therapy, there was little reason to suspect that he had a fake right leg. His gait was a little stiff as he walked over to Monty’s booth. But it wasn’t noticeable if you weren’t watching the walk closely. Sure, Jacks leaned a little more on his left leg but most of us favor one leg over the other.

“Guess what?” Jacks said when he got to the booth and took his seat. “I grew a new leg.” A boyish grin appeared on his face. He stuck his right leg out and pulled his beige khakis up to show off his prosthetic leg.

The waitress brought a new pitcher over and took their empty one. Jacks smiled at the waitress and touched her hand. “Too bad you’re already taken,” he said.

“I’m not taken,” she said and smiled.

“What time do you get off?” Jacks asked.

“Around eleven,” the waitress answered and carried the empty pitcher back to the bar.

Turning to his brother, Jacks said, “I think she likes me. Think it will matter when she finds out.” He tapped his fake leg.

“What do you mean ‘the Night of the Sad-eyes’?” Monty asked, frustration in his voice. He downed his beer. Then he slammed the mug onto the table.

Filling his mug, the smile dropped from Jacks’ face. “Careful there, bro. You know, those looks people give you when they’re feeling sorry for you. I saw a lot of that when I was in the hospital. I swore I wasn’t going to let that happen to me.”

Monty grabbed Jacks wrist. “You have to go see Mom and Dad. At least, for a few hours. They will be so upset.”

Jacks pried his brother’s hand loose. “I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. And, I’m telling you, I am not going to see them. At least, not now. That’s why I asked you to meet me here. To tell them.” He dropped his brother’s hand onto the table.

“Are you kidding?” Monty’s hand hurt from his brother’s grip. “I can’t tell them.”

“Well, then they won’t be told. Now excuse me, I have to go take a whiz.”

Jackson stood up and made for the restrooms in the back, his slow waddle not calling attention to itself.

Monty stretched out the fingers of his hurt hand and massaged them to make the ache go away. “Shit,” he said and filled his mug again. He made up his mind to get drunk. When he received the call from his brother earlier that day, he hadn’t expected the meet to go this way. This just wasn’t like his brother.

He looked up at his brother across from him. He was back in his seat and he was smiling again.

“Boy, you sure are changed,” he said to the stranger across the table from him.

“Yes, I know. For the better I hope.”

There was a lack of understanding on Monty’s face.

Jackson took a big gulp of beer, then sat the mug back on the table and his face went serious. “I got to Iraq and then they sent me to Fallujah. I was so lost. Very disoriented. Every day on pins and needles. Guess that is when I screwed up.”

“Screwed up?”

“Yeah, you let down your guard once and suddenly an IED is blowing the shit out of you. I lay in the dirt, unconscious. All the time I am laying there, I am hearing this voice and it’s singing, ‘Rejoice, rejoice. Live each day and love.’ It sounded just like that old Beatles tune. You know the one?”

Monty’s face was a question.

“You know the one. ‘Love is all you need.’ I remember Dad used to play it for us when we were kids. Only the words were different. You know what I did when I woke up?”

Monty couldn’t imagine. So he didn’t answer.

Jacks took a drink of his beer, then, “I was laughing. I must have laughed for at least an hour. I was alive. I could not believe it. Right then and there I decided I was going to live my life as full as I could. And I wasn’t going to hang out with no Frowning Nellies. No sirree. Not me.”

He took one final drink. Then he stood up. He looked down at the surprise on his brother’s face. “So tell Mom and Dad I will be in touch. In the meantime, I plan to get myself laid tonight. And who knows I might just marry that waitress.”

Jackson walked over to the waitress and said a few words to her. She shook her head, said something to the bartender and followed him out the door.

Monty called over to a second waitress, “Janice, another pitcher please.”

Uncle Buddwin

“Damn,” my mother said. “Your uncle writes and all he has to say is that he wants you to come to see him. That’s it.”

She handed me the letter. I read its two paragraphs, one asking me to come to see him, one with directions. She continued, “I haven’t heard from my brother at all for seventeen years. He doesn’t have the courtesy to tell me how he’s been. Who the hell does he think he is?”

I had only met her brother once. He had come to stay with us when I was ten years old. All I could remember of that time was the arguments he and my mother had. When he left, Mom’s last words on the subject were “good riddance.” And that had been that. Until the letter.

I reread the letter. What it said was that it was time to get to know his nephew. I didn’t know what was expected of me.

“You’d better go,” she said. “Find out what he wants. You can take the truck. Otherwise you won’t be able to drive out to where he lives. It’s way off in the backwoods.”

I didn’t want to go, but Mom insisted. I said, “Oh, well,” and the next morning, drove the forty miles or so out into the country. Turned off onto the dirt road he’d given me and went another five miles or so through brush and trees on a road that could only be described as a trail, and barely one at that. Just when I was about to give up and back my way out, I came to what some might call a clearing. Mostly it was a break in the overgrowth I had been working my way through. Beside the dump of a shanty was an old, beat-up Harley. If nowhere had been a place, it would have been that shack of his.

I pushed the door of the truck open and got out and made my way through the bushes. I knocked on the door of the shanty several times, each time calling out, “Uncle Buddwin.” The door about fell off when I pulled on it. I went inside the one-room shanty

In the middle of the room was a wood burning stove. It wasn’t lit. The windows were broken, the glass held on by tape or replaced by a sheet or quilt. Over to the side was a chair and a table, then a small bed. Straight across from the door was what looked like a sink. It had no faucet. Then a wooden cabinet.

I thought to myself that whoever lived here must be a wretch. Certainly not my uncle. No one in my family would choose to live this way. We were too well-off. Though we weren’t rich, we did ourselves proud in the money department.

I went to leave. Standing in front of the door was a short man, bearded with long curly hair, and wearing a blue flannel shirt, dirty jeans and boots.

“Charles?” the man’s soft voice asked.

“Yes. You can call me Charlie, Uncle. Everybody does.”

He looked me up and down for a minute or so. “Charles.” He insisted on calling me Charles. “It’s good to see you.” He put out his hand, I took it, we shook. “Welcome to home sweet home.” Then, “Let me make you some coffee. You do drink coffee, don’t you? If not, I think I’ve got some other stuff around here you might like. One of my neighbors makes it.”

“Coffee will be fine.”

He offered me the chair by the table, threw some wood into the stove and got a fire going, then set a kettle of water on the stove. Soon he had both of us a mug of instant coffee. He took a seat on the floor and crossed his legs. He was ready to talk.

“Guess you want to know why I asked you to come out this way.”

“I’d like to know, yes.” I sipped my coffee.

“I’ve been thinking some. Thinking real hard about it. And for quite some time too.”

“About what?”

“About your mother and all. All the family.”

I let out my frustration. “Why did you disappear like you did?”

“Oh, that’s a long story.” His fingers stroked his beard.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“You ever wonder about me? About what happened to me?”

“The family never says. I assumed that it was because you disappeared. Because you treated everybody in the family badly, so they would just as well not talk about you.”

“You assumed that, did you?” He did not raise his voice but there seemed to be an anger to his words. “It wasn’t that. The real reason is that I am plain bad luck. At least, that’s what they believe. And maybe I was once upon a time. But not anymore.”

Now there was a quizzical look on my face. Even in the dark of the room, he could tell. Finally I asked, “Bad luck?”

“Yep, bad luck. The kind of bad luck that led me to have three failed marriages. The kind of bad luck that cost my third wife to lose a child. The kind of bad luck that almost killed your Uncle Jamie. Didn’t matter that he’d been drinking that night he rammed into a tree and I tried to stop him from driving. I still got the blame. So much so that I believed a long time that I was responsible for everything bad that happened to any in the family, anyone close to me.”

It was like a dam bursting to hear his grief in the words he spoke. Seemed like those words had been waiting for years to break free. Words that revealed a lot of hurt and loneliness. “You know, any excuse my family had to hate me, they used it, Charles.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“They never talk about me. Your parents or your Uncle Jamie or your grandparents? Do they?”

“No, they don’t.”

“I used to wonder why I had such rotten luck myself. I was such a jinx. Just couldn’t figure it out. When you grow up and everybody is telling you that you’re no good, you tend to be no good. Didn’t want to be no good. But somehow I couldn’t stay out of trouble. Somehow I couldn’t figure out why they hated me so. Around the age of thirty, ‘bout the time I saw you last, I found out what it was.”

The darkness of the night outside was filling the room. But even in that darkness I could see my uncle’s face clear. I had finished off my coffee, but I wasn’t about to ask him for another cup. I was anxious to hear his story.

“I see you need another coffee.”

“Don’t go to any trouble.”

“No trouble.” He was up and putting the kettle onto the stove. I waited but the minutes ticked off as slow as could be. He took my mug, dunked a spoonful of instant into it, poured the hot water and stirred, then he handed it back to me. Then he was back on the floor, not looking at me but staring into the dark as if there was no one else in the room.

“I always thought I was living someone else’s life. It wasn’t like I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I did. But it was like I was living a life I had no control over. Then I found out.”

“What?” I asked anxiously.

“One night I was at my parents. Your mother and your Uncle Jamie were there. There was a lot of yelling and screaming. You’ve heard the phrase knock-down-drag-out. That was it that night. I told them I was tired of being treated the awful way they had treated me as long as I could remember.

“My father turned to me, ‘I’m sorry you were the one that lived.’ It stopped me cold. ‘What?’

“‘No,’ my mother said, trying to get my father from saying what he was about to say.

“It didn’t stop my father. ‘Your older twin brother, Edwin, died. Or should I say you murdered him.’

“‘Don’t say that,’ my mother said. ‘It wasn’t his fault. You know that.’

“‘That’s not what the doctor said. He called it murder. While you both were in the womb.’

“That was when I realized I had been living Edwin’s life. The only way I could end that and live my own life was to get the hell out of there, leave the family for good. So that’s what I did. I moved out here and have been here since. Hidden from my family.”

Everything went quiet. The night. Uncle Buddwin’s breathing. My breathing.

Finally I said, “So what do you want of me?”

“Before it’s too late, I want you to find out where Edwin’s grave is. I know they buried the fetus. They are the kind of people what would bury a fetus. I just don’t know where. ”

It was true. My grandparents were very religious. They would not have just flushed the fetus down the toilet and let that be that. They would have buried Edwin.

“They’re not going to tell me,” I said, pretty sure that it was true.

“Oh, yes they will. I know they will.”

“And if they tell me?” I asked. My coffee was getting cold but I didn’t move.

“I have something for you to take to the graveside.” Uncle Buddwin got up and walked over to the wardrobe where he kept his clothes. He opened it and took out a small bag. Then he handed it to me.

“This,” he said.

I looked at the small bag in the palm of my hand. “What is it?”

“Let’s just say he will know. And don’t you open it up. I will know.”

“Why are you trusting me with this?”

“I don’t have any choice. You’re the only one I can trust that I know will find out from my parents.”

I agreed to his demand. We shook hands and I left. It took me a month to get the place where the grave was. My grandmother let it out like it was some long, dark secret. Once she had, it looked like a great weight had dropped off her shoulders. I followed my uncle’s instruction to the letter.

The day after I visited Edwin’s gravesite, I drove out to see Uncle Buddwing. I couldn’t find his shack. It had disappeared. Now once a year I visit Edwin’s gravesite to make sure he isn’t forgotten. On my last visit there, I saw someone leaving as I got to the cemetery. I could have sworn that it was my uncle. When I tried to chase him down, he had disappeared.

Lost and Found

Supper was over and the dishes done. More out of boredom than anything else, I decided our black and brown German Shepherd needed a walk. I kissed my wife and said, “I’m taking Ranger for a walk.”

She looked up at me from her comfortable chair. “Ranger will like that.” She returned to her television program. Then she joked, “If you see Jesus, tell him I said hi.”

I laughed. Beth wasn’t religious. She found humor in the religiosity of people she knew.

I grabbed a sweater, then said, “Ranger, c’mon.” He jumped from the couch and followed me outside into the nippy night air. I pulled on the sweater and attached a leash to the dog’s collar. Ranger and I headed for the street.

Several blocks later the dog indicated he wanted to go into the empty field. If Ranger indicated he wanted to do something, I’d best do it. Or have a darn good reason not to. So I allowed myself to be pulled along after him.

Our German shepherd strained forward across the field. With the lease, I commanded the dog to stop. He stopped and I undid the lease. Then he was off into the woods nearby. I followed him into the trees. He disappeared and went off to do his business. I sat down on a log and waited for him to return. The tree canvas blocked the stars. Only a slight bit of moonlight made it through the leaves and branches.

Ranger reappeared in the clearing and came over to me, barking. I stood up, not knowing what to make of the dog. His mouth grabbed my hand, not biting, but secure around it. He pulled, then dropped my hand and turned and went back deeper into the woods. I made my way after him, then he stopped, sat on his hind legs and barked twice.

I saw what the dog saw. A baby in a basket and bundled to keep warm. It appeared to be asleep. But it wasn’t. It was unconscious. All pale. I checked its little pulse and felt barely a beat. But there was still a beat.

I grabbed the basket and ran, Ranger ahead of me. Almost stumbling several times, I reached the house. The dog had aroused my wife, and she was standing on the porch.

I handed the basket to Beth. “It’s still alive,” I went inside and got the keys to the car, then I told Ranger to stay indoors and watch over things the way he always did. He took his place on the couch. I came back out and she handed me the basket. “I have to get my jacket.” She threw the jacket over her nightgown and joined me as I was warming up the car.

On the way to the hospital, she kept saying, “Hurry. Hurry.” I was driving as fast as I could on the dark streets and then out onto the main thoroughfare. A cop pulled up behind me, lights flashing. I did not stop. I did not dare stop. “Is the baby still breathing?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “but hurry.” A second police car pulled up behind the first as I turned into the hospital and pulled up to the emergency room and came to a halt. She jumped out of the car with the basket. The baby started screaming. Then Beth was inside.

A cop ran after her. Two other cops pulled me out of the car and threw me on the ground, face down. I heard a muffled “You’re under arrest” as they cuffed my hands behind me. Then “Stay there and don’t move.” The other cop, the one who had followed Beth into the emergency room, pushed her outside. Her hands were cuffed behind her.

A cop lifted me off the ground and threw me into the back seat of the police car beside my wife. A nurse and a doctor came out of the emergency room door and walked up to one of the men in blue.

“Who’s in charge here?” the doctor in his white coat demanded.

One of the three cops stepped up to the doctor. “Sgt Henry, sir.”

“Let them go,” the doctor almost shouted.

“What?” Henry said, looking like he was about to arrest the doctor.

“I have some questions for them. I’m Doctor Joe Samuels and I am the super for the E. R. Uncuff them and bring them inside.”

Henry signaled for one of his officers to pull us out of the car. He pushed us both into the hospital and sat us down. My wife and I were keeping quiet. Neither of us wanted to make matters worse and get anyone hurt. I could feel one of the cops behind me. The sergeant and the other cop took their places by the emergency room door and watched us.

Then Beth asked, tears in her voice, “How’s the baby?”

“We don’t know,” Dr. Samuels said. “Tell me what happened.”

“I found the baby in the woods close to our house. It didn’t appear to be conscious but it was still breathing. That’s why we rushed here.”

We explained the whole incident to the sergeant and the doctor, Beth interrupting me, me interrupting her. The sergeant uncuffed us.

“We’ll need your information,” Henry said. “But, due to the circumstances, I think any charges will be dropped. No one was hurt. Just a little of everybody’s pride.” Then he said to one of the other two cops, “I want you to take Mr. Wayne here back to where he found the baby.”

“Yessir.”

I showed the two cops the spot where the child had been left. They called for a detective. Once the detective arrived and took my story, the cops dropped me off at the hospital. Beth was being interviewed by the local news.

Several hours later, Doctor Samuels came out to let us know the baby was sleeping, recuperating. “It’s going to take a lot of care but I think the baby will survive. At least, we can hope.”

“Can you show us the baby?” Beth asked.

We stood and looked through the glass, our arms around each other. The child had needles in its arms attached to feeding tubes. It seemed to be resting. My wife asked the doctor, “Who would leave a baby to starve like that?”

“I don’t know. I can’t imagine.”

“So what happens next?” I asked.

“Social services.”

My wife looked up at me and her arm squeezed me. Since we had no children of our own, she was thinking adoption.”Perhaps…we can call her Nicole.”

I said, “I think Ranger will like that name.”

Fish-ing

Two men on a boat, fishing. The two have been friends for twenty years. It’s early morning of an autumn day, a breeze in the air. Perfect for being on the river.

“Have you thought much about dying?” the priest asks. He has a white head of hair and a little paunch around the belly.

“Of course. It’s on my bucket list,” Tom says from his side of the boat. Tom’s in his mid-forties but looks younger. Life has treated him well.

“Sounds like you think death will be a vacation,” Father John says.

“Pretty much. It gives me something to look forward to.”

“Don’t you have any fear of what comes after?” Father John casts his line. The line splashes into the water.

“Not really.” Tom reaches for the can of worms. “I’ve never gone in much for all the hand-wringing about the afterlife. Seems to me that is what you’re for. Me, I like the anticipation.”

“What I’m for?” The priest studies the water.

“Yes.” Tom finishes baiting his hook.

“I am no expert.” The ripples have stopped and the water is calm.

“I sure am not. Why did you ask anyway?” Tom casts his line into the water.

“Lately I’ve been thinking about it more. I’ve had an awful lot of funerals to conduct this year.”

“Oh, yeah.” Tom thinks he has a bite on his hook. He slowly reels the line in.

“It’s become hard to comfort people when they’ve lost someone. I am supposed to have answers and I don’t. All I have is some mumbo jumbo that don’t even make sense to me.”

Tom pulls his hook out of the water. It is empty and the bait is gone. “It may not be mumbo jumbo to them.”

The priest is quiet, then he hums some of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. After a bit, he speaks, his voice almost a whisper and filled with tears. “When I was seventeen, I lost my sister.”

“I didn’t know. You never told me.” Tom selects another worm for his hook.

“She was only seven. Such a fragile little thing.” Father John remembers. “My mother almost lost it. She’s never been the same since.” He reels in his line, grabs it out of the water. No worm. “You know, I like that Dylan Thomas poem, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’. I have wondered for years why my sister did not rage against the dying of the light. But she didn’t. That’s when I decided to become a priest.”

Tom casts his line back into the water. “So you could find out why?”

“Not really.” The priest tosses his line into the air. It lands in the water with a splash. “So I could fight the darkness with some light.”

“Have you succeeded?”

“No. The darkness seems to be winning.”

A fish pulls on Tom’s line. He slowly reels him in, handling the line gentle so the fish won’t know he is being hauled in. He pulls the fish out of water and drops it into the boat and next to him.

“Now that is what I call a fish,” Father John says, glad to have his mind off the darkness.

Tom unhooks the fish. He looks over at the priest. “Without a little darkness, there can be no light. That’s what the Tao te ching says. And that is what I try to live by.”

“What?”

“There is some dark and some light in the world. Just like there is some dark and some light in each of us.” Tom takes the fish and tosses it back into the water. “That’s what the fish know.”

The priest looks puzzled.

“The fish know that the worm they see might be on some hook. But they bite anyway. That’s his acceptance of the dark. But he also knows that is the cost of all that time he got to swim in this river. The river is the light. Without the hook, there can be no appreciation for the river he now gets to swim in. So you see. It’s all good. Isn’t that what God said?”

The priest still puzzled. “God said?”

“It was good.”

“You have got to be kidding,” a voice comes from the water.

“What was that?” Tom says.

“What?” Father John asks.

“It was me,” the voice again. Then the fish Tom threw overboard jumps out of the water. “Terence Patrick Michael O’Bass.” He falls back into the river.

Father John can’t not believe his ears. And neither can Tom. “Are you hearing what I’m hearing?” the priest asks. Tom responds, “Yes.”

The two look into the water. There is the fish and he is…how shall we say? Speaking in tongues. And the tongues he’s speaking in are the foulest kind of words.

At that point, Tom protests. “Now hold on, fish.”

“Terence, if you don’t mind,” the fish says.

“Now hold on, Terence,” Tom says. “What in the world are you talking about?”

“Your palaver,” Terence says, jumping out of the water. “It’s the biggest line of baloney I have heard in many a year. First off. We fish do not bite into a worm thinking it might have a hook in it. That’s downright stupid.”

“Oh yeah?” Tom says. Father John nods his head. He can’t believe what he is seeing, hearing. Tom is actually talking to a fish, and the fish is talking back. Unbelievable.

“Get this straight,” Terence says, diving back into the water. He pops up his head. “All we fish want is to be left alone. It’s no darn fun, having a hook in your mouth. You should try it sometime.”

“I didn’t say it was fun,” Tom again.

“It’s bad enough that we fish have to struggle day in and day out to survive. But, on top of that, we have you to contend with. Life is hard enough. Just leave us alone. And you, priest, why are you blubbering over your sister?”

“What?” There is anger in the priest’s voice.

“Do you not believe your sister is in a better place?” Terence asks.

“Yes,”

“Then why are you so sad?”

Father John does not have an answer. Instead the weight of his doubt falls from him. He feels like he can float away into the sky like some cloud,

“And here’s one more thing for you to think about,” Terence says, then jumps out of the water and faces the two men, fish to man. He shoots water into both of their faces, laughs and falls back into the water.

When the two have gotten the water out of their eyes and can see, Terence is nowhere in sight.

Orchids

Wendy dropped her boy off at the airport on a Friday morning. He had an early flight out to Fort Benning and basic training. She went home and did not cry. She attended his orchids instead.

Ten weeks later, her boy came home a man, handsome in his uniform, quieter, more serious in his manner. There were hugs and a cup of coffee, then he was off to his orchids in the greenhouse he had built three years earlier. At the end of his two-week leave, Roy gave her some new instructions for the orchids. He gave her a hug and that big grin of his. Then he was off for Fort Hood and his unit.

There he phoned or emailed about once a week. The emails usually contained several snaps, Roy and friends, Roy with a new girl he had met in the town, Roy driving a jeep. Always he had that grin of his. He went on about this new buddy or that one, and always he asked how are the orchids doing. “They’re fine,” she would say, holding back her tears. The news was that his unit would be going to Iraq. He wasn’t sure when. After each call or email, she went out and tended his orchids.

Two weeks went by with only a couple of emails, then he skyped her. He was in Fallujah, he said. “Fallujah?” Fear was in her voice. “That’s in Iraq,” he said. “And I’m fine. I’m with my buds. We watch out for each other. How’s my orchids?” “They’re good,” she returned, holding her fears inside. Each time he would call the flowers by their names. She could never remember the names. All she knew was that the orchids were fine.

Her son’s body arrived at the funeral home on Tuesday. From Tuesday till Saturday, she could not stop her crying. She would stop for fifteen minutes, then tears were back like water breaking through a levee. The funeral was Saturday. The rifles for the salute to her son gave her a headache. Then the words the soldier spoke to her she couldn’t remember, and the flag laid in her arms, instead of the son she had once held.

Wendy walked back to the car between her married daughter and her ex-husband. Ed had flown in from Los Angeles. He seemed to be holding himself together, but she knew how hard he was taking his son’s death. When they got home, there was food and people. She wasn’t ready for all that. “Mom, why don’t you go upstairs and get some rest?” her daughter suggested.

“I’m going out to the greenhouse,” Wendy said. Alice shook her head, understanding.

She opened the greenhouse, turned the fogger on, then slipped on her gloves. In her mind, she went through the names he had given her for the orchids. Somehow she had remembered what she had forgotten before. Then through the mist, she heard Roy’s voice. “I’m okay, Mom,” it said. “I love you. And thank you for taking care of my orchids.” Then it was gone. She picked up one of the orchids, cut the flower off at the stem, and tenderly set it in the basket. When she finished the cuttings, she would have enough orchids for her daughter, her ex and Roy’s closest friends.