A Flower Grows in a Lonely Spot

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The beginning of an old rhyme, a favorite of his sea faring grandfather, ran through Montana’s head:

A flower grows in a lonely spot
To honor names long forgot

He wished he could recall the ending.  Every time the rhyme played through, Montana heard it in his grandfather’s cigarette charred voice, the home country’s influence still thick on every word, and emanating from behind a wiry gray beard.  Montana never thought on the meaning of the rhyme, never wondered why his ocean wandering grandpa had a rhyme about a flower at the ready.  The rhyme was just something that was said when a room fell silent.

Montana did not understand it until he washed ashore.

He could only remember the sound of wood snapping.  It was not the story books where the ship snapped with a loud crack that sent shivers down one’s spine.  It was more a bright popping sound followed by already tall waves growing taller still.  After that his mind was blank.  He awoke on a beach, dripping wet and spitting sand.

Walking the woods behind the beach now, he stopped at a lone flower standing tall among grass he would never have seen back home.  He his fingers over the petals and wondered how many times his grandfather had seen a flower grow so vibrantly against a beach untouched by civilization.

Over the days that followed small bits of the merchant ship he was travelling on beached themselves.  No crew, no passengers.  He was alone with scraps of wood and barrels of soggy grain.  Despite the isolation, the island felt full of life as the sound of chirping birds and running rodents kept his ears busy.  Trees were tall, grass was plentiful; but flowers were few.  If found this most peculiar.  Where do the bees find their pollen or the tiniest birds their nectar?” He pondered.  He spoke aloud now, using different inflections and accents to feel less alone.

He made his shelter near the lonely flower beside the beach.  The vibrant red was easy to spot against the green of the grass and blue of the ocean.  He had a connection to the flower; both being the only of their type in a strange land.  He called it Jules, in honor of his favorite author.  “I have certainly not forgot that name,” Montana joked after bestowing a name on his floral fellow.

After a week had passed, Montana was losing hope of ever being rescued.  He turned instead to making the island home.  His primitive lean-to shelter was turned into a box.  A permanent fire-pit was dug into the beach and encircled with the largest rocks he could find within an hour’s walk.  He ripped the right leg from his trousers and used it to collect dew in the night.  All the while keeping up conversation with the lonely flower.

On the tenth day of his ordeal the sea returned to its hazardous ways.  Waves crashed against the shore, nearly hitting Montana’s shelter and his dear flower.  Distressed at the scene, he placed his body between Jules and the incoming waves.  The wind picked up, screeching through his ears.  Wave after wave was now hitting Montana’s back.  He remained in place, protecting the one thing that brought joy now.

“When I’m gone, honor my name will you?” Montana asked the plant.

The storm sat over the beach for an eternity. One wave brought with it a rock.  Upon colliding with Montana’s head, the poor lost traveler lost consciousness.

When he woke, he was belly down and laying in the place Jules had occupied.  He could not summon words to match his distress and fear as he pulled himself off the ground.  The sky had returned to its regular blue, the sea was calm and birds chirped once more, but everything had changed.  Montana clambered to his knees and saw what had come of the red flower.

His jaw chattered.  He had no tears to shed, but they would have all spilled as he saw the flower torn from its spot and flattened.  All he could do was stare.  His companion was gone.

It was then the ocean called for his attention once more.  Birds ended their songs and took flight, fleeing the beach.

Rising from the tide came shambling skeletons.  Three had already come to shore with a dozen more behind them.  Water poured from their bones and torn garments.  Tri-cornered hats and boots from a bygone era covered their bodies.

Montana recalled the end of his grandfather’s rhyme.  He knew then why his sea-legged grandfather knew this rhyme about a flower.

A flower grows in a lonely spot
To honor names long forgot
To that place you venture not
Disturb a petal and ye shall rot

Montana rose to his feet and stepped back.  The flower was a tombstone to those lost at sea and he had broken it.  He watched the skeletons raise their swords and pick up their pace.  Then came a pop.  Then the waves grew taller and as he looked once more at the grass just behind the beach, a red flower said farewell.

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