Kenneth M. Kapp
The doorbell rang. A small package had been left beside the door. Sam saw a van turn the corner but didn’t catch the logo. He hadn’t ordered anything on the internet and thought that perhaps Sally, who was out of town, had made a purchase and used his name in case a signature was required on delivery.
He brought it into the kitchen. Inside was a smaller box nested in Styrofoam peanuts. There were fragile stickers on the sides and after opening it carefully he found a rocklike brownish potato wrapped in tissue paper. There was also a small square of paper with a picture of the rock/potato half buried in loose soil, a spray bottle with “2x” to the side, and a sketch of a crinkled plastic sheet with 7 scratched in one corner. He almost missed the sun covered by a couple of wispy clouds.
Puzzled, he went out to the potting table in the garage. Perhaps it’s a surprise from Sally – a trick to make sure I get out of bed at least twice a day to water it while she’s gone.
Sally had flown out to California for some R & R and told him that she and her girlfriends would likely spend most of their time in the mountains off the grid. He wasn’t expecting daily updates; his wife deserved some downtime.
After a few days, Sam noticed several tendrils emerging from the cleft in what was definitely not a rock. They seemed to respond well to his spraying and in a few more days grew even more. No longer needing the temporary plastic wrap he put around it, he made an executive decision and inserted a couple of twigs in the pot making a trellis for the tendrils to climb.
By the end of the second week the vines had filled out the twig scaffolding and he inserted a couple of bamboo posts. It was then that he noticed tiny flowers sprouting from the vine opposite some round lotus-like petals.
At the start of the third week he began to worry, still not having received word from his wife. He called Cathy, the organizer of their rally on the coast. No answer. He guessed they were having a good time. But two days later, something made him take a closer look at the flowers on that plant. They looked like little faces.
By the beginning of the fourth week he was becoming seriously concerned when still no one answered Cathy’s phone. He found an old address book of Sally’s and an entry for Cathy Lewis in San Mateo. The number was different from the one Sally had left for him. The man who answered didn’t know of any Cathy Lewis but it was a landline and the number must have been recycled. Sally had flown into the San Jose airport and maybe Cathy’s still living at the address in the book in case I need to call the police. He apologized and hung up.
By the end of the week, no call, no postcards – but who sends those anymore anyway. Sam called two of Sally’s local friends, thinking maybe something was going on in which the husband is always the last to know. They were sure everything was fine. “You’ve got nothing to worry about, Sam. Sally’s always saying what a dear you are.”
The plant was doing fine. But for some reason he was feeling uneasy and decided to take a closer look at the tiny flowers. He got a magnifying glass from the den and studied the flower at the end of one of the tendrils. Yes, it did look like a tiny face. He wasn’t sure so he rushed to the garage for an even larger magnifying with their camping gear. His hands were shaking, but he was almost certain that the tiny face was Sally’s!
He poured himself a drink. What the hell should he do? The police will think I’m crazy and the boxes it came in went out with the recycling weeks ago. He decided to wait until Monday before doing anything but meantime he would put the plant out on the patio.
Sally came home on Sunday. She called out and when no one answered went through the house calling, “Sam, Sam – I’m home.” She sensed something was amiss. The Sunday paper was still on the front steps and there were dishes on the table and in the sink. Sam wasn’t like that.
Thinking he could be puttering in the back yard; she went out to the patio. Immediately she saw his body sprawled next to the ornamental fieldstone wall separating the grass from the raised deck. There was a cracked flower pot on the other side. It appeared he had tripped and struck his head as he fell. He must have lain there overnight. His clothes were wet and she couldn’t bare to look at his face. She staggered back inside to call the police.
They were there in ten minutes.
Sam had been dead for at least 24 hours. They took her statement and eventually concluded that the death was accidental. “He probably tripped carrying that plant. His were the only prints on the flowerpot.” Had anyone looked at the one flower remaining on the plant before it was disposed of they would have seen a small face that looked remarkably like Sam’s.
Kenneth M. Kapp was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, an IBMer, and yoga teacher. He lives with his wife and beagle in Wisconsin, writing late at night in his man-cave. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Please visit www.kmkbooks.com.