Flash Fiction — The Swap

By Denise Miller Holmes, Director

It’s amazing how one piece of mail can change a life and cause great embarrassment at the same time.

When I read the invitation to the Grand Opening of Evan’s used-car dealership, relief flooded my body.  Here’s your chance, I told myself. This is the perfect time to say, “sorry.”

I’d met Evan a few years back when I was twenty-two, and we dated a few times before I left for a job in another state.

The entire four years I was away, I tortured myself about how I’d treated him at the end, just before I left. I don’t remember what the fight was about, but I yelled mean things at him and told him I never wanted to see him again. It was an intense outburst that gave me a pain in my gut and heat in my cheeks whenever I thought of it. I’d thrown every insult my father had taught me at Evan, including, “You kiss your mother with that mouth?” — which made no sense.

But, God has a way of bringing painful things back in order to heal us, and the invite was my opportunity to make it right. I needed to make this right.

I wanted to do something more than show up at the opening of his new location. I wanted Evan to remember that I’d come to the party, and, especially that I was nice to him—that the animosity was gone. So, I pulled into Aunt Flo’s Floral for something special.

I picked out a dynamic arrangement of bold-colored flowers and signed the card. ”Congratulations . . . .” blah, blah, blah and signed it “Clarice.”

At the last minute, I decided to have them deliver it rather than haul them in myself. The nice man smiled at me and promised to get them there early that day when the celebration would be starting.

I arrived about thirty minutes after the doors opened and saw an exquisite carved wood table with flower arrangements and cards covering the entirety of it. My flowers were there, in the center, with an envelope attached to them—an envelope entirely the wrong color.

Because I’d picked a blue envelope and this one was pink, confusion swirled around for a bit. But, before I could check out the card, sweet Evan came up to me and took, not shook, my hand. He held it there for a full four seconds (I counted) and then gently let it go.

After a few minutes of chatting, I pointed to my flowers and said they were from me. He walked over, to my chagrin, and snapped up the card. As he read it, I got an understanding of how bad the message must be because his face paled and he swallowed hard. “What is this?” he yelled, throwing the card onto the floor. “Do you want me dead, Clarice? Can’t you let this go?” He stormed off.

Certainly, this was more than him not liking pink envelopes. I picked up the card and read, “Rest in peace.” It was signed “C.” 

My first thought was, Oh how annoying it is that so many lazy people abbreviate everything. My second thought was, Oh gawd. How will I ever explain this and win his trust?

I called the florist and gave them a piece of my mind. They apologized exuberantly, then explained what it was like for the people who received my card.

“Where did it go?” I said, thinking someone else’s pain might be more than my own.

“Well,” he hesitated and sighed. “Imagine how the grieving family of Herbert Kunkel felt when they read your note out loud at the funeral reception, and it said, “Congratulations on your new location.”

Evan was in another room, engaging his guests, and I figured he needed time to cool off. I went home and poured myself a full glass of sugary drink. By then, it was early evening. God, please help Evan believe me.

I didn’t finish the prayer because my doorbell rang and startled me. I opened the door to see a small bouquet of forget-me-nots in an arrangement with baby’s breath. I brought them inside and read the card. It said, “I think there was a mix-up at the florist’s and you don’t want me dead. Let’s both pray about it, then go get a coffee. Call me. Is six a.m. okay?”

I ruminated a bit over the turn of events as I sipped my cola. It didn’t take long to decide. With God (and coffee), anything was possible.  

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