In A Second Chance, Jenny suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and is grappling with a flurry of thoughts and emotions about it. Her friend, Carla, is trying to help her figure out type of work she wants to do. This week our prompt is ‘glass’.
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Carla rummaged through the small ice chest sitting beside the park bench where we were leisurely eating our lunch and enjoying the October afternoon. She pulled out a small container and opened the lid, revealing two cupcakes laying inside, decorated with bright purple frosting proclaiming ‘1’. “Surprise! They’re chocolate. Your favorite.” Holding the treats out for me to take one, she continued. “So…how do you feel now that it’s been a year since your cardiac arrest?”
Not quite sure how to answer, I paused and gazed out at the pond in front of us, as smooth as glass except for the ripples around the fountain in the center. “Kind of strange actually. I mean, I’m glad…I’m really glad that I’ve had this time, an extra year that for all accounts I shouldn’t have had…”
“As you should be! And I, for one, am very glad that my friend is still here…living and breathing!” With that she bit into her cupcake, getting almost half the dessert in one bite.
Laughter bubbled up when I turned and saw her face with purple icing smeared all over her upper lip. I nibbled at mine, not wanting to make the same diner’s mistake. “It doesn’t seem like a year. It’s gone by in a flash. It’s been very strange though…”
I turned back towards the pond and watched a turtle’s tiny head cutting through the surface towards the bank as I gathered my thoughts before continuing. “My awareness has certainly fluctuated throughout the year. There’s been times where I was acutely aware of this second chance I’ve been given and I’ve been abundantly thankful for every breath. And yet…there’s been other days where I’ve noticed that I’ve slipped into oblivion, caught up in old habits and just going through life, task by task, errand by errand – living life payday to payday.” I took the last bite of my cupcake and stuffed the paper liner in the trash bag that sat on the bench between us.
“You’re still alive. That’s the important thing. I mean…what would I do without my best friend to hang around with?” Carla held her water bottle up in the air as if an imaginary toast. “It would be awful lonely sitting here eating lunch all by myself.”
“But that’s just it. It’s not the most important thing. Well…it is…but it isn’t. I feel like I do at the end of the year when I think about the New Year resolution I made and how I didn’t accomplish any of it and now the year is over.”
“That’s why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.”
“That solves the problem for you. But I do. And here I am, 365 days later, and I’m also frustrated because I don’t feel that I’ve done enough with my extra time.” A hawk soaring over the park caught my attention and I pointed towards it. We both sat watching it as it circled, seemingly lazy in its drifting, yet knowing that it watched the ground beneath it intently, ready to dive in an instant.
After it drifted out of view, I continued with my rambling. “I read a quote last week that really made me think. It was by Milton…no, Mill…wait, I think I have it with me…” I stuck my fingers in my jeans pocket and pulled out a folded, and now slightly worn and worse for the wear, slip of paper.
I unfolded it and read it out loud. “It’s Millard Fuller, and he wrote ‘It’s not your blue blood, your pedigree or your college degree. It’s what you do with your life that counts.’ So…” I folded the paper back up and stuck in back in my pocket. “…what have I done in the past year that counted? Have I made good use of those extra days?”
“You’re being too hard on yourself.”
“Not really. What have I done any differently? Other than I stopped playing all those farm games on Facebook and started playing with real plants in my garden instead.” I stood and started pacing to counteract the restless feeling that threatened to consume me.
“That’s something. That’s a biggie. I mean, look how many hours I spend playing computer games.”
“It is. I admit it. But it’s still not enough.” I stopped at the huge oak tree towering over the park bench and placed a palm on the surface of its thick, rough bark. I stood mutely for a moment, trying to connect with the silent sentential, guardian of the park who had seen this area change over the past hundred years.
Carla remained quiet, letting me gather my thoughts, which was very odd in itself, as she was usually one who chattered like a magpie the whole time we were together.
Not getting any answer back from the tree, I continued. “What’s been one of my biggest gripes over the past year?”
“Not enough money?”
“Ha! That too. But besides that, what do I always seem to be complaining about?”
“Your job. Your boss. Your coworkers. Your schedule.”
Yep, Carla knew that one. She must have heard that song and dance from me more than once. “Exactly. Crafty Hands. In one form or another.” I took a deep breath and stood straight. “And where am I still at? Crafty Hands.”
“So get another job.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“There’s lots of jobs out there. You just haven’t looked.”
“No, I haven’t,” I admitted.
“Go apply at the new Aldi’s. Or Tom Thumb.”
“Yuck!” That response flew out of my mouth without any reservation. “I have no desire to work in a grocery store.”
“There’s lots of warehouses around. Try some of those.”
“Taco Bueno? Dairy Queen?”
“Nope. I’ve never worked in fast food in over fifty years. I don’t want to start now.”
For every idea Carla had, I had a quick negative response. For such a good friend that, I thought, knew me so well, she sure threw out a lot of ideas that didn’t tempt me in the least. I didn’t want to tell her what I really thought – that these were all dumb ideas. “Besides, even if I went to one of those places, I’d simply be trading in one time clock for another. One boss for another. It would only be a new company telling me when I had to be there and what I had to do every day. It wouldn’t be any different, it would only be in a different building.”
“True. But it would be a paycheck. And you need a paycheck.”
“Yes, I need the money. But I want it to be something creative, something that touches my soul, and something that’s not just a job.”
“Well, you’ve been doing all this gardening lately. Work at a nursery.”
“Naw. The plant part would be fun. I guess the big problem is that I don’t want to be an employee. I don’t want to be someone’s minion anymore.”
Carla stood and stretched, making a little groan as she twisted her back. “So start your own business. With plants.”
Hmmmm…maybe not all her ideas are stupid. I ran my fingers up and down the ridges in the tree’s bark as I thought about what she’d just suggested. “There’s lots of nurseries around…I’d need something slightly different…I need to tweak it a little…”
“So…what are your favorite plants?” She laughed as she watched me. “Except for fondling trees in the park that is?”
I looked at what I’d been doing and had to laugh too. I broke away from communing with my new found botanical friend. “My favorites? Iris. Herbs. Roses. Oak trees.” I patted my buddy to let him know he was in my list of favorites. “There’s already an iris business over in Argyle. But you know…there’s not really a nursery with a good selection of herbs. Calloway’s has a decent selection in the spring. But otherwise everyone carries the same old offerings of the basic dozen or so.”
“Lavender!” Carla started hopping around and waving her hands in the air. “There’s that lavender farm up in Gainesville. You could do something like that.”
“Well, yeah, but not with lavender. They’ve already got that market covered.”
“It doesn’t have to be lavender. There’s more herbs than that. But something similar. You know, with herbs, and a garden area, and a little shop inside.”
Pictures floated through my mind – images of a quaint little shop, filled with potpourris and sachets, teas and bundles of cinnamon sticks, jars of dried herbs and spices, books, live plants, birdhouses. It was like a slideshow flashing by filled with delightful scenes. I could almost smell the inside, fragrant with the aromas and scents of the goodies that stocked it from floor to ceiling.
“Earth to Jenny. Earth to Jenny.” My friend’s voice jerked me back to the present and I realized I’d been staring out across the pond, not seeing a single thing around me except for the vision of my new business.
“That’s it. An herb store. Not like jars of pills and bottles and extracts. But herbs, in the garden, and birdhouses and bee skeps and…”