"It's all just a crummy excuse to sell flowers if you ask me!" Michael said into the receiver. He angrily stubbed his cigarette into the overflowing ashtray on the ash-strewn secretaire. "The Goddamned florists see you coming, buddy, and they bring out their flutes and call your money up out of your pockets like snake-charmers and suddenly you're feeling all gaga, and you want more than anything to drop on bended knee in front of your girl and present her with this bouquet of ugly wild flowers you wouldn't even ordinarily look at!
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"Incidentally, did you know we use the same florist, you and I, Marcus?" Michael continued on his slow and obsequious rant. "Don't ask me how I know, for Chrissakes, I just do!"
"I'll take your word for it, Michael," Marcus whispered back into the phone, afraid to be disagreeing with the distressed Michael. "But what’s making you so upset? So you got Sally some flowers! That's no crime, Michael, I'll tell you that much."
"That's exactly what it is, Marcus, a crime!" Michael retorted, unnecessarily splashing the receiver with spittle. "Thank you, buddy, for calling it like it is. It's a Goddamned crime, and I couldn't thank you enough for pointing that out!"
Marcus was, up to this point, imagining that he was mere seconds away from being free of Michael's haranguing. Now, however, he knew that he was in for several more minutes of Michael's wrath, and he resignedly dropped the book he had been attempting to read as Michael spoke. He looked at it longingly while he took a deep breath, waiting for Michael to catch his.
"I just want you to calm down a bit, Michael, and tell me what this is all about," Marcus said, attempting to appease his distraught friend. He reached blindly with his free hand to the end table beside him. Finding the pack of cigarettes there, he picked them up and went about the motions of lighting one. Michael had chosen this time to remain quiet on his end of the phone. But Marcus knew him long enough to be able to interpret this silence as a build up to the next rant which was very much inevitable.
"Marcus," Michael said, quite at the end of his rope. "Are you still there, buddy, are you still there?"
"Yes Michael," Marcus replied reassuringly. "I'm still here. Now tell me why you’re angry with every florist in the city at this moment. I mean really, tell me!"
"How about letting a guy hang onto the regret of his own words, Marcus," Michael stated. "How about forgetting the whole ordeal and letting me just sit here and mope in the regret of my own Goddamned words!"
"How about you just tell me what set you off, for Chrissakes!" Marcus demanded. "Michael what could be this bad that you have to take me down with you? This is supposed to be my day off. I want to enjoy myself today! Leave me the Goddamned false hope, Michael, that you have not been sitting there in your sad little world contemplating just how you can destroy my one and only day off this week!"
There was a distinct silence on the phone line. Marcus sat on his couch, rolling the lit end of his cigarette around in the groove in his ashtray. He was waiting this out, allowing---even forcing---Michael to be the next one to speak. He could tell that his friend was highly volatile and even explosive, but that he was not quite ready to burst forth. Marcus sat bracing himself for the next outburst.
The quiet continued. Marcus waited. Then the other end came to life.
"Do you know any of the uses one may have for fallen rose petals, Marcus?" Michael asked quite unexpectedly into the silence that had fallen into the conversation.
"I beg your..."
"I mean, do you really know of all the uses?" Michael continued as though Marcus had not spoken. Indeed, Marcus was sure that Michael had not even heard him speak. "I will tell you, Marcus. Don't say I never do anything for you, buddy, because this is something big. You will be thanking me for years to come for this one. Because if you ever find yourself in the possession of a great many wilted roses, and you don't know what to do with the carcasses, you can reflect on this Goddamned conversation and know that I gave you a real treat here today, offering up my wisdom on the uses of fallen rose petals.
"So listen up, buddy, cause I'm only gonna say this once," Michael continued. He quickly reached over and picked a cigarette out of the open pack beside him, but did not light it.
"Let me have it, Michael," Marcus moaned into the receiver. "Tell me just what I should do with my fallen rose petals, should I ever be in possession of them."
"You're mocking me, Marcus," Michael suggested, putting the unlit cigarette in his mouth and searching his breast pockets for his lighter. "One thing I don't need at this time is..."
"To be perfectly honest with you, Michael," Marcus interrupted. "I'm out of patience, and I just want you to get to the point!"
"The point, buddy, if you really want to know, is that there are a bevy of uses for wilted rose petals. I just happen to have bushels of roses in my apartment, Marcus, and I have been sitting here all day long creating a list of things I could do with them. I'm distraught, for Chrissakes, don't expect me to make much sense right now."
"Okay, Michael," Marcus finally gave in. "Please continue. I solemnly swear that I will not interrupt you again. Tell me, if you must, what you are going to do with those petals. And for Chrissakes, let me in on the secret as to why you have all these numerous flowers in the first place!"
"Sally is the reason, my friend, Sally," Michael stated flatly as he paused to finally light his cigarette. The pause produced a slight moan on the other end of the line, which in turn caused Michael to exhale deeply in exasperation. "I desperately tried to do with these flowers what one is supposed to do with them!
"I attempted to give them to Sally. God knows I tried! I wish to add here, incidentally, that this is why I hate florists, Marcus. They really make you believe that all a girl wants is some crazy flowers. I mean, you walk out of their stores with great bundles of roses and you actually believe that they are somehow suggestive of the love you feel for the girl of your dreams. So, you take your flowers and you attempt to give them to your girl, buddy, and she doesn't want them. She won't even look at them.
"And therein lies the great lie of all florists!" Michael continued, satisfied that he had made his point. "And that is why they are all intrinsically evil, I mean intrinsically!"
TO BE CONTINUED...
At the end of every short story the reader should feel like a cloud has lifted from the face of the moon.