© Copyright 2002
The tinkling of a small bell sliced through the sweltering June morning. Summer has started hard this year, and today's temperature is at eighty-five degrees before ten a.m. From the inside of a much cooler flower shop, Karen winced at the searing sun as it nested in a royal blue sky. Her own equally blue eyes scanned the roadway, which passed the front of the store, for the familiar form of the florist's delivery van.
Vance, the store's salesclerk was attending to the browsing customer who had originally opened the door, activating a small, attached bell. Karen felt disassociated with the immediate surroundings. The conversation between Vance and the elderly gent he was selling to, had become a background drone. The young lady shook her head to clear it of the day's mugginess and her long, straight golden hair rippled at the motion. She allowed her mind to race off to recheck her plans for this day. Hot and clear had been the weather report and that meant BEACH.
Karen's summer job, while not as monetarily lucrative as some others she could have handled, allowed her latitude for a lot of personal time. In the autumn, she would return to college with a little cash, and by November, mom and dad would have to nourish her accounts, as usual.
Today, her boss had said that she was scheduled for only two deliveries. One was going to a funeral parlor, the other to be received by a small college research facility. Karen's plan was to deliver, race back to the shop to clock out, then onward to the beach. By noon, it could easily be ninety-five degrees and basking with the breeze at the shore playing across her dark brown skin would be a most delicious sensation.
A raise in the tone of Vance's voice and the jingling bell signal marked the departure of another satisfied customer and caused Karen's attention to focus upon the present environment.
Her gaze rested on Vance, who flashed her a quick smile. Karen tossed her head from side to side, and stretching her neck backwards, she could feel the soft weight of her thick blonde tresses sliding silkily across her shoulder blades. Returning to a normal posture, Karen smiled back and pulled at the side of her tube top in mock adjustment of her ample bust-line.
Vance laughed aloud now, and said, "You are true blonde girl!"
Karen laughed also, for this was their little inside joke of a character developed to supplement rainy days in a boring flower shop.
Vance was an even six feet in height. He towered over Karen by eleven inches. He was crowned with shocking red hair, and his eyes were stormy gray. Vance had the physique of a gymnast and the grace to enthrall many a shopping housewife into an upgraded purchase. He was only just recently married however, so there was no romantic or sexual tensions to their banter. Their relationship was closer to a sister-brother bond.
This was all right with Karen, who was relieved to have a corner of the world and a male confidant without any sexual tensions. She was the kind of attractive female that caused guys to nudge their buddies, just to make let know that they spotted her first. Karen had long since grown weary of the several stammered approaches she received each day, but she did so dearly enjoy the spotlight of attention. She had even developed certain mannerisms and motions that fed her exhibitionistic needs with guaranteed satiation.
Karen was presently not dating anyone because of an emotional turmoil that roiled over her heart. When the guys that she felt most attracted to made solicitations of friendship and romance, Karen felt an anxiety tightening around her lungs and pushing her to flee. It was that bastard's fault, she thought darkly. Her last boyfriend, Craig, had been a disastrous college fling. It had been a month since the termination of that relationship, and she was without any regrets. Although lonely, Karen felt that she had issues to deal with. She spent her quiet times asking herself who she was and what she really needed as a person.
Since Jack's description of her route, yesterday, a nagging question had been on Karen's mind. She had been hoping to corner Vance and pick up some information. Karen knew that she could talk with ease to Vance. Jack was a nice man, but he was also the sort that became suspicious if he thought someone was prying into his business. "What kind of delivery would this little flower shop be making to a Botanical Research Department?" queried Karen. "It doesn't seem to add up."
"The bill of lading stated that it was shipped from Madagascar." responded Vance.
"Madagascar? What in hell is in Madagascar anyway?" Karen asked.
Vance straightened to his full six-foot altitude and donned his "smug professor" facial expression. He stated, "Madagascar is a very large island off the coast of Africa. Due to its separation from the main continent, much of its flora and fauna are uniquely evolved species." Then he added with a smile, "But you're in college, so you already know that stuff."
" Hey, no fair!" replied Karen. " You know that I'm a liberal arts major and the sciences are more in your realm of expertise."
Vance fidgeted with the clipboard he was holding, and Karen sensed that he knew more about the cargo than he was disclosing. She knew just how to break him down into telling her the true scoop.
In a low and sexy voice she said, "Vance, you big hunk of man-meat, you are not holding anything back from me, are you?" As she said this, Karen held her arms with palms up and straight towards him. She wriggled her fingers in a tickling motion and smiled a smirk of anticipation. Even though five feet of air remained between the, the young man trembled and Karen knew that he would tell her every detail.
Vance craned his neck to look around the shop, and then briefly studied the road out in front of the store. He took a long stride towards Karen and started to lean over her as he whispered. " Jack confided in me that we are handling an endangered species, and we are doing it with a package that has not undergone all the required US Customs validations. I also think he is getting paid handsomely for this shipment."
"So, old Jack's a smuggler. Well, with civilization encroaching on wild habitats, only research facilities will be left with the truly wild beauties of nature. Your local florist to the rescue!" giggled Karen.
"Not exactly. Jack told me that it's not the modern civilization that's driving this plant into extinction. The island's natives have been trying to exterminate it for centuries." Responded Vance. "The first European explorers on the island called the plant 'Le Morte Des Femme', which translates to The Lady-Killer."
"Couldn't the locals just adopt a live and let live policy of some kind?" queried the curious girl.
"Hey, we live in a country where you would not think twice of ridding your yard of poison ivy. Not to mention what we have done to wolves, bears and mountain lions." Vance replied. "A flower shop is not the place for a "tree-hugger" to work anyway."
"Sounds like Jack has handed you some potent manure, Vance. He probably just doesn't want us snooping at the cargo to see what it really is." The smiling blonde joked.
" I have to do the final preparations on the floral funeral arrangements, but don't let on to Jack about anything we just discussed or he will cut my balls off." Confided the young man, as he retreated to the back room of the flower store.
"Lady-Killer." Chuckled Karen. Jack was having fun fishing for fools and poor Vance was so hooked, she thought.
Karen returned to her front window vigil just in time to see the approaching florist van. It was slowly wending its way through a shopping plaza lot, which abutted the flower shop's own parking area. Madagascar she thought, well today it would surely enjoy a ride in that burning hot van.
Inside the van, Jack Farmer wiped the sweat from his forehead as he leaned on the truck's big steering wheel with a meaty forearm and puffed on a Salem Light. Deftly he swung the long delivery van around to his rear bay door. His five-foot five- inch, pudgy frame was nestled in the dog-eared vinyl driver's seat of the small bus. The light blue paint on the truck's sides was faded and the shop's name, FARMER'S FLOWERS-"THIS BUD"S FOR YOU", was embossed on the side with lightly flaking yellow letters. As he pulled up, The large overhead door opened. Karen and Vance were revealed to be at the ready, each cradling an arrangement of lilies.
"Let's get a move on!" Jack demanded in a gravelly voice as he sprung like a chubby, balding gnome, hopping from the seat and onto the hot tar.
Karen and Vance approached the sliding side door as Jack labored with the handle to gain entry. A minute later, a sweating and frustrated Jack admitted, "This damned door has finally had it"
Vance chided, "It's about time for a new truck, isn't it Jack."
"With what I pay you kids, who has money left for a new truck!" replied the puffing old man.
Walking around to the back doors, Jack stated, "It looks like we do this the hard way. Jack had no trouble with the barn-style rear doors and as he swung them open, Vance snaked up between a very large crate, which was positioned behind the driver's seat, and the passenger-side wall of the van. He was returning to the back gate when Jack cautioned him to wait a moment. Holding his arms out to receive Karen's burden, "Please get the mist bottles." The old man instructed.
.... There is more of this story ...