“I think I know better now, Howie.”
“I think I finally get what you were trying to tell me last time we spoke.”
He taps the electric lighter against the gravestone. It clicks confidently, as if the expired lighter has a perfect understanding of how it came to be where it’s been left.
‘Well, at least one of us does.’
“You spent half the time at the dance dancing, and the other half just wanting to dance. I think I finally hear what you were trying to say, Howie.”
John Kerry of the Ashen Wasteland, holding the joint rolled for him by Howie “Hoots” McGee an unknowable number of days ago, sits down on the patch of asphalt at the foot of Howie’s grave. There’s no ash where he sits, it’s as if someone took a vacuum cleaner and sucked it all up, but… but no, that’s not quite it, it’s too precise for that. It’s like the ash was frozen or turned into to some foam-like material then cut out with a laser and deleted from reality. It’s too precise, too perfect. The gravestone is off, too, the thing’s five feet tall and a fifth as thick.
It’s engraved with the following:
HOWIE “HOOTS” MCGEE
FORMERLY KNOWN AS
HOWARD JOSEPH PLACKARN
THEN/AND/THERE – HERE/AND/NOW
Below that, an epitaph:
“HE TALKED TO HIS PIPE.
IT DIDN’T TALK BACK.”
The stone rises out of the pavement like the road was made of dirt. There are no footprints around it. No trails leading to the headstone, no trails leading away from it. Just the one John made coming here.
He never thought he’d find Howie, most certainly not like this. He set off from the church… it must have been… could it have been days ago? Could the sun have set and rose again without John noticing? Is a day spent walking down Cannonball Road as–
‘the town of Wuester’
–eternities passing in slumber? No way to be sure. No point in trying to figure it out. The world ended overnight, only five humans were left behind by Death. Now there’s only four. Time to get a’walkin’.
“I think you were smarter than you seemed, Howie,” John says to the grave. “I think you were aware of a lot more than you realized. Than you were able to realize.”
Balanced atop the grave when John arrived, standing impossibly on one corner, was Howie’s electric lighter. It was standing tall and proud when John walked up. Fell right down when he poked it. Now it’s in John’s hand, but it probably doesn–
Blue light blinks on inside the ignition button when John hinges the device open.
“You wanted to dance so bad you never let go of the wall, Hootsie Babey. You just kept on wanting to dance. Thought the point of your whole life was to give me this joint, man. Thought you survived the apocalypse to wrap a bouquet of flowers in this dirty, sooty paper, just so I could smell it on my way to the food stand… but you were supposed to come with me to the food stand, Howie. How else am I going to tell you how good the flowers smell?”
John presses the ignition, but nothing happens. It’s all right, though. He knows how to fix that.
“For all we know, Howie, you giving me what you had to give me is the one and only reason God kept you alive. For all we know, you said… well maybe you should speak for yourself, Howie. For all you know, the only reason for God keeping you alive was to give me this joint. And that might be true, you might have made that true, Howie, but I think I know better.”
John Kerry, after a span of an obligatory few timeless moments held in mournful, respectful silence, smokes the sooty jammer rolled just for him by one Howie “Hoots” McGee. The pot, dry and brittle like the ashen wasteland, crackles and pops like a campfire. And the smoke?
Well, the smoke rises. It only goes up.
“You hear that? I think I know better now, Howie.” He tokes deeply, but doesn’t exhale. Not yet. “And I think you were right after all.”
The smoke reeks to high Hell of flowers unbloomed.
“More right than you could ever know.”
Hello Commons, this has been the epilogue of Flowers, a novel about a man who smokes the last of his pot.
Flowers is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Flowers is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Flowers and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~