CACTUS IN ALASKA
a Kanuk, Alaska story
By Voni Harris
Tatiana breathlessly looked down at the test strip with the double pink lines. She knew exactly what she would do. Sharon wasn’t her best friend for nothing!
She grabbed her purse and drove over to Florals of Kanuk.
“Sharon?” she called out, as she stepped over to the desk where Sharon kept a translation of J.J. Grandville’s “The Flowers Personified.” Sharon’s great-grandmother had brought the 1847 book with her to America from France, and obviously had also passed on a love of flowers to her great-granddaughter.
“Just a second! I’m coming.” Sharon called from the back.
Tatiana paged carefully through the antique book as she waited for her friend. Hold on! There it was! Under C for cactus. She couldn’t take her eyes off of the entry in her excitement.
Sharon came out, wiping her hands on her apron. “Oh, hi, Tatiana! Sorry to keep you waiting. I had to get those roses in water; they were beginning to wilt.”
“Sharon, do you have any blooming cacti?”
“Yes. Do you?”
Sharon cocked her head at the unusual request and came alongside Tatiana and read where she pointed.
“Are you saying what I think you’re saying, Tatiana?”
Tatiana grinned. “Yep.”
Sharon squealed. “In that case, I don’t have any blooming cacti here, but I do have one at home. Mom brought it to me from her trip to the Sonora Desert last year. You can have it.”
“Really? You’d let me have it? Can you stay open late tonight?”
“Are you kidding? The Parker wedding is tomorrow. I’m going to be here until midnight. What do you have in mind?”
Chad pulled up into the driveway and dutifully wiped his feet outside and took his shoes off in the entry. Mud was a ceaseless enemy in Kanuk.
There in the middle of the room was a large cactus, full of blooms, under which was spread a checkered tablecloth complete with a picnic basket. Tatiana patted the blanket. “Glad you’re home! Thought we’d picnic today.”
“Under a cactus?”
Well, he was starving, so he sat down. “Glad you waited for me,” he said, sitting close to her. “Sorry I had to work so late.”
“No problem. Some days are like that.”
Tatiana passed him a double-decker ham and turkey sandwich and some carrot sticks and set a bundle of grapes on the lid of the basket. He took several bites.
“So, why the cactus?” he asked.
“Oops. I forgot the drinks. They’re sitting in on the kitchen counter. Would you grab them?” Tatiana asked, grabbing some grapes.
“Sure, Babe.” But as he walked back into the living room and saw the cactus again, he realized something. “Tatiana. You didn’t answer my question about the cactus?”
“Oh, didn’t I?” she answered sweetly. “How was your day?”
“Fine. Now tell me about the cactus!” he growled as sinisterly as he could around another mouthful of sandwich.
She giggled. “Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
“You know what!”
“Yes, you do. Why is there a cactus in the middle of the living room?”
“We can move it to the corner by the TV after we’re done with the picnic, if you want.”
“All right. But WHY IS THERE A CACTUS IN OUR HOUSE?”
“Pretty blooms, don’t you think?”
He glanced over. “Uh, yeah.” He popped the last of the sandwich in his mouth. “So what’s the deal, Tatiana?”
“Want some grapes?”
“Honey, quit trying to be threatening. You’re too kind and loving to be threatening. So stop trying.”
Chad threatened her with his tickle fingers.
“Chad. You know I’m not ticklish.” She crunched a carrot stick.
“Tell me about the cactus! Or else!”
“Hmmm. I sense you want to know about the blooming cactus in our living room.”
“Ya think?” He crunched his own carrot stick in frustration.
“Well, then we have to go to Sharon’s shop.”
“You mean the flower shop?”
“Any other Sharons you know who own shops in Kanuk?”
“Really? The Flower Shop? Can’t you just tell me?”
“Nope.” Tatiana bore a grin of satisfaction.
“Just tell me about the cactus.”
“Oh. You want to eat dessert first?”
“No! I want to know about the cactus, Tatiana.”
“Oh. So you want to drive to the flower shop before desert.”
This was a losing battle. “Yes, let’s go to the shop.”
Tatiana squealed. “I was hoping you’d say that!”
Chad could do nothing more than shake his head as they drove over to Florals of Kanuk. The lights were still blazing. Tatiana sat in the seat beside him, buzzing with excitement.
“Sharon’s in the back working. She knows we’re coming. We won’t bother her.” She almost jumped out of the car before he got it parked.
He followed her in. “Now what?” he demanded, sliding his arm around his wife.
She just pointed at a book on a desk.
He walked over. “The Flowers Personified.” Really? It bore an 1847 copyright.
“Look it up,” Tatiana urged.
“Look up what?” Chad was confused.
“Cactus, Silly!” He shrugged. He’d have never thought to look up cactus in a flower book, but the cactus in the middle of their living room was full of blooms.
He paged through the C’s until he found it.
Cactus…French: Cactier …Latin: Cactus…meaning of the flower…
He couldn’t move. “Tatiana?”
“Meaning of the cactus flower…maternal love.”
She handed him the strip with the double pink lines, and suddenly he could move again. He grabbed her up and twirled her around, then set her back on her feet and paged through the book.
“Humph. If only I had some mugwort,” he told her.
She stepped up beside him, slipping under his arm. “Mugwort….Happiness.” She grinned at him. “Me, too.”
He continued paging. “If I had some, I would give you a bouquet of honeysuckle..”
“Bonds of love,” she murmured, looking where he pointed. She smiled. “Remember how we almost lost everything?”
“We came so close to throwing our marriage away. Thank God we didn’t.”
“I love you, Chad.”
“I love you, too.”
Sharon suddenly called from the back room in a husky voice. “Hey, Chad! I do have roses up front. Give one to your wife!”
He turned the pages of the book. “Rose…beauty.” He promptly went and found the deepest, richest, reddest rose from the case and handed it to Tatiana. “Sharon,” he called out. “We’ll let you get back to work. We’ve got a cactus to find a place for.”
Her front door bells rang as Tatiana and Chad left, and Sharon came up front, wiping her eyes.
And people wondered why she loved flowers.
Author’s note: The Flowers Personified by JJ Grandville does exist, and you can even find it on Amazon. One hard-cover copy I saw there was selling for nearly $3,500.00. However, I found what I was looking for at the Earthly Pursuits site, whose owner put the information from the book online on a very addictive website for both book lovers and flower lovers.. I encourage you to check it out.