Delaney’s Pansies

Delaney had spent his entire life trying to make the world a more beautiful place. And he’d done it—modestly perhaps, but he’d done it. His pansies glorified his yard and the yards of many others. Today, on his eighty-eighth birthday, he decided, at long last, to sit back and take pride in what he had accomplished.

Once, he had delighted in his wife. Now, a widower of many years, he still delighted in two things: his flowers, and storms. Thus, when he heard the thunder, he slipped away from the surprise party Celia, his daughter, had arranged, and stepped onto his porch, closing the door quietly.

It had been dark and pleasantly warm, but now the early-autumn, evening breeze had become a chilling gale, and the sky grew furiously black. The wind chimes clanked cacophonously. In his yard, the ancient elm swayed and the gate creaked, while a torrent poured onto his garden, drenching the glories of the roses, the splendid array of parti-colored lilies, and his favorites, the still-nascent, newly planted bed of pansies.

From inside, he heard music and laughter. Celia called, “Dad? Where are you? We’re ready to cut the cake.”

Delaney shook his head. “Old man,” he muttered, “this is not a night to be celebrating.”

A lightning bolt flashed, illuminating the world. The storm’s effects were lovely to see, but ah, the poor pansies. He sighed, then grabbed a baseball cap from a peg, slipped it over his sparse white hair, withdrew a folded plastic sheet from the boxful on the porch, and stepped into the driving rain. The petunias were a dozen steps away, and clearly in peril. He bent down by the elm to gather a few small bricks to hold the plastic in place.

As he did, a second bolt of lightning erupted, shattering the huge tree. He had time for one last thought before the tree crashed down, My pansies, they’ll ….


They buried Delaney beside his wife, on a cool, bright afternoon, covering his grave with his beloved pansies. “He’ll like that,” Celia said, wiping her eyes.