What Would You Say?
I sent flowers. There was this card too, but I’ll get to that. My initial thought was roses. My next thought was too funeral-ish. It wasn’t supposed to be that kind of bouquet. What do you think? I said to The Florist. We were on the phone. What’s the occasion? he said. It isn’t a good one, I said. My girlfriend’s father suffered an aneurysm. The head kind. He’s in the ICU at the Cleveland Clinic. It could go either way. I then told The Florist how I stayed in Arkansas while Kristen—my girlfriend—was there in Ohio. She thought it best if she went alone. You know, Kristen told me, just family with my father. Aside from checking in periodically, I told The Florist, I wanted to show support in another meaningful way, and this is what I came up with. I’m sorry, The Florist said. That’s tough. He said, Flowers are good. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with a colorful mix. All right, I said, and the Florist talked me through it. Though he did stop in the middle of listing off flowers to say, Do you have access to a computer? It’ll make this easier. So I put him on speaker and he started back from the top. I googled the flowers he spoke of and eventually selected six. These are all really great choices, The Florist said. While giving my payment information, I clicked through the tabs the flowers were on and imagined them all bound together in a vase: Japanese Anemone, Iris, Baby’s Breath, Ranunculus, Anthurium, Gypsophila. This is when The Florist said that if I’d like, I could add a personal message on a card at no extra charge. I said, That’d be great. He said, Great. Now, what would you like to say? Have it say, Thinking of you and yours. I hope you like the flowers, I said. The Florist said, Okay. Anything else? I tried to think of something else. All I came up with was, Everything’s going to be all right. In the end, I wasn’t sure about this. It was too optimistic. I’d fooled myself being too optimistic before, saying this same thing to myself years ago when my brother was in the hospital. I said it so much I believed it. I believed in this optimism so entirely I stopped believing there was any reason to worry. My brother died. He was eight. Hello? The Florist said. You still there? I rubbed my eyes and cleared my throat. Yes, I said. Still here. Could you just put that down? The Florist said, Which part? All of it, I said. The Florist read it out loud twice just to be sure. That sounds nice, I said. And The Florist said, It does, doesn’t it?
Mini-interview with Nicholas Claro
HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?
NC: I think it’s when I discovered that if I went a day or two without writing, I didn’t feel like me any longer. That’s when it all clicked, when I remember thinking “this is who I am. This is what I want to do.”
HFR: What are you reading?
NC: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. I don’t know why I’m just now getting around to reading this novel. It’s really, really amazing. That, and I love the epistolary form.
HFR: Can you tell us what prompted “What Would You Say?”?
NC: I get the majority of my ideas right before I go to bed. Some of the time it’s a scene and other times it’s larger, more vague idea. With this story, the first two lines just sort of popped into my head. So I rolled over, pulled up the Notes app, and typed them down. Looking through them the next morning, I was like, Well, what prompted the flowers getting sent in the first place? Who’s getting them? I’ve used this narrator a lot, so the latter question was a fairy easy decision to make, since he doesn’t have too many people in his life. The Florist was a totally unforeseen character in this piece. Super fun to write. I liked having a serious exchange between strangers. There was something special about writing that.
HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?
NC: “What Would You Say?” is part of my MFA thesis, which is a novel-in-flash. I’ve written 20 of these so far and would like to write another 40 or so in the next year, so I’ll be busy working on those.
HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?
NC: If you’re “pro-gun,” you aren’t “pro-life.”
Nicholas Claro is an MFA candidate in fiction at Wichita State University and reads fiction for Nimrod International Journal. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel, The McNeese Review, Bending Genres, X-R-A-Y, Necessary Fiction, and others.