Dead Flowers

It was a cold gray January day on the Nebraska plains. A bitter cold wind swept undisturbed across the flat earth. David drove his car to small graveyard situated on the only rise in the landscape. He got out and trudged over the frozen ground and searched for the grave of who he believed to be his father.

There it was, the only grave with flowers, although dead and nearly decayed. The gravestone read Thomas Alfred Cooper, July 22, 1949 to October, 15, 1974. “Somebody cares,” David mumbled.

This desolate harsh land was a far cry from the vibrancy of Southern California where David was raised and lived, but without warning this place claimed me. David knew this was where it all started. This was my beginning. David felt it in his bones and heart and in the cold wind that seemed to penetrate his flesh and carry him away as its captive. David now belonged to the prairies of Nebraska.

It all stated two years ago when a friend said, “It must be tough knowing you were never adopted and not knowing where you came from or who you are.”

Never had it crossed his mind before in that way, but from that point onward it slowly scraped away in his brain until it could not be put aside. And on this day the two year search was over, but who put the flowers on the grave?

David had to squint to see the nearest house. He drove there. After knocking several time an old man greeted him at the door.

“Are you familiar with the graveyard down the way?” David said.

“I used to be its caretaker until two years ago,” he said. “Now my grandson does it.”

“There were flowers…”

The old man interrupted. “On the grave of Thomas Cooper.”

“Yes,” David said. “Do you know who puts them there?”

“Amanda Bromwell,” he said.

“Does she live around here?” David said.

“Not here,” he said.

“Do you know where she lives now?” David said.

“She lives in town, Albion” he said. “She’s a doctor and runs the clinic.”

“How old is she,” David ask

“Early fifties,” he said. “A smart looking woman. Can’t figure out way she leaves flowers on Cooper’s grave. She was married to Buford Martin, but she took back her maiden name. Just be a big mess. I wish the story would come out so people will stop making stuff up. You know how small towns are.”

David got in the car and drove back to Lincoln satisfied that there was a story there that would be best left alone. He was certain Thomas Cooper was his father and Amanda Bromwell his mother. That was good enough.

David got a room near the airport in Lincoln and planned to catch a morning flight back to LA. The clerk at the desk smiled at me as if David were somebody she knew. David got the same reaction at the motel’s restaurant from the hostess, waitress, and cahier.

It was a little before six when David got back to his room. David flipped on the TV to catch the local weather and see what the chances were of getting a flight the next day with no delays.

The news came on at six. It hit me like a cold prairie wind. The news anchor‘s name was Will Martin. He looked remarkably like David. Obviously that was the reason for all the strange looks David had been receiving. And then like some badly rehearsed and poorly timed surprise party the weather girl brings the anchor a birthday cake. David fell into the chair and stared. “It was my birthday also,” he muttered.

David stared at the rest of the newscast not hearing a word. A thousand thoughts exploded in his mind like a Forth of July fireworks. His brain was overloaded and it was impossible to connect one thought with another. Hundreds of random thoughts were going off in his head at the same time.

After the newscast David called the station.

“I’d like to speak to Will Bromwell,” David said. “It’s very important.”

“Who should I say is calling?”

“My name is David Zachary and it’s important I speak to him immediately.”

David waited for a few moments.

“Will Bromwell, can I help you?”

“Mr. Martin, my name is David Zachary. Could we meet some place. I need to talk to you. Since you don’t know me I understand you may be reluctant, but I could meet you at the station or anyplace in public, but this is really important.”

“Can you tell me what it’s about?” Will said.

“I could, but you wouldn’t believe me,” David said.

“There is a diner across from our studios, would that be okay?” Will said.

“Yes, that fine. I’m at an airport motel so give me time to get there.”

David was there in twenty minutes. The place was a nostalgic diner and given the time of night nearly empty. David walked in and toward the both where Will Bromwell sat in a booth stirring a coffee.

When his eyes met David’s he appeared startled.

“Sit down Mr. Zachary,” Will said.

“First of all,” David said. “I want nothing from you.”

“We could be twins,” Will said.

“I would have thought nothing about our resemblance other than the fact that today is my birthday also,” David said.

“Dear god in heaven,” Will said. “We have to be twins.”

“I don’t know where I came from,” David said. “A two year search brought me to a grave a hundred and twenty miles from here and the name of Thomas Alfred Cooper on it.”

“My dad was Buford Martin,” Will said. “After his death Mom and I took back her maiden name. I never asked why.”

“And I bet you don’t even look like Buford Martin,” David said.

“No, we don’t,” Will said.

“This is a mistake,” David said. “I’m sorry. I should have thought this out.” David raised to leave.

“Sit,” Will said. “Please. This is important.”

“Not to you,” David said.

“If you are indeed my twin,” Will said. “It is important to me because you are my brother and we have a father we never knew in a grave and perhaps a mother living with a secret and guilt.”

“I passed up a chance to visit a doctor who runs a clinic,” David said. “She places flowers on the grave of Thomas Cooper. I don’t want to open old wounds. Stirring sparks can start other fires.”

“Mom and Dad argued at times,” Will said. “David never knew why. It was after I went to bed. Mom was always in tears. I thought it had to do with Dad working to put Mom through med school and he had nothing in the way of a career. Dad tried a couple of things, but always failed. He spent most of his time at home. Mom made the living.”

“I got an idea,” David said. “Let’s give each other our life stories, I’ll fly out of here tomorrow. You know something and I know something and that will be the end of it. Come out to LA sometime and we’ll get together. How does that sound?”

“No,” Will said. “I’m calling in and taking tomorrow off. I’m visiting mom. I can do it alone or you along with me.”

“This may crush your mother,” David said.

“It’s our mother,” Will said. “And she’s tough as nails.”

It was an early ride. They wanted to arrive at her home before she left for the clinic.

It was a attractive two-story home on the outskirts Albion, Nebraska . Smoke slowly lifted from a chimney.

Will and David walked through the crinkle of snow that fell during the night. Will knocked at the door between the garage and house.

Amanda came to the door. “Hi, Will, what brings you here so early? And whose your friend? Come on in it’s cold out there. I’m not in until noon so we can spend…”

David removed his hat.

“Thomas,” she said. “And rushed to my arms.”

David held her as she sobbed.

They sat at the kitchen table. She held both of their hands as she listened to every detail of how David found her and Will.

David spared the details of his upbringing of foster homes and orphanages, but told her that was his life and there were no regrets.

“Do you want to know how it all came to be?” she said looking at Will and David.

“No,” David said.

“I think David is right, Mom,” Will said. “Let’s leave it there.”

“No,” she said. “I can’t live this anymore. I think you always knew something was wrong, Will, but you just never said anything. There was something terribly wrong.”

“If it makes you feel better,” David said. “Go ahead.”

“It will make us all feel better,” she said. “I was fifteen years old. I was in love with a handsome teacher named Thomas Cooper. It was wrong for both of us, but I became pregnant by him. If he stayed around he would have been charged and convicted of statutory rape. He joined the Army. Buford Martin agreed to marry me knowing I was pregnant with another man’s child. When I delivered there were two of you. Buford said he could only raise one bastard not two. I gave you up. Thomas came back from the Army and two years later died in a car crash. His insurance money was given to a college only if it was used for my education. Thomas never knew he had two sons, just the one. For some reason I always thought you would walk through the doors of my clinic someday. I never dreamed it would be at the back door of my house.”

“What happened to Buford?” David said.

She was quiet. It was as if the words were locked away.

“Suicide,” Will said.

“I’m sorry,” David said.

“We never loved,” she said. “I became pregnant on impulse and married on impulse, but Thomas was the only man I loved.”

After tears there was smiles and laughter. Love has no regrets or grudges. It lives and is nurtured by the present and future, not the past.

At noon they went to the clinic and Amanda introduced everyone to her new found son. Than it came time to part.

She walked David and Will to the car.

“Will you come back soon,” she said.

“How would you like it if I came back permanently?” David said.

“Sure,” she said. “I can put you up and find work for you. What would you like to do?”

“I was kind of hoping for a work at your clinic,” David said.

She had a painful smile.

“You see,” David said. “You passed on the doctor gene. I’ve been in practice for seven years. We can work together.”

She smiled and pressed a tear. “That will be lovely,” she said. “One thing, David, you seem to be so sure of my love in spite of all things, why?”

“The flowers on the grave,” David said. “I knew they were as much for me as they were my father.”

“May I call you Thomas?” she said.

“Yes, please do.”


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