Bird of Paradise
Mr. Standish leaned in and kissed his wife goodnight. She was already in a deep slumber, a soft snore followed by the wheezing of her pre-ninety lungs.
He left her, insomnia becoming more and more his lonesome ailment.
Mr. Standish reached the stairs. Just as he took his first step, the cat jumped through his legs. He lost his footing and fell. The railing came at his head and the last thing he remembered was a hot flash of white, the feeling of being on fire.
When Mr. Standish came to, he found himself on a park bench in the middle of town. He touched his head, which still throbbed and had a lump the size of a duck egg.
“Drats,” he said, getting up.
He looked around. A flower stand was set up across the street with all sorts of flowers — hydrangeas, delphinium, and various dyed carnations. The man running the stand waved at him as if they were old friends. Mr. Standish made an effort to wave back, but imagined his face was contorted in confusion.
The man beckoned, so he slowly made his way over, stumbling at times as he did not have his cane for balance.
“Alan, you’re thinking too much,” said the man as Mr. Standish arrived at his destination.
“You could have gotten here a lot faster if you weren’t thinking of being old.”
“But I am old.”
“No, you are dead.”
“I figured you’d say that. Your family always was a stubborn lot.”
“I’m not dead.”
“Look around you. This isn’t even your town.”
Mr. Standish looked and in fact, now he was on top of a mountain. He swallowed and looked back at the man.
“So it isn’t. Well, what now?”
“Well, I figured we could send your wife flowers. What’s her favorite kind?”
“You don’t have it.”
A Bird of Paradise sprouted out of an empty vase. Mr. Standish stumbled backwards.
“You never were much of a believer, were you? Oh well, I suppose that doesn’t matter. It’s not my job to judge. That’s for the flowers.”
“The flowers decide your fate.”
“Wouldn’t that be God?”
The man laughed. “You’re so black and white, Alan.”
The man stepped back from the stand as the flowers began to grow into vines. They spiraled around Mr. Standish until he could see nothing but millions of eyes swirling around him.
Then the eyes winked in unison and a new world bloomed around him.