Fiction for a change — “A Small, Blue Flower”

On a car trip recently, I stopped for the night at a collection of motels, gas stations, and restaurants next to the Interstate—the sort of barren oasis that exists only to serve travelers. Calling that spot a town would be a misnomer because it was so small and because it lacked any features that would identify it as any sort of community. I didn’t want to stop there, but the city where I wanted to spend the night was still two hours away.

I felt like I was in one of Goya’s nightmare paintings. The sounds of the night were not frogs or crickets but rather the incessant hum of cars and trucks passing on the highway. The air was heavy and almost sweet with traffic exhaust. I couldn’t see the moon or stars because of the glare from businesses, parking lots, and neon signs. I got a room in a chain motel, a sterile cell with the faint odor of disinfectant, a strip of tissue around the toilet seat as evidence that it had been cleaned, and a framed print of a girl and her donkey on the wall.

I walked to one of the two restaurants, interchangeable units of industrial tourism that litter Interstates across the nation. It offered bland fodder from a menu created at corporate headquarters. The server wore a plaster smile painted the same color as her fingernails. I chose a sandwich and a glass of beer, thinking that was less dangerous than the salad bar selections wilting and congealing under the sneeze shields. I ate quickly and went back to the room considering the option of opening a vein. Thanks to the beer and the fatigue of the road, though, I fell asleep almost immediately.

The next morning, facing a culinary Hobson’s choice, I opted to have breakfast at the other restaurant. As I walked over, I noticed a tiny flower in the lawn next to the sidewalk, a single spot of blue against the faded green of the grass. I stopped and for some reason began to weep at its beauty. I forgot the hum of traffic, the smell of exhaust, the sheer ugliness of my surroundings. Compared to the flower they were irrelevant. I wiped away my tears, forgot breakfast, returned to the motel to check out, and drove away, buoyed by the memory of the flower so small and so important.

4 thoughts on “Fiction for a change — “A Small, Blue Flower””

  1. Tom, reading your heartfelt words I was immediately reminded of a particular passage from the novel All the pretty horses by Cormac Mccarthy : ” He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower”


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