The Green Carnation

The Green Carnation

A Story by Eponine Roy

Charlie overcomes his stage fright with a little help from a friend



Oscar pressed the green carnation petals against his teeth, almost ready to snap at the flower in anguish. His ears faced a bombardment of noise, mostly self-inflicted. O why did he ask Charlie to come? He furrowed his brow and kept his eyes on the source of the formidable racket in hope that its creator would soon finish.
            “Stop!” Oscar cried loudly; the carnation flew from his mouth into his lap. The calamity ceased, and the creator stood before Oscar, a deer in headlights.
            “Was it dreadful?” Charlie asked; nervousness pasted to his voice.
            Oscar stared down the Irishman and said, “You weren’t flat.”
            Charlie began to smile, however, before he could say anything, Oscar interjected, “You were much too sharp!”
            A frown passed its way across the Irishman’s face; he descended the platform and pulled up a chair next to Oscar.
            “I’m a wee bit under the weather today, Professor,” Charlie cleared his throat.
            “You, dear boy, have a much greater problem than your health,” Oscar stated, wagging the mutilated carnation at the Irishman. Charlie shook his head slowly, all the while staring down into his lap.
            “I can’t do it, Professor,” he made his excuse with a nervous excitement; maybe he could get out of singing.
            “You can. I’ve heard you,” Oscar returned; Charlie’s heart sunk. Oscar tapped his free fingers on the armrest. “I don’t get it Charlie! Your voice is beautiful! Yet onstage, you mangle the song until it looks as ugly as this carnation!”
            Oscar gave a failing attempt at perking the petals of the carnation. He caught Charlie by the wrist and delicately closed the carnation in Charlie’s palm. The student glanced at the flower in his hand and then at his professor.
            “I don’t get it, Professor,” Charlie said. Oscar shook his head.
            “Take it home. It is your audience,” Oscar replied.
            “But it’s all crumpled,” Charlie returned.
            “Dear boy, the only thing worse than having a perfect audience is not having one at all! One must make the audience perfect with their performance!” Oscar said, patting Charlie’s hand. He rose from the squeaky auditorium chair and adjusted the cuffs on his neatly pressed suit.
            “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said to Charlie, who gave a mental groan at the thought of seeing Professor Oscar Jackson during literature class.
            At home, Charlie sat on the couch twirling the carnation with his fingertips. The flower, that one little thing, was the only roadblock between Charlie and the door. Had Professor Oscar Jackson not heard him sing on his way home last week, Charlie would now be out and about with his friend Benjamin. The phone rang.
            “Sorry, Ben. Not today mate,” Charlie responded to Benjamin’s request to meet twin girls at the eatery down the street.
            “Why not? We’ve met with them before!” Benjamin returned. Charlie held the flower in his palm and bit his lip.
            “I’ve got studying to do,” he said. Benjamin laughed over the phone.
            “Studying, huh? You never study! For what class?” Benjamin joked.
            “Professor Jackson’s,” Charlie replied. At least it wasn’t a complete lie.
            “Jackson? His homework can be done during the preparation period. It’s easy! Now are you coming or not?”
            “I can’t- ”
            “Come on Charlie!”
            “Quite frankly Ben, Professor Jackson scares me a little. I’m so sorry. Maybe some other night, okay?” Charlie asked, becoming exasperated with his friend. Benjamin sighed.
            “Well the girls won’t like this, but I guess I’ll see you later,” Benjamin hung up before Charlie got a chance to plead his case one more time. Charlie put the receiver back on its stand and rose; flower in hand, to the middle of the floor. He tossed the flower down on one of the comfy chairs nearby. Bowing to the flower as a man, Charlie began his upbeat tune. With each new measure, his voice seized the melody and sugarcoated stems of staccato sixteenth notes with a scat harmony. Within seconds, he lost himself to the vibe; all prior inhibitions dissolved and sprinkled through the sound waves. One last crescendo ended the song. Charlie lingered in his closing position to admire the sound of the final, brilliant note ringing through the house.
            “Not too sharp or too flat here,” Charlie gave a triumphant ‘ha!’ to mock his professor. At last, he drew his attention back to the mutilated flower to see that it had been made perfect. The gnawed petals were smooth again and the flimsy stem held the flower erect against the back of the chair. Amazed and confused, Charlie lifted the delicate carnation and caressed it in his hands. What a wonder it was! His fingers played upon the luscious, green petals, pondering the miracle. Still dumbfounded by the reincarnation of the disfigured flower, Charlie crumpled the carnation and tested his hypothesis three times; only after the third time did he smile and leave the room and the green carnation.
            Oscar waited outside of the theatre doors, priming a bouquet of green carnations. He took special care to make sure each flower was mangled properly. As Charlie approached the doors, Oscar had just finished crumpling the last flower and placing a ‘Take One’ sign in front of them. The latter had not mentioned the gala during literature class during the day, which eased a small portion of the apprehension Charlie felt for this practice.
            Charlie held out his flower to Oscar. “I brought your carnation back, Professor. I don’t know what happened to it.”
            “A renaissance of purity… how splendid,” Oscar smiled and took the flower back; he cut it fit to wear on his suit jacket. Charlie’s eyebrows rose as he stared at the cryptic, extraordinary professor, who began to, again, prim the mutilated bouquet. 
            “What are those?” Charlie asked.
            “The only thing worse than having a perfect audience is not having one at all!” Oscar repeated his favorite aphorism before sending Charlie backstage to prepare for his song.
            Minutes later, Oscar retreated backstage where Charlie was ready for the show. He heard a loud clatter outside; it was much louder than the usual clamor of the gala members.
            “Are you ready, dear boy?” Oscar asked. Charlie stared at him.
            “Ready? Professor, who is in attendance for this rehearsal?” Charlie queried. Oscar beamed.
            “Just a few other school children. No one of importance. You are ready, are you not?” Oscar replied, attending to the carnation on his jacket.
            “I suppose… Professor, you did not invite anybody I know?” Charlie asked, fearing Benjamin’s opinion of his performance.
            “I may have, but why should it matter? Just do what you have been doing Charlie. The audience will speak for itself,” Oscar gave the carnation one final pat and sent Charles Boyd onto the stage. Charlie stood idle; he dared not look out into the audience. When the music started, he took off into the same world he entered when singing to the carnation at home. Growing more comfortable, Charlie peeked out into the crowd to see that each audience member was wearing a green carnation and each carnation had started to change from the mangled state Oscar Jackson inflicted upon them. As the song ended, Charlie took a longer look at the audience. He smiled to see the carnation that changed the most was the one most familiar to him.              

© 2008 Eponine Roy

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Added on April 7, 2008


Eponine Roy
Eponine Roy

Pittsburgh, PA

Eponine Roy: Girl, Writer, Francophile. more..