The Bloomin’ Bulbs Com­pe­ti­tion

Arabella - - THE BLOOMIN' BULBS COMPETITION - writ­ten by Cyn­thia Reyes

Spring. The time of bloom­ing bulbs and happy thoughts. And the an­nual com­pe­ti­tion with Les. He has been my good friend for many years. Sev­eral of the plants in my gar­den were gifts from Les and his wife San­dra. But in early spring, we’re gar­den ri­vals locked in a fierce bat­tle. Who will win The Bloomin’ Bulbs Com­pe­ti­tion this year? Who’ll be the first to en­joy but­ter-yel­low daf­fodils, their trum­pets wav­ing in the spring breeze? Blue scilla, tiny flow­er­heads nod­ding at the ground below. Hy­acinths, in white, blue and pink, their fra­grance sweet on the air. And tulips, of course, in so many cheer­ful colours. Who will be the first? It’s our gar­den­ing equiv­a­lent of the Stan­ley Cup. The Su­per Bowl. The Olympics. All rolled into one. Les lives in down­town Toronto, where Lady Spring tends to put in her first ap­pear­ance. If he wins the com­pe­ti­tion, I will bit­terly com­plain that the tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence gave him an un­fair edge. If pushed – but only if – I will ad­mit that there are in­deed a few mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors. Though the tem­per­a­ture is warmer in Les’s part of town, his gar­den is sev­eral feet from the house, so gets no warmth or pro­tec­tion from it. Also, it’s partly shad­owed by trees, so never gets a full day of sun. My bulbs, on the other hand, get full sun and are planted close to the house, giv­ing them both warmth and pro­tec­tion even though our home is north­east of the city. All of that makes it a fair fight. But I only men­tion that fact when I win. When I lose, I cry foul.

Pa­tience is a Virtue

This com­pe­ti­tion is se­ri­ous busi­ness. A spring gar­den com­pe­ti­tion is no place for sissies. And so, ev­ery spring morn­ing I wake with the birds, anx­ious to get out into the gar­den. Down the stairs and out the side door, ea­ger to see if any­thing is bloom­ing. The first sev­eral days are al­ways a dis­ap­point­ment. The flower heads of daf­fodils get fat­ter, but there isn’t even a hint of colour. I head over to the back gar­den, check a patch of cro­cuses. Cro­cus is nor­mally the first to bloom. Noth­ing yet. A day later, Les phones to an­nounce that he has snow­drops bloom­ing. I’m dev­as­tated. "Snow­drops!" I splut­ter. "You never ad­mit­ted to hav­ing snow­drops. In fact, how do I know if that’s true? I need pho­to­graphic proof!" "Not to worry," Les replies. "Snow­drops are win­ter flow­ers so, tech­ni­cally, they don’t count. Ours is a spring blooms com­pe­ti­tion." "Hmmph," I re­ply, mol­li­fied. "Okay then. Snow­drops are win­ter flow­ers. Good to know." "Have a good day," Les says cheer­fully and hangs up. I re­gard this ex­change as a splen­did ex­am­ple of de­cency, in­tegrity and hon­our. The next day, I no­tice that the daf­fodil heads are show­ing a bit of yel­low. This sets my heart a-flut­ter. But closer in­spec­tion re­veals that this isn’t the full-blown yel­low of a daf­fodil in bloom, but a kind of char­treuse – a green­ish-yel­low – mean­ing that the flower isn’t quite ready to bloom. For a very brief mo­ment, I won­der what would hap­pen if I use a hair dryer to warm the plants’ roots. I’m tempted. Lord, how I’m tempted! But that would be cheat­ing. And I won’t lower my stan­dards. In­stead, I urge the daf­fodils "Hurry up! Hurry up!"

There’s a mes­sage and an at­tach­ment. I have a pre­mo­ni­tion. I open the at­tach­ment first, and see daf­fodils and scilla and tulips in yel­lows, pinks, reds and blues bloom­ing in Les’s gar­den. It’s a ver­i­ta­ble riot of colour. I want to cry. Then, I read the mes­sage. "So sorry about this, chaps, but we are awash in spring blooms." There’s no ques­tion. Les has won The Bloomin’ Bulbs Com­pe­ti­tion. I’m hu­mil­i­ated. I must now gra­ciously con­cede de­feat. It’s the de­cent, honourable thing to do. But just as I’m about to send a sur­ren­der mes­sage, some­thing in the pic­ture catches my eye. "Are those…? No, they couldn’t be." I look closer, en­large part of the pic­ture. "Have a look at the photo Les sent us!" I holler to my hus­band, who’s work­ing on a script just a few feet from me. He looks at the com­puter screen. "It’s re­ally beau­ti­ful." He tries to cheer me up. "Guess this is what hap­pens when you have a gar­den down­town." "No. No. Take a closer look. What’s wrong with this pic­ture?" He leans in, stares at the photo, pauses. He shakes his head, roars with laugh­ter. "I don’t be­lieve it." There’s a look of open ad­mi­ra­tion in his eyes. Not for my de­tec­tive skills, but for Les's clever, mis­chievous de­ceit.

Win, Lose or Draw

Les an­swers the phone on the first ring. It’s as if he’s been sit­ting there, just wait­ing for my call. "Good morn­ing, Cyn­thia", he says in­no­cently. "I guess you got my pho­to­graph. Ready to con­cede de­feat?" "I nearly did," I re­ply. "You had me fooled for

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