74. Arnold “Ardy” Schwartz, Florist

“Plants need a lot of attention.”

“Ardy” is doing a job he loves. His mother was a gardener, and as a toddler, he would follow her around as she “deadheaded” flowering plants, weeded, and watered. There were bushes to trim and fallen leaves to rake. By the time he was in kindergarten, he had his own little plot of flowering plants, salad greens, and herbs. When he got to junior high school, he was teased for preferring plants to people.  A science teacher took an interest in him and that helped a bit. But right through junior high and until he was a senior in high school, Ardy remained an unpopular loner. When he wasn’t in his garden or doing schoolwork, he spent a lot of time in his room drawing detailed pictures of flowers. In his senior year in high school, three things happened that changed everything. The school art teacher saw Ardy’s drawings and encouraged him. Ardy took biology and loved it. And Ardy met Rachel. His ability to draw flowers and his clear interest in plant biology got him a scholarship to his state’s university, a school with a strong program in agriculture. He learned social skills from Rachel who was nuts about him. They went to the senior prom together and, just before he left for college, they made love. Ardy was away from home the entire time he was at college. When classes were not in session, he worked in the college greenhouses, tending plants and managing research projects. He and Rachel wrote to one another for a while and he promised to come back to see her. But somehow that never happened. Eventually, they drifted apart and, after a year or so, lost contact. That is, until he finished college, came home, and got a job as a botanist. He also did floral arrangements part time. He was delivering one of those arrangement when he and Rachel ran into one another. Ardy hadn’t dated at all when he was away at college. It was more a lack of interest than anything else. Plants need a lot of attention. But Rachel was still crazy about him and, after a whirlwind romance, she got him to marry her. It was not such a good idea. About five years in, Rachel concluded Ardy was more involved with flowering plants than with her and divorced him. Ardy was more bemused by the divorce than anything else. He didn’t seem lonely or bothered afterward, just went about his work as usual as if nothing much had happened. Roughly two years later, when he had a chance to buy a florist’s shop, he took it. He’s done well. His flowers are considered special and more than worth the high prices they command. He also has contracts with hotels, wedding venues, and restaurants. And he has a large greenhouse which is a kind of high-end garden center for exotic flowers. His delivery truck is painted to look like a flower basket. Beyond his two assistants, he doesn’t have many acquaintances. Doesn’t date. Never takes a day off. Lives in a small apartment over the store. He seems happiest in his greenhouse, sitting alone, and reading a book on horticulture. Or when he is at his drafting board, drawing flowers. He puts the artwork in his shop. To his surprise, several drawings have sold. The few folks who know him on more than a business basis call him “a man at peace with himself and his plants.” When a customer who knew Ardy from high school mentioned that she had seen Rachel, Ardy didn’t seem to recall who Rachel was.

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