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Big Deal at a Camellia Cotillion
Big Deal at a Camellia Cotillion

Big Deal at a Camellia Cotillion


‘Because it’s a big deal!’

Gathered around their usual table at Rico’s, Katrina looked at Ray in pondering silence.

Her knight bachelor Sir Peter helped what he thought was his damsel-in-distress.

‘Do you know what that American phrase means, Katrina?’

‘He’s not talking about playing cards’, Joey assisted.

‘It’s a colloquialism’, Stan the Answer Man added.

Peter gave Stash a sidelong glance; if his German born and raised girlfriend didn’t know ‘big deal’, would she know ‘colloquialism’?

‘”Big deal” was one of the first American idioms I learned. But I did not understand Ray saying it because he is a gentleman who is never sarcastic.’

Ray felt embarrassed; you often never found out how highly regarded you really were until you said the wrong thing.

‘He didn’t mean to be an idiom’, apologised Joey, ‘But in America the word is pronounced “idiot”.’

‘I used the wrong phrase, Katrina. I meant “big deal” to mean something truly, not sarcastically, important. The Camellia Show is very important to a lot of people, like Joey’s mother who’s entered one in the competition.’

‘I apologise for being mistaken. I was only surprised that you would wish to go to a flower show.’

‘OK, fey…I mean Ray’, cracked Rico.

‘How do I explain this, Katrina…’

‘Honestly, Ray.’

Everyone laughed at Katrina’s quick response, and at Ray’s hesitation in responding, for he always had a quick retort to anything and an answer or excuse for everything. All proudly reflected that not only Peter, but all the Down and Outers brought her out of her shyness to be one of the gang.

‘Ray loves goin’ ta happy places and breathin’ in the atmosphere like the aroma of a beautiful bouquet. It’s like a visit to a health spa or takin’ some good medicine, it makes ‘em stronger and happier.’

‘Fixer elixir!’, Stash quipped.

‘Thank you, Angie. Peter and I are like that too. I am sorry to “put you on the spot”.’

Everyone laughed at Katrina’s unexpected use of an American idiom. The gang had been noticing that now it always was ‘Peter and I’ or ‘Katrina and me’.

‘It’s like art, I know nothing about them, but I know what I like, and I like what’s beautiful and what makes me happy.’

Angie noticed the slight glance Ray gave to her and she felt warm inside.

‘Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “‘Earth laughs in flowers”’, Stash quoted.

* * *

The annual camellia show arrived on a Sunday afternoon.

Yesterday had been sunny and brisk; the fierce winds of March going in like a lion. The gang watched Stash Gordon Conquers the Atmosphere with his high-flying kite in the Glen Flora Schoolyard. Angie refused to go, telling Stash that when someone is told to ‘go fly a kite’ it has a different meaning…

But they were one with the day…

Today’s weather outside the Victorian gothic Douglas House in Upton Park was grey and gloomy, but inside was a riot of colour with tables of mostly red camellias and various floral arrangements reflecting the Spring. There were snapdragons, daisies, a grey stuffed Easter Bunny next to matching pussy willows and a cocoon on a branch. Stash reflected that Joey and Angie had never left their cocoon, but he and Ray returned to be happy.

Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best after a morning in church and an early lunch or late brunch; a string quartet played beautifully. The joy of the people in the hall matched the beauty of the flowers. Stash thought it a wonderful alternative to staying inside their quiet homes by themselves, as everyone did on a rainy Waukegan Sunday.

‘You are right, Ray. It is a wonderful big deal!’

‘A wonderful big genteel deal Katrina!’, smiled Stash.

The Down and Outers went their separate ways. Joey remained with his mother supporting her in the excitement of the coming judging. Ray played the dutiful son following his parents. Of course, Katrina led Peter. Angie’s fans swarmed around her; she was regarded as a celebrity from her guise as Madame La Zonga the fortune teller.

Stash found himself on his own.

He was drawn to a lone elderly woman staring at a solitary camellia.

‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’

‘I’ve raised her…’

The woman began talking about her flower as if she was her mother and this was her daughter, which indeed it was. She told of raising the flower, all their times together and now her offspring was on her final day on display for all the world to love as if it were a terminal debutante ball.

Stash reflected that it really was Judgement Day.

There were so many categories that everyone seemed to have won something.

The woman received first place in her particular category. Her joy instantly transformed into tears.

Stash jumped in surprise when Angie touched him,

‘My folks are here and all of us are havin’ coffee and cake together. We’re waitin’ on yuh.’

‘Would you like to join us, Ma’am?’

‘Thank you very much, Stash, but I would like to spend some more time here.’

Stash felt the woman was in telepathic communication with her bloom. He understood her lingering farewell, for she would never see her camellia again. Her beautiful red daughter was born, had lived and been loved, rewarded…and now her life was over.

The woman turned to him,

‘Some other time?’

‘It’s a date!’

Angie escorted him to the long table that held the gang and their parents, with not only Peter and Katrina, but Peter’s landlady and Mr. and Mrs. Starr who owned the North Star Theatre. Alongside their parents, the gang resembled overgrown children.

One chair remained vacant for him.

‘See anything interesting, Stash?’

‘A really big deal, Ray.’


Author Notes: I am the author of three Extra Dimensional/Ultraterrestial military science fiction novels MERCENARY EXOTIQUE, OPERATION CHUPACABRA and WORK IN OTHER WORLDS FROM YOUR OWN HOME! as well as two travel books THE MAN FROM WAUKEGAN and TWO AUSTRALIANS IN SCOTLAND (all from I live happily ever after with my wife in paradise (coastal Kiama, NSW Australia).

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6 Mar, 2024
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