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Calming Flowers 

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Gorman slammed his mug down onto the desk. “You can’t expect me to work another Sunday. What do I tell my wife? You’ve made me come in every weekend for months.” Not that he ever looked forward to going home, but he hated his job even more.

“Your happiness, or lack of it, is not my concern.” Bessie Ravens had a disconcerting way of wobbling her jowls when she spoke. “I made you V.P. for a reason. You’re supposed to be loyal to the company.”

“Yes, Bessie, I get that, but I…” His sentence trailed off when a chain of daisies swirled past his window. Gorman’s office was on the thirty-second floor. “Strong wind today.”

“I was just out for lunch. Still as a pharaoh’s tomb out there. Now, can I trust you to deal with the Xu-Lin account on Sunday?”

Gorman was too fascinated by the sudden shower of Queen Anne’s lace blossoms to pay attention to Bessie’s words. “What? Yeah. Sure.” The right side of his desk vibrated slightly. The lacy flying flowers turned purple. “Did you see that, outside?”

She didn’t look. “Probably a bird. You’ll take care of our best clients, right?”

“I’ll do what I can.”

“You better.” She turned and left.

Now a thousand dancing primroses flitted in the space between Gorman’s office high rise and the building across Seventh Avenue. Soon they turned to bluebells, twirling in concentric circles like in a Busby Berkley movie. Just barely, Gorman heard a melodic tinkling through the thick glass window. “The music of bluebells.” He sighed appreciatively.

“Mister Williams? It’s Mrs. Williams on line one.”

“Thanks, Yolanda.” He lifted the receiver, keeping his eyes on the mid-air floral festival. “Yes, dear?”

“You better not miss dinner Sunday. My folks are coming in for the week.”

It was weird: that news, which should have sent Gorman’s blood pressure skyrocketing, had no effect on him. “I’ll do what I can.”

“You better.”

He was hardly aware of hanging up. The bluebells had morphed into some sort of ivy, which braided itself into ladders falling past his window.

That was unexpected. “I can escape?” From a vibrating desk drawer he pulled a black plastic box labeled “Stress Converter” and squinted at the instructions on the back. “‘Pleasing images to calm you.’ Doesn’t say anything about escaping.” He pondered the vines outside. “But a ladder is a ladder.”

He forced the dial on the box three ticks clockwise. What had been mild vibrations turned to pulses so strenuous he almost dropped the gadget. With wobbly hands he placed it on the floor and was thrilled to see the results of turning it up: gardenias inside, tulips outside, orchids swimming in his head. And those thick vine ladders still hung from the clouds.

When Gorman threw his desk chair, the window shattered more readily than he might have thought.

“Mister Williams? Mister Zhang from Xu-Lin Industries is…”

He didn’t hear the rest.

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Anne E. Johnson lives in Brooklyn. Her short speculative fiction has appeared in Alternate Hilarities, Urban Fantasy Magazine, FrostFire Worlds, Shelter of Daylight, The Future Fire, Liquid Imagination, and elsewhere. Her series of humorous science fiction novels, The Webrid Chronicles, has been described as a cross between Douglas Adams and Raymond Chandler. Her most recent books are the YA adventure novel, Space Surfers, and a collection of children’s stories, Things from Other Worlds.

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