It was the coldest day of the coldest week in Cleveland’s history when Frank won $500 from a Big Bananas scratch-off lottery ticket.
“Hot dog!” he said, shaking his head in the truck’s cab.
It was the kind of cold that yanked people’s shoulders up to their ears. Froze tears before they could swim in the satisfaction of falling. Turned girls’ nipples hard as nails.
Frank looked around the grocery store parking lot, longing to share his joy with another. But everyone he observed wore the raw, plucked expression of chickens without their feathers.
A mother exasperated with her bawling toddler.
A middle-aged man slipping on ice, and losing all his microwave dinners.
An older woman with car trouble, who stared at her engine like it was an unfaithful lover.
Frank’s eyes narrowed. He sat for several minutes, running the winning lotto ticket across the scruff of his chin.
Frank cracked his door. His truck sure could use a paint job. Another blue chip fell to the ground.
He walked across the ice-sheeted lot with some difficulty. His shoes were losing their tread.
Frank tipped his glasses back on the bridge of his nose. He’d worn the same pair for twelve years. His granddaughter was growing blurry.
Frank walked through the swooshing doors, whistling. They positioned the flower department at the front of the store. The hard seduction, before the costly truth of all those necessities could add up in shoppers’ minds.
Frank approached a bored worker.
“I want to buy your flowers.”
“Which arrangement, sir?” the girl said, tongue flipping her chewing gum.
“All of them.”
“Yep, $500 worth. Or all the roses. Whichever comes first,” Frank said. “Girls like roses, right?"
The gum flipped out of the girl’s mouth, and landed on the floor. He smiled at her.
With the help of the girl, Frank exchanged his Big Bananas ticket for cash, and carried all the flowers outside. He offered her a dozen red roses.
“You have kind eyes,” he told her. She blushed with pleasure, and took the roses from his arthritic hand, before turning back inside.
The mother with her toddler rolled out.
“Ma’am? Your son wants you to know you're the best mom in the world.” He handed the pink roses to the child, who extended them to his mother with a squeal and soggy smile. She started to laugh, and tousled his hair. So proud.
Frank spread the rest of his city garden in much the same fashion. A few people refused, but most accepted the gift and compliment with the same flutter people savor when hearing spring birdsong.
When the roses were all gone, Frank walked across the parking lot, to the woman still frozen before the dead engine. Her cheeks were siren red.
She turned to him with gutted eyes. “Yes?”
“I don’t have any more flowers, but I’d love to pay for your tow.”
Her knees unlocked, she leaned into him, and his arm wrapped around.
And when her warm tear fell on his old shoe, it was with the sweetest satisfaction.