Shady Hollow Garden Club – Camilla Lee

Most of my mail I toss in the recycle bin; a hearing aid ad, a catalog for handicap railings. An in-house flier advertising tango lessons I hang onto, you never know. On the mail room wall a bulletin board has announcements for museum trips and scheduled rides to the supermarket. Sometimes I see Bitsy Reynolds here, keeping the notices in tidy rows and up to date. I caught her shuffling through the recycle bin once, taking a few magazines home with her. She’s a hard one to figure out, that’s for sure. On the bulletin board is an “In Memoriam” posting of a recent death, of a woman I never knew, who had moved into a nursing home. This brings to mind close friends I’ve lost, the numbers building over the past few years. Friends still in my address book, where I hesitate to cross out the names. Now I notice a letter tucked in with my mail. It’s the same kind of letter Lauren got. with my name and apartment number written in block letters.

Once inside the apartment I drop the keys in a bowl and open the letter:

You Are Not The One And Only Like Lauren’s, each separate word is cut out from a magazine or catalog, and glued to a note card. The writer, or rather the gluer, did a bad job with smudges and fingerprints. Of course this message unsettles me. Not so much that it interrupts a nap. Who would go to that grade school trouble? “I’m not the one and only what?” With our flower project so successful, the garden club revels in compliments. A small sign is propped by the arrangement, giving credit to the Shady Hollow Garden Club. Ethel Ballinger and I set up a rotating schedule for teams of designers. Planting a cutting garden is proposed.

When the next meeting starts, there is much exuberance and chatter. I partake in a peripheral way, thinking about the mysterious notecard. Looking from member to member, I try to assess who the writer might be. Lauren seems uncomfortable, shifting in her chair. The sour Marianne would be a plausible culprit, but for her meticulous craftsmanship with tweezers and glue. It might not be a garden club member at all. My meditation is interrupted when David stands and says: “We should congratulate ourselves. I’d like to invite everyone to my apartment for a cocktail party.”

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  1. Barbara Crouchley says:

    Camilla’s quiet humor and her observant eye make all these characters real and familiar. And her simple sentences laced with such wit ( between the isobars my mind also wanders). Love reading her short stories. Thank you for publishing this….. I’ll see you there but not in the garden club!

  2. isabel Goff says:

    Loved the story Camilla. Thanks. Izzy

  3. Sarah Lee says:

    Great short story! Love the setting and characters. They were all very well developed. I could smell the lilacs!

  4. Freya says:

    Brilliant! Perfect! Spot on! More!

  5. Perfect!! LEE’s timing is spot on. She never lingers too long nor hammers hard on the surprises. Didn’t want the story to end…more PLEASE from this gifted, wry, insightful writer!

  6. MaryEthel Stack says:

    I can hear your voice, Camilla. Glad you can write so positively about community living. Hope you are going to stay in your big, old house. Enjoyed this story.

  7. Judy Taft says:

    Wonderful story by Camilla Lee. She has a seemingly effortless style, a slightly wicked sense of humor, and spot on-observations about people, in this case, the inhabitants of a retirement home.Would love to read more of her work!

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