Felicitus Snyder lived in Rueton at the mouth of the Little river. The Little river was one of two rivers in Ocean End and though it was called the Little river and the other was called the Big river—they were both about the same size. Felicitus Snyder used to live in a town at the mouth of the Big river in a hotel called Big River Hotel. But he had gotten tired of big city life on the Big river, so he moved to the Little River Hotel in Rueton—a town about the same size as the town from which Felicitus moved. Felicitus Snyder was very very thin and of average height. His thinness though made him look as very very tall as he was very very thin. Most people didn’t even notice how he didn’t tower over them; they called him tall any way. Everything about Felicitus seemed extreme, in fact. His black hair was very black, his long fingers were very long, and his big eyes were very very big. He looked like one of those nocturnal marsupials with eyes that appear bigger than their face. Eyes that make them look as though they are always surprised, or scared, or hypnotized. Felicitus also looked always surprised or scared. Maybe the way people look causes the way they act, because Felicitus was often surprised or scared. Or maybe because he was often surprised or scared, his body gave him some features to warn others of the fact.
Felicitus’ constant state of surprise and scare made him a very timid man. He did not often talk with other people, even the people who lived with him in the Little River Hotel, or the people from whom he bought his groceries. He barely ventured out of his little room during the times in the day when Rueton was most busy. And he did not, did not, partake in any of the many Rueton festivals and celebrations. Rueton, though smallish, was famous for all the festivals it had on a yearly basis. Festivals for the coming of May, and festivals for the town founding, festivals for the town dedication, for the first child of Rueton, for Christmas, for Summer, for the apple harvest, and the corn harvest. And in March, when the people of Rueton couldn’t think of any reason to have a festival—they had a festival just because. Felicitus didn’t participate in these festivals. He didn’t even go to them to watch other people participating in the festivals.
The only place that Felicitus Snyder liked to go that was outside his suite in the Little River Hotel was the flower field on the outside of town in the tiny corner of land created by the edge of the city as it rolled away from the river bank nearest the Ocean where the land ended. Rueton was at the mouth of the Little river after all, and river mouths are usually situated where a river runs into a much larger and less linear body of water, which in this case, is the Ocean. The flower field in the tiny corner of land created by the edge of the city and the river bank was full of big and small tall and short flower of every color. They were wild flowers and persisted in growing in the field outside of town without the benefit of any one’s special attention or care. Felicitus liked visiting with the flowers because he thought they were tough and more down to earth and less snobby than flowers that had to be pampered and primped. And even though they were so tough, somehow they had managed to be as beautiful and look as delicate as anything Felicitus had ever seen before. Felicitus didn’t do anything as crazy as imagine that the flowers in the field he visited talked back to him. These flowers could not talk. But he did like to periodically tell them his troubles. Cleansing himself of his worries by speech made Felicitus feel as though there were someone out there who was always there for him when he needed them; someone like a friend out there in the flower field.
Little did Felicitus know that there was indeed a friend for him in the flower field. A friend that very quietly sat under the petals of the flowers that Felicitus spoke to and listened with all her little heart to him pour out his own. She was a little flower spirit, a spirit that had been awakened by Felicitus’ constant attention and care. In some ways you could say that she had been born from Felicitus’ feeling that there was a friend for him out in the flower field. However she came to see and listen to Felicitus for the first time might not ever be found out, but there she was.
She called herself Petal. She took the name the first time she could remember sitting under the flower head and listening to Felicitus as he spoke lowly, leaning a little toward the flower. He had told the flower how nice and pretty its petals were—and being so near to the petals in question, Petal considered herself one as well. Petal had grown in size since the time she can first remember standing under the flower head while Felicitus poured his heart out to her without knowing it. She was now almost too big to fit under a single flower and not be seen. It seemed as though she grew proportionately and exponentially with how much Felicitus depended on his flower field retreat.
Lately, Felicitus was depending very heavily on that flower field. The May celebration was coming and the streets of Rueton were filled and moving with people erecting May poles, and decorating floats, baking breads and pastries, and all sorts of things that people do to prepare for a festivity in May. The streets were so busy that Felicitus could barely get out of this little hotel room at all to get groceries or take out his laundry without running into several people upon people who wanted nothing more than to forcefully pull him out of the shell they all said he hid in. Felicitus didn’t mind the shell, and he didn’t care to interact with people who needed to change him and didn’t like him for him.
Because the streets of Rueton were so very crowded though, Felicitus could not make it out to the flower field even though he wanted to desperately. He just could not handle being jostled in the street and alternately ignored by some and pressed by others. So instead, Felicitus day-dreamed about his flower field. He curled up by his window staring off in the general direction he would go to get there and he visualized being there and unburdening his mind.
Little did he know that his visualizations were making it somehow to Petal, who waited for him in the flower field. They were so strong as they got to her that she grew to be a very very short and somewhat plump little person, but quite big enough to look like a regular person after all. She sat in her flower dress in the field and wondered where Felicitus could be. And even though he still did not come as the people of Rueton completed their preparations and went off to bed on the night after which the May festival would take place, Petal did not feel abandoned. Quite the contrary, she had no such suspicions that Felicitus would not be coming back. She simply waited.
While Petal waited Felicitus yearned more and more for his flower field and the feeling of friendship he always got when he was there. So, although he never usually snuck about town at night, when all of the Rueton residents had gone off to bed, eager to awake the next morning for their festival, Felicitus left his little room in the Little River Hotel and struck off in the direction of the flower field.
When he got to his flower field though, he saw something he had never seen there before: another person, Petal to be exact. He didn’t know Petal at this particular point in time though, and instead, felt a little taken aback that someone else would be in what he considered his flower field. Felicitus felt so much like this flower field was his that he acted very unusually for himself. He walked right up to Petal, who still sat still and quite on the ground of the field, and almost demanded what she was doing there. But he didn’t actually say anything, because his brisk walk up to Petal wore out his feeling of outrage and trespass and he was again overridden by his own timid-ness. He stood looking down at Petal where she sat. And Petal sat looking up at Felicitus where he stood. Petal wasn’t used to starting conversations; she had always waited for Felicitus to speak, so she did not speak now. But she did look up at the starry sky in a way that made Felicitus look up too. He had never been out in that field when the stars were out; he had never thought that there could be something to look at in the flower field that was not the flower field itself. But he was struck by the beauty of the sky. So struck was he, in fact, that he sat down next to Petal and continued to look up with her, and continued to not say anything.
Felicitus couldn’t really explain why, slowly while he sat there, he began to feel comfortable with Petal sitting there beside him. Perhaps it was the way she didn’t press him to be more outgoing, or ask if he was going to the festival tomorrow, or asked why she hadn’t seem him out, or why wasn’t he speaking, why Felicitus felt comfortable with Petal. Or perhaps it was because she reminded him of the flowers in the field with the sweet and soft way she didn’t do anything at all besides sit there with her pretty round face turned toward the sky. Felicitus and Petal continued to sit in silence and watch the sky until the light of day started to creep up from the East and dim the stars. Felicitus knew he should go now and get back in his little room at the Little River Hotel before the festivities of the day started and the crowds of people filled the street.
So, for the first time since Felicitus had set himself down next to Petal, he looked at her, and she was looking at him. Usually when people looked at Felicitus he found it hard to meet their eyes and even harder to speak. But Petal was not demanding with words or looks that he do anything. So Felicitus told her that he had to go home and she nodded, and smiled, and Felicitus smiled back. He couldn’t help himself.
All the while Felicitus was walking back to his little room, he thought about how pleasant the flower field had been, and how the girl he had met there didn’t even ruin it, in fact, her presence was maybe more soothing than his field had been when it was empty. And when he was not taking a little nap in the morning to catch up on sleep, Felicitus was wondering about how nice that girl had been and what her name might be. He continued to wonder this all through his light breakfast and over the din of the May festival as it floated through his open window. His curiosity grew to such a point that Felicitus Snyder left his little room in the Little River Hotel and walked all the way out to the front stoop of the hotel before he remembered that he did not like to go out when Rueton was having a festival. He returned to his room away from the crowds and commotion of the town but found nothing inside that could help him pass the time and keep his mind off of what that sweet plump little girl in the flower dress’s name might be. Felicitus Snyder once again emerged from his room and walked out on to the front stoop of the Little River Hotel. He did not stop this time.
Felicitus Snyder wove quickly through the crowds and bumped into people and hurried around obstacles and got stopped. Mrs. Witherbean wanted to know how he was, and thought he was too thin; and then Rufus Cassox tried to get him to join in a game of squash. And Bertie the Baker had to stop and make small talk as did Alex Sioux and Mary Blatt. And just when Felicitus Snyder was about to crack right down the center like a dropped egg, Mrs. Eldon Parish wanted to introduce him to a lovely thing she had found sitting all alone in the flower field outside of town. Oh, Mrs. Parish said that this little girl was the sweetest and most pretty little new resident that Rueton had had in a long time. Felicitus Snyder then found himself staring down at little Petal—the exact reason why he had come out in the first place. She smiled at him, and he couldn’t help but smile back. Felicitus now knew that her name was Petal. His curiosity had been fulfilled.
When Petal pulled at his hand and had him sit next to her on the high decorative wall of the bakery, Felicitus sat. He sat and he noticed how since he had joined in, in a way, the people of Rueton didn’t press him. Some still waved and called to him, surprised to see him out of his little room at the Little River Hotel, but then they went on with their festival content that he was there.
Strangely, as Felicitus sat with Petal and watched the festivities, he began to enjoy himself. The people of Rueton in their fancy outfits, moving to and from reminded him of his flower field on a windy day when the flowers and grasses were blown about like great waves on the sea. Of course, Felicitus’ flowers were never quite this noisy, but he found he could get lost in the noise almost as easily as he could get lost in the silence of his field. Felicitus and Petal spent the rest of the festival on that wall watching the festival of May. And once even, Felicitus ventured out into the crowd to fetch them both some refreshments. Felicitus and Petal said their goodbyes at the end of the evening and arranged to meet in the flower field the next day.
They began to spend more and more time together. They didn’t speak much, and often just sat and watched the flowers, or the sky, or the people in Rueton. Because of Petal Felicitus ventured out into the town more often and could sometimes be seen sitting on a park bench next to the little plump girl and watching as people passed. The people in Rueton bothered him less and less the more and more he came out. Eventually Felicitus found out that Petal’s voice sounded like the whisper of the flowers when the breeze blows through them. Petal and Felicitus eventually got married, and didn’t even mind the whole town waiting for them outside the church doors and throwing them their own festival. The set up a little house on the perimeter of the flower field so they could watch the flowers and the stars when ever they might want to, and they often went into town to watch the festivals of Rueton. Felicitus Snyder didn’t always look now as though he were surprised or scared. Perhaps it was because his face had filled out a little with Petal’s constant and hearty meals.