Exercising the craft—August 1, 2016

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: A character opens the front door and discovers a bouquet of flowers on the doorstep. But the flowers have a hidden meaning. What do they symbolize? Who left them there? How does the character react?



Katie raced through her morning routine. She’d stayed up way too late memorizing lines for the next round of auditions for the TV show, and somehow her cell phone alarm had betrayed her this morning. If she didn’t get to the diner within 15 minutes of the start of her shift, she’d lose this job too.

After a cursory shower and pulling her hair back into a ponytail, Katie had managed to fly into her uniform and grab her keys when the doorbell rang.

Oh, crap, now what? I don’t have time for this!

The bell rang again, and then the person knocked. Katie checked her watch, heaved a huge sigh, and jogged to the front door. When she opened it, her foot hit a long box on the threshold. Just as she looked up, a man held up a hand in a farewell and got into a car. “Crown Florist” said a large magnet on the passenger door.

Katie’s breath caught. She didn’t want to pick up the box. Didn’t want to read the card that would be inside.

Maybe it’s not what you think. Maybe that cute cameraman got your info from the audition list and…

The stark white cardboard drew her hands downward, even as she knew that the cameraman had just flirted with her. He had no intention of getting involved with another hopeful loser, another brunette who spent her days standing in long lines to get into auditions with makeup melting and spirits dipping. The cameraman probably had his sights set on sitting in the director’s seat one day so he could be on the other side of the clipboard. The rejecting side.

She picked up the box and brought it inside, kicking the door shut behind her. She’d been so sure that this last audition had gone well. They’d called her back twice. The last one was just supposed to be a formality, one of the junior producers had assured her. The part was as good as hers. She just had to come in and blow them away at the final audition.

But now there would be no more audition. Not for that show, at least. The rumors about the director’s idiosyncrasies had proven true, about the flowers in any case. New actors joining the cast received phone calls and a Lincoln Town Car sent to the front door to pick them up for a meeting with the production crew and other cast members.

Actors not chosen received a box of flowers. The variety of flowers changed from show to show, production to production, but the director never wavered from the gesture. Something to soften the sting of rejection.

All anyone felt was thorns.

Katie dropped the box on her small breakfast table and pulled the lid off the box. She could feel the crushing of her heart in the rustle of the tissue paper that surrounded the mixed bouquet. The cheerful flowers dimmed everything around them, and Katie wanted to push the box on the floor. Instead she pulled a small envelope out of the box.

“To Jennifer Rushmore: Thank you for your hard work! Your strong audition impressed us, and we encourage you to come back and audition for a future production! Regards—”

An intern had probably received the tedious task of stamping the bottom of the cards with the director’s official signature. Katie pulled out a chair at the table and sat down, her knees not bending so much as buckling.

Clearly a new name hadn’t worked in her favor. Her agent had suggested using a stage name, and Katie chose “Jennifer.” It had worked incredibly well in front of Aniston and Lawrence and with some marked success in front of Lopez and Garner. She’d considered “Jessica,” but she didn’t want to be associated with only moderate success like a Biel or an Alba and definitely not with Simpson.

After some debate with her agent, they settled on “Jennifer” and stuck with her original last name. It had an all-American sound to it, her agent had said. Girl-next-door meets girl-with-mountainous-potential. So she’d changed her name, blown money on keeping her highlights and extensions fresh, and didn’t step within a hundred feet of an audition in anything less than four-inch heels.

In the end, however, it hadn’t mattered. She’d still gotten a box of flowers.

Anger swelled inside of Katie, and she stood so quickly that she bumped the table. The vase from T.J. Maxx teetered before righting itself, but it didn’t matter. When she dragged the box off the table, the vase caught the tail end of the box and flew against the wall. It shattered, but Katie’s anger kept her moving.

She went to the front door not more than twenty paces away from the table, grabbed the doorknob, and threw the door open. It rebounded off the wall, but by then Katie had already stormed across the threshold. She hurled the box down the front steps with a scream.

With tears streaming down her face, Katie went back inside and this time dropped onto the sofa. She covered her face with her hands and sobbed as the prospects of her acting career and her job at the diner dripped against the dull carpet of her apartment and disappeared.