Jenny looks at her friends with an expression of utter disbelief.
“Oh My God!” She says. “I can’t believe I missed it.”
“You missed it?” Asks her friend Julie, incredulously.
“She missed it.” Deadpans Jane.
Jenny looks from one face to the other and grimaces, the right side of her mouth curling, lending her a pained expression.
“So.” She says, “I gotta know. Just tell me. Did Bee Balm win? I mean, that’s all anybody has been talking about for weeks. Is Bee Balm gonna win the Derby and claim the Triple Crown?”
“Just tell me. Did she win?”
Julie and Jane look at each other. They really don’t want to say. Everyone was rooting for Bee Balm.
Jenny easily reads their mutual expression of sheer disappointment. “Noooo.” She says with a long, sing-song exhale. “She lost?”
“Well,” says Jane with a shrug, “She sure didn’t win.”
Jenny grimaces again. “Shoot! So Zinnia did it again, huh?”
Julie smiles, eyebrows arched, and shakes her head ever so slightly back and forth.
“What?!?” Exclaims Jenny. “What?” Her grimace replaced a look of complete confusion. “If not Bee Balm, who could beat Zinnia in August? I mean, Gloriosa is shot.”
“Some sunflowers are looking good.”
“But mostly they are chewed to heck by the goldfinches.”
“Poppy didn’t even try this year. I guess those crazy Wild Marigolds could do it.”
She looks to her friends for encouragement but receives none.
Jenny continues, searching her mind for the flower who could beat Zinnia in the Dog Days Derby.
“Phlox is pretty.”
“And Sweet Pea is adorable, but I just can’t see them beating Zinnia.”
“Maybe Forget-Me-Not?” Jenny continues, looking like she might believe it.
Julie and Jane shake their heads.
“Canna?” Jenny asks with a searching, pleading look.
“No, none of them.” Says Jane. “But this wasn’t Zinnia’s year either. You know how Zinnia has been struggling this summer, what with way too much rain in June and July and then no rain in August. Her leaves have been spotty and she must have put out really shallow root systems, because she always looks parched and dry now.”
“Yeah Yeah.” Says Jenny, “I saw all that. But her flowers are still gorgeous.”
“I mean, she is the consummate bloomer. She has been unbeatable in the Derby for years. Her leaves may be kind of sorry lookin’ this year but her blooms are fabulous.”
“No one else is blooming like that.”
Julie is smiling from ear to ear. Jenny glares at her. “What?”
Jane jumps in. “Do you remember the big rule change last Spring?”
“I think so.” Says Jenny with a pensive look. “Something about Elephant Ear being allowed to join the races.”
“Yeah.” Says Jane encouragingly.
“I remember, it was a big fuss about how even though he doesn’t bloom, he is a critical member of the gardens. He was seen as kind of a joke, I remember.”
“Not any more!” Pipes up Julie, brightly.
Jenny looks at her with a blank look. Then it hits her. Her jaw drops, she brings her hands to her face. “You’re shittin’ me!”
The others smile and nod.
“Elephant Ear? The Derby? Elephant Ear won the freaking Derby?!?”
“Oh, Jenny” says Julie. “You should have seen it. He was brilliant.”
“All that rain and heat in June and July. It must have been like a tropical paradise for Elephant Ear.”
“He grew tall and lush.” Continues Julie. She is clearly excited. “He worked with the grasses and geraniums to perfectly frame Mary.”
“And then,” says Jane with a dreamy look. “He caught the light.”
“Oh, he looked so good in the light.”
“And in that amazing light,” continues Jane. “He showed off those gorgeous, subtle colors and awesome veins.”
“Mmmm,” says Julie. “It was beautiful. The way he just seemed to strive for greatness.”
“I think he’s my new favorite flower.”
“But he’s not a flower!” exclaims Jenny.
“I know.” Says Jane. “Flower Racing will never be the same.”