Even though it was a bright, sunny Saturday morning there was a slight chill in the October air. Leaves had begun to change colors on all the trees and it gave a colorful array to all the yards up and down the street. Toby walked across the street to Earl’s house. Earl was sitting in one of the large wooden rocking chairs on the front porch with his chin propped in his hand and appeared to be in deep thought.
“Hey Earl, Whatcha’ doin’? Toby asked.
Earl took a deep breath and blew air through his nostrils. “I was thinking about something.”
“What were you thinking about?” Toby asked.
“Well, I heard mama say something about the flowers had died and the leaves were changing colors on all the trees.”
“Well, I was thinking it had to be something that killed the flowers and I was just wondering what it could have been.”
“Could have been a bug or worm or something in the ground.” Toby said.
“Could have been. But how do you find out?” Earl asked curiously.
A small tear came to Earl’s eye as he tried to look away so Toby wouldn’t see it but Toby heard it in his voice. “Mama worked hard plantin’ those flowers and they were so pretty. I want mama to have her pretty flowers back and I just got to do something to help her.”
Toby thought for a moment then he said. “Well Earl there’s that place in town that sells bushes and flowers. I’ve been over there with mama and daddy but I think it done closed up already.” He snapped his finger. “I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we become flower doctors. If we can find out what’s happened to your mama’s flowers and fix it then we could doctor up other peoples flowers too.”
“How do you become a flower doctor?” Earl asked.
“Well, I was thinking that if we dug one up then we could cut it into and see if there was a bug or worm in the middle of it.” Toby explained.
“What if there is? What do we do then?” Earl asked again.
“Well, I guess we take the bug or worm out, tape the flower back together and plant it back in the ground. Can’t be that hard. All we would need is a shovel, a hoe and we got our Swiss Army knife’s from the Badger Scouts. All we’ll need now is some tape or glue.”
Earl gripped the end of the rocking chair and rocked back and forth as he continued in deep thought. “You think it would work?” He asked.
“Why not?” Toby said. “Besides when you get the worm out and tape it back up and plant it back in the ground the dirt all around the flower is going to keep the tape in place. So it can’t go anywhere. Why wouldn’t it work?” Toby reassured Earl.
“I’ve got all the tools we need in our tool shed.” Earl told him as he got up to lead Toby around to the back of the house where the tool shed was in the corner of the backyard. “That will be cool. Mama is gone to the store grocery shopping so if we could dig them up and operate on them while she’s gone and get them back in the ground before she gets back we’ll surprise her.” Earl said excitedly.
Toby and Earl found the shovel and hoe in the tool shed and went back to the front yard in the flowerbed next to the porch. “Hey Earl, reckon we ought to start at the first one on the corner?” Toby asked.
“Yea, that’ll be a good idea.” Earl pointed out to Toby where the first flower bulb would be in the ground. Earl took the hoe and raked pine straw out from around the area where the flower was while Toby started digging. They found the first bulb with small roots extending in every direction and the stem of where the flower had once pushed its way through the moist soil and sprouted its beautiful, colorful display. They both slowly reached down and pulled the bulb out together breaking roots as they pulled. As they set the flower bulb on top of the ground next to where they dug Earl asked Toby. “Wait a minute. Before we start to operate we need some of them there plastic doctor’s gloves don’t we?”
Toby thought for only a second when he looked at Earl and said, “Hey. We’ve got some at our house. They’re purple and they’re called Lalex gloves…or something like that. Anyway mama uses them at the hospital where she works.” Toby dropped the shovel and said, “I’ll run get them if you want to start digging up the next one.” Toby ran across the street to his house while Earl dug up the next flower bulb. When Toby got back from his house across the street Earl already had all the flowers dug up on one side of the front doorsteps.
“I thought I’d go ahead and dig all of them up then we could operate on all of them at one time and then plant them back in the ground.” Earl told Toby as he walked back into the yard carrying a box of latex gloves.
“That’ll be good Doctor Earl.” Toby reached into his front pocket and pulled out his Swiss Army knife. He then reached into his back pocket and pulled out a roll of Scotch tape. “I went ahead and got the other stuff we’re going to need to perform the surgery too.” Toby stopped and thought for another second before he said anything. “Earl?”
Earl continued to dig while answering him. “Yea.”
“Exactly where are we going to perform the surgery at. We need an operating room and operating table.”
“We’ll use the work table in the tool shed.” He said without even looking up as though Earl already had that question figured out.
After the last flower bulb was dug up in the front yard Earl got his wagon and he and Toby put all of them in the wagon and pulled it around back to the tool shed. Earl got the tall shop light out of the corner that his father used when he worked in the shop. As Earl set the light up next to the work table and plugged it in Toby was already putting his rubber gloves on. After Earl switched the bright light on Toby handed him a pair of gloves to put on as well. Without saying a word to each other they both slowly and gently began to get the flower bulbs out of the wagon and put them on the table. They lined them all in a row, then got their Swiss Army pocket knives out.
“Wait a minute Doctor Toby.” Earl grabbed Toby by the arm just as he was about to cut into the first bulb.
“What is it?”
“We forgot our mask.” Earl said and walked over to a metal cabinet and got a box of white dust mask out. He handed one to Toby and put one on himself.
“Whew. That was close” Toby said as he wiped his brow with the wrist of his hand.
“Doctor Earl if you’ll start on that end I can start on this end and we’ll just meet in the middle and we’ll have all these flowers fixed and in good shape in no time.”
“That’s right Doctor Toby. I think mama is going to be very proud of us.” Earl gently cut into the first flower bulb. He paused and looked over at Toby who had already cut his bulb down one side and began pulling it apart. “Just think, when we get these here fixed and we start fixing everybody else’s flowers all up and down the street we’ll be famous flower doctors.”
“Yea, just think how rich we’ll be when everybody starts calling us and wanting us to operate on their flowers and trees.” Toby said while he concentrated on the bulb he had cut and pulled apart.
“Doctor Earl, what do you reckon it could be for the leaves on all the trees up and down the street to start changing colors, dying and falling off?”
Earl was studying his own flower bulb he had already cut in half. “I’m not sure Doctor Toby but I’m thinking it might be that tree disease called ‘Changumus Colorus’. At least that’s what I’m leaning toward anyway.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Toby agreed. “By the way, how much are we going to charge for these operations. Once these flowers are well your mama won’t have to be buying flowers at the flower store anymore.”
“I’m not sure.” Earl paused for a moment. “I’m thinking maybe ten dollars a flower.” He counted the flower bulbs on the table. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Ten flowers here. So that’ll be a thousand dollars startin’ out.” Earl and Toby looked at each other and even though they couldn’t see it for the mask they were wearing they both were smiling at each other. “That’s five hundred dollars apiece.” Earl said before returning to his work.
“What are you going to do with your five hundred dollars Toby?”
“I’m not sure. I was thinking about buying me a new Corvette. What about you?”
“Well, I will probably buy me a SUV but I’ll probably buy me some more doctoring books on flowers first.”
“That’s a good idea Doctor Earl.” Toby said as he leaned down closer to look at the bulb he had separated. “Well Doctor Earl I think I may see the problem.” Earl held his hands up in the air as though he had just finished open heart surgery on a patient and walked to the other end of the table to examine what Toby was talking about. “See that black spot right there in the middle of the plant?” Toby pointed to the center of the bulb. “That there is just what I thought was wrong with it.” He stood up straight and looked at his friend with great confidence. “That you see right there doctor is called the ‘Black Spot’ flower disease. It gets into the root and drains all the honey from the plant causing the flowers to die. If we remove that ‘Black Spot’ disease, sew them back together and replant them, then in a few more weeks maybe even a few months your mama will be seeing pretty flowers again.”
Earl shook his head in agreement. “I guess that’s why we ain’t been seeing no bees flying around lately neither. That ‘Black Spot’ disease drains the honey from the flower and the bees don’t have none so they go somewhere else.” He shook his head again in agreement. “Let me check these here I’m operating on and if it’s got the same black spot in the middle of it then we’ll know for sure that’s what it is.” Earl walked back to his end of the table while Toby began digging out the center of the flower bulb.
“Yep that’s what it is Doctor Toby. You were absolutely right.”
As they continued “operating” on the remainder of the flower bulbs they began to discuss what all they were going to do with all the millions of dollars they will be making as flower doctors. All the nice cars they will be buying, the nice homes and vacations. They hear the sound of Earl’s mother’s car pull into the driveway, then the slamming of the car door.
“EARL! EARL! Where are you at? Get out here right now!”
As they both slowly stepped out of the shed wearing their purple latex gloves and white mask they see Earl’s mother standing there with her hands on her hip. She pointed a finger toward the front yard while she kept the other hand on her hip. “Did you dig up all those flowers in the front yard?” She really didn’t have to ask the question to an answer she already knew.
“Mama, you said they had died and we just wanted to operate on them to see if we could make them better so they’ll sprout out again. We think we may have found the problem too and we were just finishing up to plant them back. It will take a while for them to heal but in a few weeks maybe even a few months you’ll have some pretty flowers again.”
She dropped her head and shook it from side to side. She looked back at them and told them both to help her get the groceries in the house, plant the flowers back where they got them from, explained to them why the flowers died in the first place and she made them both promise to never dig up another flower again until they were grown.