The park had a new statue by the side of one path. A beautiful lady stood on a rough-cut marble block, wearing a real dress. The cold stone of her lovely face seemed very nearly alive to a little boy who stopped and stood gazing at her. She shimmered in his eyes like the pearls about her neck.
He felt a need to go on, but she called him in her silence. He clutched his dollar with both hands and hurried away from her, listening for the tune of the ice cream man. Before he passed her, he saw a sign with silver letters pointing back to her.
“Hart-ford Act-ing S-choo-l,” he read, out of habit.
Whatever the sign pointed to, it drew him back to a half-embarrassed contemplation of the statue. Only girls were supposed to like statues and dresses and stuff. But those thoughts lost themselves in a jumble of adoration and other purpose.
His mother would expect him back soon, with his begged-for ice cream cone or hot dog or . . . iris. His gaze, when it dropped from the finely cut face, fell upon a sparkling vase of irises balanced on her outstretched palm.
Puzzled their presence, and sorry he could not reach one for his mother, at last his eyes turned to the ground. Propped against the girl’s marble perch was another sign, in the same silver letters as the other one.
“Hart-ford, oh! Hartford Acting School, again. I-ris-es, Irises. $1, one dollar.”
His mother loved flowers, and the small, deep-carved wooden box next to the sign beckoned for his dollar. Now also the ice cream cart did, and its anticipated music filled him with desire.
You just followed the music and gave the man a dollar, he thought, and he would give you an ice cream cone. Chocolate or vanilla or strawberry or . . . neeuh-something, the best. It had all three! If you put a dollar in the box by the statue, how did you get the flower for mom?
He turned from the statue and began to run to the music, his dollar now in one hand. He ran, but saw the faces of statue and mother in his mind, and the flower; his mother again, but holding the flower. She looked so happy, and the beautiful statue looked so happy, that he slowed, stopped, and turned around. The statue was so far away, but he began to run back to it. When he got there, he breathlessly read and reread the sign. Irises, irises, one dollar, irises, one dollar, dollar, dollar.
He advanced and dropped his money into her box, then dropped back to realize the foolishness of this act. He could never reach her dreamlike vase.
Just before he turned and left in shame, she knelt and placed a soft, human hand on his young head. Then, with that same hand, she took an iris from her vase and placed it in his astonished grasp.
His shame lifted, and, forgetting the beautiful statue, he gazed now on the miraculous flower. He ran away from her to find his mother, and the girl rose. Once again, the vase stood perched on an immaculate, outstretched hand.