Cuckoo at Keukenhof

She was somewhat taken aback to have gotten the job so quickly. Flora reckoned it was on the basis of her name alone, how “utterly charmed” the visiting tourists that weren’t Chinese would be by the notion of a girl named Flora working in a flower garden. Or, more to the point, a tulip garden. Keukenhof. Also known as the Disneyland of flowers, ergo a waking nightmare of a cesspool for those who either worked there or were not riveted solely by the appeal of photo taking potential. Flora was aware, going into the operation, that she might grow wary of people quickly, that the sheer volume of them might start to chip away at any “personability” she had claimed to have to the interviewer. She was not like the average Dutch person (for she was half Spanish)–she couldn’t simply quack “Hello” ad nauseum and apropos of nothing. But this and so many other unpleasant pleasantries were expected of her in her post as cashier. At the worst possible location for foot traffic, to boot.

The “food court” right at the entrance, just when people are most susceptible to spending their money–and all in an effort to tell themselves they need their “energy.” For what? Staring at a bevy of bulbs? It was incongruous to Flora. And as the days of her early twenties passed slowly as she ticked off three springs spent working this seasonal job for enough to subsidize her would-be endless summers in Ibiza, she wondered how many more she could withstand, and if she would ever manage to encounter a suitor who wasn’t of the old school romantic variety–the ilk that still, even in this modern century, felt inclined to give her flowers. And yes, often, as though to deliberately spite her, tulips instead of roses. She might have been able to bear roses–even red ones–but the sight of tulips was enough to make her want to run to the toilet and barf. Naturally, her vitriolic reaction drove away many a potential boyfriend, and she might never know for sure if one of them could have been the love of her life were it not for being employed at Keukenhof, which was steadily making her go cuckoo despite having spent, cumulatively, less than a year there.

It was during Year Three that she finally came upon Thijs, a maintenance man/gardener of sorts who was the stuff of legend among other workers. A veritable myth of what could happen to a person if they became a lifer at Keukenhof. As the lore went, Thijs began his career in tulips in the mid-80s, when he, like Flora, was also in his early twenties. He had wanted the job to impress a girl he met while stopped over in Keukenhof (he was a truck driver before becoming a lifetime groundskeeper). She was a “barmaid,” as he had once been heard calling her at a time when he hadn’t become completely mute.

Upon laying eyes upon her, he fell in love instantly, asking her what he could possibly do to make her reciprocate. She jokingly said, “Bring me fresh tulips every day from the garden.” Being Dutch, one supposes Thijs couldn’t pick up on the tinge of sarcasm. Velia herself was originally from Italy, and had emigrated to the Netherlands with her parents at the age of ten. Maybe that’s why she had a more heightened sense of jocularity. Thijs, alas, took her recommendation seriously and immediately went to the nearby garden to apply for work there, figuring it would be both more easily accessible and inexpensive to fulfill her request as an employee of this nearby establishment to her restaurant. His heart, however, seemed to be rendered into cold stone upon coming in to proudly present her with a tuft of tulips almost a month after she had first said it. Thusly, she scarcely recognized who this man was, let alone why he would be bringing her tulips. Upon informing her that he planned to do just as she asked and bring her tulips every day from the garden until she fell in love with him, she took it as the final sign she had been waiting for to quit–something she had been toying with for quite a while as she realized she wanted to return to Italy.

Thus, Thijs was met with her mocking titter, followed by her public declaration that she was quitting to avoid anymore “Dutch psychos.” Thijs reportedly never spoke again after that moment, retreating back into Keukenhof to go about his tasks methodically, disappearing into the ether effectively enough to remain on the payroll without a second thought from the bureaucracy. The occasional sightings of him in the present, however, would often spark fresh employees to question their superiors about the spectral and ominous presence of this tall monster roaming the more secluded grassy areas (of which there were admittedly few) with a fertilizer backpack and attached hose that made him look like some sort of rejected Ghostbuster. The higher-ups would merely shrug and say, “Oh, that’s just Thijs. He’s worked here for years.” The only person who ever saw fit to “talk” to him directly was Flora, who gravitated toward his wounded air one day while purposefully smoking a cigarette near one of the tulip beds so as to stub the ashes out into it. She was calculated in putting this performance on in front of him to see if he would be offended by it–if he gave as much of a damn about this overly manufactured garden as everyone else. He appeared not to, instead flashing her something that was likely as close to a grin as he could manage.

Later, as he was fucking her in the very same tulip bed after hours, he gagged her with a fistful of petals, newly instating a love of tulips she had previously never known. And this is how the two cuckoos of Keukenhof formed a reinvigorated appreciation for a strain of flower that had once driven them as insane as the stark-raving Lynchian “normalcy” of a hyper-manicured setting that attracted mainly the aged and the Asian, the former being an appropriate demographic as there was a crematorium just across the street.

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