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Wordie Wednesday: schadenfreude


mass noun

  • Pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune.


  • German Schadenfreude, from Schaden ‘harm’ + Freude ‘joy’.

It was the finest, most exquisite rose. Its flawless petals were the palest pink with blushes of magenta, turned quizzically towards the late afternoon sun.

The rose was Eugenia Penelope Stanford’s pride and joy, and she was sure it would win the regional award this year. Eugenia had been a member of the Pattonville Horticultural Society almost since she’d held a trowel in her hand the very first time. As a longtime participant in the society’s efforts to beautify the town, and as someone who aspired to win the county award every year for the past five, she knew a winner when she saw it.

And her rose – lovingly called Blush – was the winner this year. She believed it.

There was the pesky business about Sally Osborne, though. Sally’s reputation for being a rose connoisseur and someone who had the greenest of thumbs for roses, well, it made Eugenia’s blood boil. For five years, her own roses had lost out to Sally’s in the regional competition, and Eugenia had begun to suspect a payoff to judges. Sally’s wins were consistent and heartbreaking for Eugenia.

This week, the contest judges make the rounds to each competitor’s garden to inspect the entries. Eugenia thought she’d go have just one more look at Sally’s showy rose, from the street, of course.

Pattonville was one of those towns in the region that wasn’t quite urban and wasn’t quite rural. It was common to see animals in back yards of houses in the town’s small subdivision. Chickens, or maybe goats. Once, someone on Trillium Street had kept a cow in the shed at the back of the property. It was the sort of place where everyone knew each other, and the sort of place where, if neighbours fought, everyone could feel the undercurrent of tension.

Up the street and over a couple blocks from Sally’s prize garden, an unassuming retired farmer by the name of Bill Desjardins hadn’t quite been able to give up all his animals. Make no mistake: there were no cows or horses or pigs in his back yard, but he still did keep a goat or two. These he liked to watch from his kitchen window as they grazed on his grass and fertilized it at the same time.

Sally and Eugenia had lived in Pattonville a long time. They had, in fact, been born in the town, went to school together, and often went to the same social functions. But somewhere, in all that time together in that small town, they’d had a falling out. They truly disliked each other, and the ongoing row over roses was a simple expression of their long-established discord.

Sally felt confident about her flower entry. Her longstanding position at the top of the horticulture charts meant she had become almost cocky in her assurance that she’d win yet another year. It would be quite tiresome, really, if it weren’t for that Eugenia Penelope Stanford. Always trying to take the prize. Threatening complaints to the regional horticultural board. As if she’d try anything so obvious as to bribe a judge year after year.

Although, she had managed quite well to keep secret her affair with Biff Johnston, whose nose for a beautiful rose was renowned in the region; Biff had led the team of judges for the past five years.

Her entry into this year’s regional competition was a silver-pink Queen Elizabeth beauty, so full and demurely spectacular she knew no extra measures would be needed to win the top spot.

Sally liked to check her beauties every morning, while the dew glistened on the petals. This morning, she decided she would do a bit of weeding around the bed, so things were ship-shape when the judges came. She stood for a moment in the warm morning sun before she headed to the shed in the back yard.

Bill wasn’t at the kitchen window when Daisy, the old nanny he couldn’t bear to part with when he left the farm, discovered the gate hadn’t quite latched when Bill went through it last. With a flick of her short tail and a snort, she hightailed it out into the street and kept going. Goats are curious by nature. As she trotted along the street, she’d stop for a nibble here and a sniff there. During one of these sniffs, she caught the scent of sweetness. It drew her further down the street, and across the intersection. The sweet aroma grew stronger.

Daisy stopped for a final sniff, to track down exactly the source of that scent. Breaking into a gallop, and somewhat spooked by the car that honked at her, she veered into Sally’s unfenced front yard, intent on finding the source of sweetness.

Eugenia walked quite quickly, gardening gloves in one hand and her cell phone in the other, cued for the camera. Purposefully striding towards Sally’s, Eugenia recreated the conversation she would have if she encountered the rose’s owner. Luckily, Sally wasn’t in the front garden when she arrived, so she snapped the picture quickly and nearly bumped into the loose goat who appeared from nowhere.

A goat.

In Sally’s garden.

And the goat looked hungry.

Eugenia scurried away, a silent chuckle rising quickly into a full-throated laugh.

Daisy stuck her head amongst the bushes, nibbling and sniffing the bounty. Finding it easier to move from plant to plant simply as the crow flies, Sally’s garden began to look a little worse for wear in no time. Hearing footsteps approach, Daisy raised her head to take stock, and then she spied it – that gorgeous rose would make the perfect snack.

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