Rock Hudson (real name Mr. Ranson, but everyone calls him this after the actor) is the main character in “The Sound of Hollyhocks”, a short story by Hugh Garner. He is in a mental hospital for trying to kill himself over the breakup of his marriage and the death of his wife. During our window of insight into Rock’s life, we learn that he hears and talks to flowers.

The Hollyhocks represent his wife and her life. They were her favourite flower. His relationship with the Hollyhocks is his way of letting his wife live on. By having some connection into the life of a Hollyhock, he can still have a relationship with his wife. This is why he hears them, because he really wants to hear his wife again and rectify their problems. This is a means of avoidance of his current reality; the reality that his wife is dead.

Here is a bit of writing I did to get inside Rock’s head, to actually hear what the flowers were saying to him in the courtyard of the mental hospital.


"Your feet smell, go away."
"Shut up. At least I have feet."
"Yeah, well I smell nice." At this, I stomped the infernal weed into the soft dirt. Ah, the advantages of feet.
"You shouldn't have done that."
"What do you know?" I asked, looking down at the Daisy.
"I know you shouldn't have done that. Your feet do smell bad."
"You want to die too?"
"No, but if you come any closer, your stench will kill me."
"You don't even have a nose!"
"My sensory receptors are to complex for you to fathom…"
"You're a friggin daisy. Shut up."
"You're telling me to shut up and I'm not even talking."
"Well I can hear you, can't I?"
"People hear what they want to hear."
"So I want to hear flowers."
"Yeah, too bad we don't say what you want."
"How do you know you're not saying exactly what I want to hear?" The daisy paused for a moment, contemplating the cosmic events of coincidence and perception. I cut him off before he could get out his next sentence. "If I had my way I wouldn't hear you at all, weed." It was a lie. Sometimes people say things just for the sake of saying something; this was one of those things. I disregarded it. He began to sing.
"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do…" He was ignoring me, but I stayed and listened all the same. His singing was soft, but the other Daisies listened intently. This must be their anthem. A lone thistle began a quiet grumbling to himself. It wasn't disrupting, but after the Daisy finished his tune, the thistle began to yell.
"Right! Pretty wussy song for a pretty wussy flower! Oh yeah, it's the best thing since Sinatra! We're all bloody tired of it, all of us!"
"I'm not really," remarked a Buttercup, too quiet for the thistle to hear.
"If I were you, I'd use those legs and get out of here!" I walked away as an angry verbal battle ensued. Only the Buttercup remained silent. I could hear an operatic tone over the lawn as a lone Dandelion recounted The Marriage of Figaro. I passed her and bid hello to a Hollyhock. We would talk more after lights out, him being right outside the window. For now I was content to walk in the sun. There was a quiet singing, timid and afraid, yet determined. I scanned the featureless pavement for the source.
"…I am a rock…"
It was coming from a teeny tiny Buttercup amongst a sea of concrete.
"...I am an island…"
I stayed where I was, not wanting to disturb her. Finally her song came to its end.
"…And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries." At this her voice wavered and broke. She sobbed. I was about to go over to her when a nurse took me by the arm, walking towards the door.
"Time for afternoon meds Rock."