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John Steinbeck's short story, "The Chrysanthemums," takes place in California's Salinas Valley. Henry Allen is a rancher, and his wife, Elisa, tends to her garden in a loving and vigorous manner. As Henry finishes the sale of 30 head of cattle, Elisa completes transplanting her chrysanthemums before they head to town for dinner and a movie.
Before they leave, a man arrives pulling his wagon. He annually travels the area repairing pots and pans and sharpening scissors and knives. Elisa has no work for him, but when he notices the chrysanthemum cuttings, the man engages her in conversation. Elisa becomes enthused with the man's interest in her love of 'mums--almost to the point of arousal. He asks her to provide her with some seeds for which he has promised another customer. She provides him with some seeds and cuttings, as well as several pots to repair, and he leaves with a few coins in his pocket--a slightly richer man.
Elisa bathes and gives her body a long look in the mirror. Her husband compliments her on her radiant appearance, and she tells him that "I'm strong." On their way to town, she spots the chrysanthemum cuttings that she has given to the man strewn in the road. Tears come to her eyes, and she turns so her husband cannot see them.
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