Part 1: Skid Row Home for Boys: Semen – Age 11, 1952
While Seymour tends Dandy, his dandelion, in his old cracked pot, and Ralph reads The Amazing Spiderman, the word comes. It comes from Little Jimmy, who always knows things, and is always there before the adults.
"Hey, Semen! Pig! Some geezer's looking for unadoptables." Little Jimmy's gang crowd around them. Seymour puts his hand protectively over his pot.
Ralph's face flushes. "What's the toll today?"
The gang call out suggestions. The noise attracts the attention of some others, but most of the boys ignore them. This is nothing new.
"Pig gets a pink belly and I get his comic," Little Jimmy announces. "Semen gets a wedgie and noogies from Tom and Ted. It is a very good comic," Little Jimmy explains.
"Sounds fair," Seymour says dully.
They pay the toll and are about to enter the Home when Ted smashes Seymour's pot. Dandy lies dying on the ground. The gang laughs as Seymour yelps and picks him up.
"C'mon, Seymour," Ralph snaps as he drags him into the Home.
"Ah, boys, I was just looking for you," says thin, neat Mr. Waterson. "Mr. Krelborn, throw out that weed and get yourself cleaned up. We have a visitor waiting in my office."
He's not a weed, Seymour wants to say. But someone is looking for unadoptables. Isn't that worth a flower? He mutters, "Sorry," to Dandy as he drops him in the garbage.
He rushes into Waterson's office as fast as his recent wedgie permits him. He sits next to Ralph. Mr. Waterson is behind his desk. A portly brown-haired man turns to look him over. He has sharp eyes.
"Ah, and here's Seymour. Seymour, this is Gustav Mushnik."
"H-Hello, Mr. Mushnik."
"You boys have been with us a long time," Waterson says. "When boys aren't adopted within five years, we look to alternative methods of releasing them. Mr. Mushnik has kindly agreed to one of these methods. In short, boys, Mr. Mushnik will give one of you food, board and wages, and in return you will work for him. If he finds you satisfactory, the arrangement will continue until your majority. This is," he looked at the two of them from over the tops of his glasses, "a real job with real pay. I trust you understand that? Excellent. Now, Mr. Mushnik…?"
"All right, boys," Mushnik says. "I'm a florist. You know what that means?"
Seymour's heart leaps in his chest. "You work with really pretty flowers, like chrysanthemums and daffodils and fleur-du-lis." After that, it isn't much of an interview.
It's Saturday and the sun is shining; only Ralph, staring at his Dick Tracey comic, is in the room as Seymour packs. Once he fills up his box, Seymour tries to get his attention.
"Don't say it, four-eyes," Ralph grumbles.
"You'll get out soon, Ral—"
"I'll slug you if you don't shut up, Semen," Ralph snaps.
Life had thrown them together; Semen and Pig, the two boys picked last for stick ball, the two boys chosen first for swirlies and Indian burns. You don't go through years of that without saying goodbye, no matter how mad Ralph looks.
Instead of slugging him, Ralph grunts and turns back to his comic. Seymour leaves, his steps light. Mr. Mushnik is waiting for him at the gate, so Little Jimmy's gang can't touch him as he crosses the grounds.
He looks back one last time at Skid Row Home for Boys. At 21, Seymour has never gone back. The closest route to the wholesale flower district is past the Home. Seymour takes the scenic route.