Fruit Trees

When Danny felt sad in winter he went to the Botanical Garden. It was a vibrant place with lush foliage and bright blooms in a land assaulted by winter; it seemed an oasis of infinite life; maybe even another planet.

His long walks in the forest had provided awareness of local flora, but the species here were unusual, and he barely recognized any of them. They had crazy forms and colours: eight foot tall plants with blue, hand-like flowers, and red chandeliered blossoms that twinkled in the moon and sun. His favourite was the Silva Sanguinara, with its huge pink flowers, made up of hundreds of smaller ones, like a jigsaw puzzle. He imagined the green-suited creator of the Botanical Garden, known as The Gardener, sitting at home on one gloomy day, piecing it together.

Danny spent an hour enjoying the tranquil garden, and on his way out crossed The Gardener striding up the main path. He was always around somewhere, tending to something; the man was a perfectionist; a micro-manager literally, planting seeds, cross-breeding, and hand-pollinating flowers.

“Good day to you, Sir,” said the Gardener.

“Good day to you too,” said Danny. “I’ve told you many times, I’m sure, but I don’t mind telling you again. I love this place. It’s a wonderful thing you’ve done for the citizens of Lucerne.”

“But I too am a citizen of Lucerne,” he said. “You could say it was self-interest.”

Danny pondered for a moment and said, “You are too modest. You work harder than you need to. You’re here every time I visit, doing your rounds.”

The Gardener changed the subject. “Have you seen our new shop?” Danny shook his head.

“It just opened last week. You should go and take a look. I think you’ll like it.”

The Gardener tipped his hat and walked away.

Danny made his way to the shop; it was nestled between the Amazonian Rainforest and Egyptian Oasis areas. One side was festooned with giant fig lattices, and the other side almost hidden by huge rushes and swaying palms.

“Welcome Sir!” said the young assistant. “How is your day going so far?”

Danny was tempted to tell him that his day was terrible. It was filled with despair and unrequited love. He felt worthless and hopeless, and saw few reasons to continue living. But why give this kid such a hard time? Why kill his enthusiasm? So he said, “It is going well, thank you.”

“Great! I’ve got some things that will make it even better. Please follow me.” He led Danny to a display at the front of the shop; a selection of fruit trees. He said, “These are our winter specials. I know it’s not quite winter yet, but it’s good to plan ahead, don’t you think?” Danny nodded. “They bear fruit all winter.” Danny wondered if the assistant had picked up on his despair.

“They’re quite expensive,” said Danny. “I wouldn’t usually spend so much on a plant.”

“But they are specials for a reason, Sir. Look at this winter banana, and this winter cherry. Imagine having ripe yellow and bright red cheering up your house when it’s gloomy outside? Wouldn’t that be something?”

“I guess you’re right. It would be kind of nice. And they’ll grow indoors? Very good. And even a non-gardener like me can tend them successfully? Okay, great. Maybe I’ll take them. How about one hundred dollars for them both?”

After a deal was struck, the assistant told him that he’d also need a heat lamp which was another fifty bucks. Danny was annoyed at this; he should have been told before. But the idea of brightness and sweetness in darkness appealed to him. It may just make the difference this winter. He took the trees home and placed them near his front window.

The trees thrived there at first, but the winter cherry suddenly died. The Gardener hadn’t told Danny the whole truth. The assistant couldn’t, as he didn’t know. These were ancient species, which had arrived on earth before man, locked in a timeless struggle for survival. The Gardener, an initiate of the cult of the Green Man, was not allowed to assist one over the other. His only role was to ensure a fair fight during this process of guided evolution. Whether or not Danny survived the winter was unimportant to him.


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