Coco de Mer

Danny liked wandering through the Botanical Garden. He had visited most days since it had opened, either before or after work. The Zoological Society of Lucerne had done a good job with the garden; it had become a popular landmark to the extent that you were more likely to hear local people saying “See you at the garden,” than “See you at the pub.”

The latest addition to the complex was the garden shop. Danny liked its library, which contained unusual volumes like “Arid Gardening for Apocalyptic Times,” and “Return to Iram” (by flicking through which he discovered that Iram in Arabic meant paradise; it was a book about creating classical Islamic gardens). He became fascinated by seeds, which were the source of the wonders he witnessed in the garden daily; he was pleased when the shop created a dedicated seed fixture, and browsed it on most visits.

He saw a container of orchid seeds, such tiny things that produced rare beauty. Each was a treasure, a generator of wonder and untold possibilities. His mother had loved orchids. She kept them near the kitchen window, their tall stems reaching bravely, arching for light. When he was young he’d thought their buds each contained an eye to watch over him when his mother was away. Instead they bloomed into black and purple lips.

A woman came and stood beside him. He saw her black hair, her long arms and legs, but most of all her eyes. They were the eyes he’d imagined would bloom from the orchid buds, huge and brown.

“Is that a seed?” she asked him. She said it casually, like you would to a best friend. He followed her pointing finger, indicating a huge thing like a black man’s bottom, but pointed and flattened.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I guess it must be.” He leaned towards the fixture and read, “Coco de Mer. It says it’s the world’s largest seed.” He continued reading. “Most plants generate many small seeds to disperse widely, which travel by wind, water, and via animal fur and scat. But some put all their energy into a few large seeds, which tend to stay within the local area, closer to home.”

“Which kind are you?” she said, smiled, and walked away.

Danny was taken by surprise. Was she coming on to him, he wondered? Was she asking if he was still sowing his wild oats indiscriminately, or ready to settle down? He became restless and took a turn around the garden. He hoped to glimpse her walking away, to admire her from a distance, but she had disappeared somewhere into the garden.

The Gardener was strolling along the main path. Danny asked if he’d seen the woman. He said, “Can’t say that I have. Why do you ask? Did she make you wish to pollinate?”

He saw Danny’s red face and added, “Only kidding. I remember what it was like when I first saw my wife. I knew she was the one for me. Till then I had been lying dormant, awaiting optimal conditions to synchronize germination.” He often spoke in horticultural terms, which intrigued and sometimes confused Danny. The Gardener continued, “She was probably wondering if you were an orchid seed or a Coco de Mer. Dormancy is a state of the seed, not the environment.”

Danny said, “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, plants and animals have many similarities. The one that I find most telling is present from inception. A plant’s embryo has two points of growth – the root and the stem, and grows from the centre outwards. Similarly, humans grow in two ways also – physically and spiritually. Orchid seeds are tiny and have no nutrient supply, relying on soil fungi for growth. However the Coco de Mer has invested many resources in seed production, and provides everything needed to survive. This is what I found with my wife. She was an independent soul, and together we became interdependent souls. When she died I created this garden, to remain entwined forever.”

The next day at the seed fixture, Danny was looking at winter cherries and winter bananas, when he felt a presence at his side. It was the woman with the big brown eyes. She asked him, “Which seed do you like?”

He said, “Coco de Mer.”

She said, “It seems quite heavy. Shall I help you?”

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