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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Plant Secret

Plant murderer revealed...


Another dried up leaf fell to the earth today, littering my otherwise neat office floor. Nothing remained of the dwarf schefflera but a stick in brown dirt.  Shocked and embarrassed that the once beautiful dwarf schefflera now looked as though it had spent years in a concentration camp, I proceeded to destroy all evidence.

On Friday evening after everyone went home for the weekend, I tiptoed down the hall with the plant hidden behind my back. Having spotted no one in sight, I placed it squarely in front of the janitor’s closet. Surely by Monday, those neat custodial workers would remove the offending plant and my culpability would remain a secret.

I’ve never been good with plants. Most of my houseplants withered and died as soon as they spotted me with a watering can in hand. I either overwatered the poor devils or starved them of the nutrients they needed. My sister had a “green” thumb. Everything she touched thrived and grew to Jack and the Bean Stalk proportions.

For my birthday, she gave me a wonderful African violet full of purple blooms. Of course, as soon as the plant spotted me, it began losing its flowers. Worried, I went out and purchased a plant light and books on how to keep African violets alive. I bought special food and an assortment of violet-saving tools. But, it was hopeless. The plant recognized me for what I was, a plant murderer.
After the African violet episode, my family stopped giving me real plants to kill. Instead, my house became a haven for silk flowers. “Here’s a plant you can’t kill,” my mom told me last Christmas and handed me a fake fichus tree.

People at work, on the other hand, didn’t know about my plant murdering tendencies, and I aimed to keep it that way. They imagined me a good plant person. Wasn’t everyone? They talked about weekends spent getting their hands dirty in the in the rich Georgia clay. I joined in the conversations, like the pretender I was. They believed I, like most of them, had the innate qualities to nurture plants, like children or other needy creatures. I’d kept my secret carefully hidden, hoping the truth about my homicidal tendencies would never come out.

When Monday morning rolled around, I sneaked into the hall and found it empty of all dead plants. With a spring in my step, I returned to my office, relieved. Never again would I pick up yet another dead leaf. The world turned right again.

Until the following Spring.

While crossing the quadrangle, I walked toward my office and there among the azalea’s and other beautiful bushes, whose names a non-plant person like me couldn’t guess, bloomed a green, dwarf schefflera, as gorgeous as the first day I saw it. Could this amazing specimen be my plant? Absolutely! Apparently, it had rejuvenated itself with more new growth than a sixteen year olds’s first beard. The janitor must have tossed it out here, and the natural outdoors brought it back to life. Nature at work. How about that?

Happy to have my plant back, I lifted it, marveling at the baby green leaves and new sprouts forming hither and thither.  When I removed it from of its home among the flowering bushes, I spied a note glued to its side. It read:
I only grow for people I like.

Stunned, I peered around in every direction. Was someone taunting me, playing some kind of game? My heart thundered. Caught at the scene with the evidence in hand, guilt flooded me with the same intensity as when my sister spied me in front of the cookie cabinet sneaking the last chocolate chip cookie

I crept back to my office with the plant, removed the note, and tossed it in the trash. Before the note hit the bottom of the trash bin, the first leaf fell to the ground with an accusatory plunk.

And then, fell another and another. 

Of course plants can't sneer, but with each withering, browning, dying leaf, I felt a sneer as clearly as I had when my eighth grade English teacher stood in front of me with my latest theme in her hand. Shame washed over me and forced me to do the right thing.

I returned the plant to its spot among the bushes, wiped my hands of the mess, and went about my business in the knowledge that for once I’d saved a plant before I killed it.

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