General Fiction posted October 4, 2014


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Short Story-Contest Entry

Why Willow Weeps

by michaelcahill

Dying Houseplant Contest Winner 






















 
Perhaps I expect too much from Willow. I put forth every effort on her behalf. It sometimes seems as though she just isn't trying. She did well sitting on the kitchen table. Now that she's in the garden, she seems to be giving up hope. I'm not a fanatic or anything like that. I don't think the neighbors would accuse me of being a fanatical "green thumber", maniacally watering, fertilizing and pruning, as though there were no other purpose to life. As with any worry in life, I have found that talking about it with a friend can help. I want to be a friend to all that dwell in my beautiful backyard; they give me so much. I must speak with Willow.
 
"You seem sad, Willow, is there anything I can do for you? Are you thirsty, or maybe you aren't getting enough warmth? I know the sun seems far away to you sometimes. It is only your youth. If you look over the fence, you can see the old tree that is of your kind. It is so large that the sun cannot avoid it. One day you will stand as tall."
 
"I am not sure I am sad, Agricula, I worry. I often wonder why I must struggle so when to return to the soil and spread my elements to my friends here seems so much easier. Would they not benefit? What does the garden need with a little tree that droops?"
 
"We all feel that way sometimes. Think of what you contribute in other ways. The old tree in the other garden shades the whole garden on those hot summer days when it is dangerous for the young ones that are not yet strong enough for a day of full sun. Look at Rose. Should she have fallen from the branch while still a bud? Think of the beauty she has put in the hearts of those that have admired her. Isn't that a wonderful thing?"
 
Willow seemed to ponder that. She always seemed to ponder… well, everything. "You only see what sits on the very surface. There is a whole world that lives below the soil. It is filled with hope, but despair and treachery live here as well. The water you so lovingly provide does not wash over us like a cooling sheet as you suspect, it pools in the corner. Oakley must always drink fast and greedily before it all flows away. He waits for the water everyday and thinks of little else. He barely gets enough to sustain himself."
 
"Why didn't he tell me? I can easily provide extra for him."
 
"He is stately and proud. It is not his nature to ask for things and show weakness. He feels that it is he that should be the provider, not the other way around."
 
"I see. Well, there you are right there, Willow. You are needed to tell me of Oakley's need for more water. Is it that you wish you were back inside with me… you know, a houseplant again? You know you can't be a houseplant forever, you will be too big before you know it."
 
"No, that isn't it. It's… well… do you remember Toady that lived for a while beneath Oakley in the corner?"
 
I smiled. I hadn't realized that the wild mushroom that I had removed from the garden had a name. "Yes, the wild mushroom. It didn't belong in the garden. I had to remove it."
 
"You see? Didn't belong, had to remove. wild, these are all your terms. These are words that you use to judge us. I know you meant no harm, but what gave you the right to remove Toady from the garden? He was my friend. I miss him."
 
My amusement at the thought of a mushroom with a name became instantly somber. "I...I..I'm sorry, Willow. I thought I was helping the garden. I didn't think about a wild mushroom becoming friends with you."
 
"It didn't happen overnight, believe me. No one here is perfect, least of all me. We didn't like Toady at all when he first popped up out of nowhere. Rose laughed out loud at him. "Where are your branches?" she had shouted at him. Petunia was downright afraid of him. She thought he was some kind if disease come to wipe us all out."
 
"That's normal. This is a flower garden with trees growing for shade. A mushroom grows wild in a field. It doesn't grow in a flower garden. I… "
 
"We don't think of ourselves the way you do. In any case, as the days passed Toady spoke to us underground, and we learned of his ways. Underground there is only our thoughts and the struggle we all share to find nourishment to live. We realized that he was not different from us at all. We already knew this, but we were distracted by his strange appearance. We were afraid because he was different."
 
"I understand, Willow. That still doesn't explain why you struggle so. I feel like you don't much like being a part of the garden. You don't seem to want to live."
 
"Do you think that it is easy? I know of the one in the other yard that looks as I will one-day look. She tells tales of endless rain and searing summer heat. No wonder she weeps. Life is long for our kind. What is my reward for a lifetime of tears? What is my reward for knowing that Rose fears that her beauty will not be enough? Do you know that she worries constantly about her petals? You stand and stare in admiration. She trembles in fear, wondering if a petal is showing age at the tips. I feel all of it underground where we all connect."
 
"But, I love Rose. She reminds me of the good that has been in my life."
 
"I will tell her, or perhaps you will, now that you know of her plight. I am touched that you have taken time to speak with me. It gives me hope, Agricula. If you will promise to speak with me occasionally, I promise that I will try harder."

 
"I will, Willow. You have helped me. We will talk a lot more from now on."


 

Writing Prompt
A houseplant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.

Dying Houseplant
Contest Winner

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