A Short Story

xxDSC_0128-680x1024By W. Leon Smith

Okay. Let me begin. This is a fictional account of what really happened.

I had spent several hours playing with and tending the plants in my keyhole gardens at Keyhole Farm. Like most good farmers, I talk to the plants, telling them how good they are, admiring their beauty, and encouraging them to produce good crops. I try to pull the bad bugs off their leaves, such as snails, and let the plants watch as I toss these slugs onto a concrete sidewalk where often they go “splat.”

Sunflowers grow well in my keyholes because they know I respect and like them. I do not call them weeds, as some gardenites do. I consider them friends.

The other day, these mammoth sunflowers started blooming. Since yellow is my favorite color I couldn’t help but look at them and smile. They are called sunflowers, I guess, because their heads resemble mini-suns.

Anyway, after a long day I retired to my recliner in front of the TV and decided to choose a movie to watch. I was still thinking of the sunflowers some, so I chose to watch a movie about a similar plant, Day of the Triffids, about big plants that (according to the movie poster) “…they grow…know…walk…talk…stalk…and KILL!”  I couldn’t decide whether to watch the old Howard Keel version or the one I had recorded several years ago off PBS, a British mini-series based on the John Wyndham book. So, naturally, I chose to watch them both.

It was getting late and toward the end of my second movie, the British version, I dozed off, only to be awakened by a noise outside the room, possibly in the yard. It sounded like movement and a strange voice crying “ouch.” I thought it was probably my imagination, but I deemed it could be a burglar or someone needing help so rather than keep thinking about it I grabbed my flashlight and decided to investigate.

As I ruled out things in my pathway, I had eventually journeyed outside to the Keyhole Farm experiment station. Everything seemed in order, until the beam from my flashlight passed over the top of Alicia, one of my 11 keyhole gardens, most having components of a zoid (circles and triangles) in their construction. The biggest giant sunflower plant was missing.

I shined the light onto the turf area where the sunflower’s roots had been and found the dirt loose that had been spread about.

“Someone has stolen my sunflower plant,” I thought.

It was very quiet outside, no breeze at all. As I swung around I heard something near a chain-link fence, as though movement had occurred, so I ventured in that direction, hoping to alarm a cat. I took giant steps over the gourd and pumpkin vines that had spewed out of adjoining keyhole gardens and were trailing on the ground.

A SUNFLOWER CLOSEAs I pointed the light beam toward the sound I noticed slight movement again. I raised the flashlight and on its ascent soon caught the miniature sun…the face of the big sunflower… staring at me. I went closer.

“What are you doing over here?” I asked, not expecting an answer.

The sunflower moved a few of its branches, as if lifting both shoulders and releasing them, an “I don’t know” movement. Then the plant replied in a deep gravely whisper, “I guess I went for a walk.”

“Plants don’t talk,” I said.

“Well, not in the daytime,” said my friend,” but sometimes we whisper among ourselves at night.”

“So you walked over here?” I asked, disbelievingly, “with your roots as feet?.”

“Usually we are content to stay put,” the plant said.  “I am so much taller than the other plants that I wanted to see my friends’ faces. From up there I can only see the tops of their heads.”

“You are very tall,” said I. “In fact, I wanted to measure your height, but they don’t make a measuring tape long enough.”

“Let me make a suggestion,” said the plant. “When we are very small, loosely tie a very long string around our necks and as we grow, the string will follow us up. Put distance markings on the string in advance, then simply read them off as we grow. Just be careful to not get the string tangled up with other plants.”

“Hmm,” I said. “I never thought of that.”

triffids“It will soon be difficult for me to walk,” said the plant, “for my head is about to get heavy – lots of brains, you know – and the upper stalk will arch, making balance nearly impossible.”

“That’s probably just a few days away,” I said.

“The arch is already starting.”

“I just got through watching a movie, ‘Day of the Triffids,’ about plants that cause ‘spine chilling terror’ according to promotional material. Do plants really stalk and kill?”

“Not sunflowers, although we do resemble Triffids somewhat. I say that, but the other day I did spit a sunflower seed at a squash bug and knocked him off a leaf. He was all right, though, just dazed a little.”

I had another question. “Did I hear you yell ‘ouch’?”

The sunflower smiled. “I nearly stumbled over the keyhole garden named ‘Belle.’ It’s dark out and I forgot she was right there. I lost a lower branch and a leaf in the process. Didn’t hurt too bad.”

“Do you want me to help you get replanted in ‘Alicia’? I asked.

“Actually,” said the sunflower, “I prefer to do it myself. I jumped down out of the keyhole’s raised bed earlier and think I can catapult myself back into it without doing a cartwheel. It’s something I need to figure out in the event I decide to try to take a walk again. One thing, though. There are several sunflowers in ‘Alicia’ and not as many in the garden named ‘Key-Rex.’ Maybe I should relocate. It might make better use of the feeding that is done through the interior basket. ‘Alicia’ is pretty maxed out.”

“It’s okay with me,” I said. “Just don’t disturb the lower plants. I’m not sure there’s a slot big enough for you.”

“I will look around and see,” said the sunflower. Then the sunflower let out a huge yawn, which I took as a signal that it wanted to be alone.

“I’m going back inside,” I said. “Take care of yourself.”

The next thing I realized is that it was morning. I did my usual getting-up chores, knowing that I had several dreams the night before but couldn’t remember any of them. I eventually ventured into the back yard. My big sunflower plant was missing. I couldn’t believe it. Then I asked myself, “What’s it doing over there?” It had been moved to the Key-Rex garden, if that was the same plant, which I felt sure it was.

To this day, I do not know how it got relocated.

The  End