I love bonsai trees, but I can’t have one for the same reason I can’t have bees: they die in my care. So I just look at them with longing. Bonsai trees, not bees. While researching this story, I found this wonderful site, Bonsai Gardener, where I can look to my heart’s content. Enjoy!
My nails follow the story.
Lonnie, Me, and the Tree of Doom
by Marian Allen
Lonnie and I always give the wives Mother’s Day presents, even though none of us have any kids.
“Leona is mamma to Rocky,” Lonnie said once, Rocky being their Maine Coon cat, “and you and Mary Lee got all them dogs.”
“We have three dogs, Lon. Just three. And I think our yappy little house dog, Angel Face, is the only one Mary Lee claims, but I get your point.”
So, when Lonnie called me up and said he was going to a plant nursery to get Leona something special, I volunteered – volunteered – to go with him and maybe pick something up for Mary Lee.
This nursery was about an hour away. It took a little longer than that, the way Lonnie drives; he gets talking or gawking and slows down until the honking behind him snaps him out of it. There wasn’t any traffic that day on that road, so I had to keep telling him, “You’re driving a car, Lon. You push down on the gas pedal to make it go.”
We were about to lose patience with each other when Lon spotted a raggedy wooden sign that said Dragonheart Nursery and turned right. The one-lane gravel drive was about half dirt and half #2 gravel which, in case you don’t know, is bigger than you generally want to drive over.
The drive twisted and turned between trees that looked like they were still relieved that the dinosaurs died out. After about five minutes of Lonnie poking along at a speed that made sense over gravel like that, we came to a wide place in front of a small house with a big greenhouse attached to it.
When we got out of the car, Lonnie said, “Watch your step. If you turn your ankle and go down, I couldn’t pick you up.”
I didn’t take offense, since it was true. Lonnie’s taller than I am, but he’s built like a bean pole that’s got that not-eating disease, and I’m so husky they’ve been calling me Tiny since I was, well, tiny.
There was a sign out front of the house: Customers and viewers this way. An arrow pointed to our right. We went that way and let the gravel lead up around to the greenhouse door. It wasn’t locked, so we went in and shut the door behind us.
It was like a different world in there. It was warmer and damper and it smelled like fresh dirt and a little like pine.
The big space was full of long tables. Every table had a few pots on it, and the pots didn’t have flowers in them, they had miniature trees. Not seedlings or saplings, but what looked like full-grown trees only none of them any bigger than eighteen inches high. Bonsai, they were called. Mary Lee and I saw some in a movie, and she looked at pictures of them all the time on the Pinterest.
“This was a good idea, Lonnie,” I said, trying to sound not surprised. “Where’d you get it? I mean, how’d you hear about this place?”
“I heard a guy ask another guy if he’d ever seen the sign and if he knew what it was, and the other guy said he had and he didn’t know, but Nursery meant it was either a plant place or a pre-school, and the first guy said he didn’t want to run into a kid who went to a Dragonheart Pre-School. Then I looked it up on my smartphone and I found some reviews of it, and they said it was a plant place that sold this kind of plant but the service was awful.”
We strolled along between the tables looking at trees, some as big as Angel Face and some so little you could stick ’em up your nose.
I said, “Mary Lee is crazy about this kind of plant, so you did good, buddy. You did real good. Does Leona like these little stubby trees, too?”
“I never heard her say so, but her grandpa was in the Pacific in World War Two.”
It took me minute to work that one out. “They say the Japanese pilots yelled ‘banzai.’ These are bonsai.”
“Exactly. You are one smart cookie.”
“They’re spelled different.”
“I can’t help how they’re spelled. Banzai is banzai.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but shut it again. Lonnie had made up what he calls his mind, so there wasn’t any use.
We covered the whole greenhouse and nobody came to wait on us.
Lonnie said, “This one,” and picked up a red pot with a tree in it about six inches high and covered in big white flowers. He sniffed one of the blooms. “Smells good.” He stuck the tree in my face. It did smell good. Gardenias.
“I’m gonna buy this one,” he said, and we weren’t alone.
We both jumped a little, because we hadn’t heard him coming. I took a second look at him, and recognized him. Hard not to: He had a glass eye that caught any light there was, skin that Mary Lee and Leona called golden, and gleaming white teeth that somehow made you wonder what he ate.
“Aren’t you the guy with the houseboat restaurant a couple of towns southwest of here?”
“The name’s Bud Blossom,” he said with a Midwest twang. “My friend owns this place. I help him out sometimes, when I’m here visiting.”
Lonnie hefted the pot in his hand and said, “I want to buy this here little baby tree.”
“I’m afraid it isn’t for sale,” Bud said, and the way he said afraid sent a chill up my spine.
“Tiny here wants one, too.”
Bud smiled at me with those shiny white teeth. “I’m afraid none of these are for sale.”
Lonnie screwed up his face. “None of them? Not none of them?”
“None of them.”
“What kind of a nursery is this? Why do you have all of these pots and plants and a sign at the end of the drive and all?”
“My friend raises these and nurses ill ones back to health. It’s that kind of nursery.”
“But Tiny wants one for his wife, don’t you, Tiny.”
I tried not to look at Bud’s shining glass eye. “Not so much,” I said. “I think I’ll get her one of those little tennis bracelets, instead.”
Lonnie made his scoffing sound, like he was clearing his throat and sneezing at the same time.
“Mary Lee don’t play tennis.”
Bud caught my eye, and we had a moment of fellow feeling.
Like I said, when Lonnie gets something fixed in his mind, he went all muley, and I could see the signs coming on.
Bud must have seen them, too, because he said, “As a matter of fact, that particular tree could be bought, but you don’t want it.”
“I sure Bob do!”
Bud shrugged. “It’s your funeral. Or, if you’re buying it for your wife, her funeral.”
Lonnie side-eyed the plant like he’d just remembered seeing it’s face on that Most Wanted show.
“What do you mean, her funeral?”
“That tree is cursed. It’s been in the Shen family for generations. The last in the line died with no known relatives, and somebody bought this in the estate auction. Within two weeks, he was dead. His daughter got the tree, and she fell down the stairs and broke both legs. Her brother took it to care for while she recovered, and he lost his job and got in a car wreck. He’s still in a coma. His wife threw the plant in the trash, and it went to a landfill. A kid my friend knows found it and brought it here. My friend is hoping a Shen will come or call looking for it, so he can pass it on. He has to consider it for sale, because otherwise he’ll own it, and he’ll suffer from the curse.”
Lonnie, in one of his rare sparks of logic, said, “If it was in the dump, how does anybody know it used to belong to this Shen family and about all them accidents and stuff?”
Bud looked down his nose and said, “Everybody knows the Shen tree. It’s one of the best known trees in the bonsai community. Once my friend recognized it, he found the death of the last surviving Shen owner and traced its history from there. Easy peasy. But by all means, buy it.”
Lonnie put the tree back on the table and edged away from it.
“I changed my mind,” he said. “I think I’ll get Mary Lee one of them tennis bracelets, too. She don’t play tennis either.”
“Whatever you say,” Bud said. “Have a nice day, gentlemen.” He stepped between two tables so we could get out. We got out.
I drove home, and we got to the jewelry store in our town a lot faster than we got to Dragonheart Nursery.
On the way, Lonnie said, “You reckon that’s true? About that curse?”
“I reckon it’s true that we were never gonna buy anything from that nursery, no matter if we wanted to. I reckon there’s something weird there, and I reckon we’re lucky we got out the same as we went in.”
“Drugs?” Lonnie always thinks its drugs.
“Maybe drugs,” I said. “Or maybe they’re growing real dragon’s hearts.”
We both laughed, but I know I was faking it. It was going to be a long time before I went to Bud’s houseboat restaurant again, I can tell you that.
My nails this week:
Everything is Maniology this week: The darker purple is Primerose (sic), the pale purple is Nightingale, the silver/white/gold is Renaissance, the green is Tutu Mele, and the plate is M198.
MY PROMPT TODAY: Sara requested a Lonnie/Tiny and Bud Blossom crossover, and flowers for Mothers’ Day.