Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Le Fils De L'Homme

There was once a little boy who loved to stick things up his nose. He would stick pens and pencils, seeds and rocks – anything which was small, and would easily fit. It was his favourite past-time, and he considered it a very dignified one at that age.

“Oh now, stop!” his mother cried, as he stuck a coin up his nose. “We don’t have the money to spare, and if you keep sticking things in your nose, something will grow up there.” The little boy was confused. If the dollar would grow, then surely his nose would be a safer investment than the stock market given the state of the current economy. So the little boy didn’t listen.

As he was walking to school, the little boy chanced upon his neighbour, an aborist. A small twig protruded from each nostril like the mighty tusks of a walrus. His neighbour gave an exasperated sigh.

“If you keep sticking things up your nose, it will grow up there!” The little boy gave a happy laugh. Tusk length is a sign of virility among walruses, and a tusk extension could only help his chances come mating season.

At school, the little boy sat at the back of the classroom with an eraser deep within one nostril. He ducked as an eraser came flying towards his head. His teacher burst out, furious: “If you keep sticking things up your nose, something will grow up there!”

Little Betty sighed in the second row: “I wish he would put my heart up his nose so it would grow there,” who at that age had no idea what a terribly unromantic thing that would be.

Walking back from school, the little boy came across a small seed in the middle of the road. He considered it appraisingly, turning it in his hands several times before depositing it in a nostril with artisanal care. Delighted at his newfound fortune, the little boy continued on his way home, making a nasal whistling noise with every breath that he took.

The next morning, the little boy woke to discover a small vine emanating from his nostril. It was slight and green, twisting around his nose like the beginnings of a fine moustache. The little boy was stunned. He was too young for facial hair, let alone any that was green. He curled it contemplatively for a moment before deciding against the rigors of maintenance that a new moustache requires. He yanked against the vine quickly, and smiled as it gave a satisfying ‘snap’.

At school, the little boy was considering which piece of stationary to grant admittance to Chez Nez for the evening, when Little Betty came up to him. “Your moustache is quite pretty,” she said, fluttering her eyelashes. “And green is definitely your colour.”

With a start, the little boy felt towards his nose. Sure enough, curling like the hair of a greased Parisian, was the vine. He dropped the pencil case in despair. The room for rent was occupied.

At the front of the room, the teacher was giving a lecture on parasites. He noticed the vine protruding from the little boy’s nose and smiled.

“Why, there are even plants in the Amazon which are known to grow from a seed high in the branches of a host tree. The parasite sends out little snake-like shoots which curl around the host, strangling the very life out of it. Its roots spread out as the tree rots inside; eventually there’s nothing left except for the hollowed out husk, and a new tree where it once stood.”

The little boy was rooted to the ground with horror, though only figuratively.

Running home from school, the little boy came upon his neighbour again. The vine had begun sprouting leaves, and curved upward like a set of antlers. “You’ve got to help me!” he cried.

His neighbour peered at the branch with a professional interest. “You’ll need to watch closely to make sure it doesn’t get scale or root rot. You see the smallest sign, come straight to me.”

“You’ve got to help me get rid of it!” the little boy cried.

“Why? You’ll make a good tree for my garden!”

The little boy ran home screaming and saw his mother. Wordlessly, he pointed to the developing bush on his forehead. His mother considered it carefully. She had once studied horticulture at university, and was delighted at the chance to show off her skills. “I could trim it if you’d like,” she suggested. “If we get in early, we can shape it into something interesting, like a bunny rabbit or a swan.” Her major had been in hedge manufacture and design.

The little boy burst out crying. He didn’t want to become a rabbit or a swan, let alone one made entirely out of leaves. His tears trickled down his face, where a developing root system drank them greedily.

Resigned to his arboreal fate, the little boy made his way to bed. His mother put out a pot, in case he needed to take root in the night, and couldn’t make it to the garden in time.

In the morning, little boy’s vine had developed into a miniature tree, which sat above his head like a leafy green bowler hat. It would have been unsightly on St Patrick’s Day, and it wasn’t more fashionable now in September. The little boy felt like a bonsai.

At school the teacher was delighted at his transformation. “I had always hoped that you’d branch out into other areas,” he said, and he said it often, as he was proud of the pun.

Little Betty noticed him sitting by himself in the playground. She could see he had wood.

“What are you doing all alone here?” she said. “I think a little foliage adds character to a man. And look – there are even a couple of flowers.” Indeed, the little boy’s tree had burst into bloom with tiny pink and white flowers. “She reached up to pick one, before pulling her hand back with a shout: “Bees!”

Little Betty ran away without a second look.

The little boy’s teacher placed a comforting hand on his back. “Maybe you should just leaf for the day.”

The little boy walked home with a wooden expression on his face. If he was going to become a tree, then so be it. He would just root himself in the soil, and that would be the end of it. A squirrel chattered happily in the branches. The little boy sat down next to a large oak tree in the cemetery and waited.

The little boy sat there patiently, like a botanical Buddha  The wind whistled through his leaves. The squirrel chattered noisily and tried to stick an acorn in his ear. He had been doing his best to think tree-y thoughts, but it was nuts. He jumped up and shook his head violently. The squirrel leapt off in alarm and rushed towards his dislodged acorn. The little boy sat back down, and yelped as something fell into his lap. It was hard, and round, and shiny. The little boy reached up, and sure enough, the tree was filled with apples.

The little boy ran home delightedly. On the way, he ran past Little Betty, who was cradling her stung hand. Without stopping he threw her an apple. Little Betty bit into it carefully, and smiled – he had just become the apple of her eye again.

From that day on, the little boy was renowned for his apples, which were both juicy and sweet, and could be baked into the most delicious of pies. He eventually became quite wealthy with a cider he produced from the fruit, until the FDA caught wind of it, and he was shut down for numerous health code violations.

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