FloraClifton, New Jersey.----I MAINTAIN that people who...

Tony Jaskot

October 02, 1990|By Tony Jaskot

CLIFTON,NEWJERSEY — Flora

Clifton, New Jersey.----I MAINTAIN that people who talk to flowers live in ivory towers. Then again, they might, like my poor Uncle Steve, be hiding aces up their sleeves.

I say this because of what happened to him on that warm, full-moon night in August when my uncle returned home from his nightly haunt at the local Surf Club. When he staggered through the back door and put on the lights, Uncle Steve noticed that the flowers, especially the daisies, were glowering. ''Could it be something that they ate,'' he thought, ''or is my breath so overpowering?''

Needless to say, mon oncle, who always said that the biggest sin in the world was ingratitude, was taken aback. Was he not always solicitous of their feelings and did he not always try to satisfy all their needs in fair or foul weather? Did the green-thumber ever complain while carrying out their whimsical commands?

Violins

The poor man was in a predicament. Even though it was late and he might incur the wrath of nearby, early-rising denizens, Uncle Steve, who was a retiree, decided to placate his sullen flowery friends. As was his wont he went into his closet, took out the violin, sat down and immediately played it. Usually, when he did so, the flowers began to dance. Tonight, however, they continued to give him a dirty glance. He dared not to play mandolin for fear they might become even more agitated. The poor man was puzzled and could not understand their quixotic behavior.

My Uncle Steve, being from the old school, believed in the adage to call a friend when in need. ''Jay, my flowers are acting rather strange tonight,'' he mumbled into the mouthpiece.

''Why are you calling me at this ungodly hour?'' I piqued. ''Do you realize what time it is? Why are you disturbing my innocent sleep 'that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care'?''

''I have a problem!'' he pleaded. ''Please simmer down. My flowers are glowering and refuse to go to sleep.''

''So? That's their problem!''

''But you don't seem to understand,'' he persisted.

From the tone of his voice I knew that he was on the verge of tears and if there is anything that I detest it is a man who cannot hold his liquor. ''Jay, I know it is late but can you come over?''

Since I was still a Boy Scout and had not done my good deed for the day, I reluctantly trudged over. My mother always taught me to be kind to animals and old folk.

Baying at the Moon

When my uncle opened the door for me to come in, a blast of cold air greeted me. The reception from his flowery friends was definitely chilling. They glared at me in silence. These guys were playing for keeps. He explained his musical serenading and once more bemoaned his lot.

''Why don't you try playing the accordion?'' I pollinated. ''Or maybe you can sing them a lullaby?'' I added, still bleary-eyed.

He looked at me askance. ''Jay, it seems to me that you are not taking this too seriously. I tell you I am having a problem!''

''Maybe they are trying to tell you something?'' I queried.

''Like what?''

''I don't know as yet. It is generally said that what is on the tongue is on the lung but these guys aren't talking.''

''How about your friends at the Botanical Gardens?'' my uncle asked.

''It is true that they are doing some research on the variant behavior of plant life as influenced by the atmospheric conditions but the work is still on very shaky ground. Did you notice if there was a full moon as you navigated home this evening?''

He nodded his head.

''Well, while it is not etched in stone, the scientists believe it within the realm of probability that just as a full moon affects the behavior of man and not necessarily for better, so might it affect the antics of the flowers.''

''Amen, Jay! Why don't you call them up?'' the uncle requested.

''At this hour! They might think that both of us are hallucinating. I will not pursue this matter to the point of lunacy,'' I concluded.

''Then what do you suggest?'' he begged.

''Do you have any trouble falling asleep every night?''

''No!'' he volunteered. ''I down my balm of forgetfulness and before you can spell photosynthesis I'm out like a light. But only for medicinal purposes, mind you!''

''What does that tell you?'' I asked, looking him straight in the iris.

''Do you mean what I think you mean?''

''To each his own, I suppose. It can't harm them. But only for medicinal purposes.''

I suppose that every story should have a happy ending. After a brief consultation it was decided to spike their water.

Please take note that I am not advocating this mode of treatment for the human species since it is a well-proved medical fact that excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages causes cirrhosis of the liver and other such aberrations. But it seemed to work with Uncle Steve's flowers. they nodded their heads a few times, smiled enigmatically and fell asleep, with the daisies being the first to do so.

Nevertheless, if man does indeed communicate with plant life, my hope is that it does not lead to more strife.

***Mr. Jaskot is a free lance.

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