Monday, December 06, 2010
As with much of my output thus far during December (and also after this, as you'll soon find out) this has seen the light of day before. It has always gotten a nice reception, and I thank you for that. I had some trepidation concerning running this piece again, though, and you'll find out why when you reach the bottom of the page. In the end, I still believe it's one of my better bits of writing, and my need for slothfulness (overwhelming) won out over any other considerations.
POINTY THE POINSETTIA
Once upon a time, there was a poinsettia named Pointy.
(His given name was Poindexter Poinsettia, but everybody called him Pointy for short.)
Pointy liked living in the large greenhouse with his poinsettia family and other plant friends. The world was a wonderful place full of bright sunshine, all the water he wanted to drink, and dark, rich soil for his roots. He thought that he couldn’t possibly be happier.
Then, one day in November, some of Pointy’s friends weren’t around anymore. Pointy wondered where they had gone. He also wondered how they got wherever they went. They were plants, after all, and thus only able to walk extremely short distances.
Pointy asked his uncle, Pedro Poinsettia, where his friends had gone.
"Oh, it’s a joyous time of year, Pointy!" said Uncle Pedro.
"What do you mean?" asked Pointy.
Uncle Pedro leaned close to Pointy and whispered in his ear (or, at least, what passed for an ear on Pointy.) He said:
"In November, all the poinsettias who have grown big red leaves are taken from the greenhouse and sent all over the world to give joy to the people who celebrate Christmas. The people are very happy to have a poinsettia in their home or school or office. They smile and say things like, ‘What a beautiful poinsettia! How pretty it is, with its big red and green leaves! Merry Christmas!’"
Pointy was very excited to hear this news. He had never before considered the possibility of travel, but now he hoped that he might be able to go far away, to see many interesting people and things. He enjoyed the thought of bringing great joy to people celebrating Christmas. He packed his bags and waited to be shipped.
(Well, OK, he didn’t actually have any bags. As a matter of fact, even if he did have bags, he wouldn’t have known what to pack in them. But, you get the idea. He was excited and ready to go.)
Finally, the day came when Pointy was planted into a big pot, all trimmed with pretty gold foil. He felt extra-special now! He was then loaded into a truck, along with about thirty other plants. As the truck was driving away, he waved good-bye to his Uncle Pedro.
(No, he didn’t, really. No hands, you know? He did what he could, though. Uncle Pedro understood.)
As they were bumping down the road, Pointy looked around. He appeared to be the only poinsettia plant in the truck. He struck up a conversation with the flower next to him, a girl. He knew she was a girl because... well, he just did, that’s all.
"Hi, I’m Poindexter Poinsettia, but everybody calls me Pointy. What’s your name?"
"You're really pretty, Rose."
"Thank you. You have nice big red leaves."
(To be truthful, he didn’t actually blush; his leaves were already red. But he WAS a bit embarrassed. Rose really was pretty, and it was nice to get a compliment from her.)
Pointy asked, "Do you know where we’re going, Rose?"
"Yes, I think so, Pointy. My aunt Petunia said we’re all going to office buildings in Newton."
"Newton? Where’s that?"
"I’m not entirely sure, but I believe it’s east of Worcester."
"Oh! Is that a good thing?"
"It’s better than being in Worcester," said Rose.
Pointy looked out the window of the truck. Having never been out of the greenhouse before, he was amazed at how many plants there were everywhere. He saw great huge trees, and big green hedges, and large bunches of scary weeds, and gigantic expanses of grass, and even a few pretty flowers, like his new friend, Rose. However, he didn’t see a single poinsettia anywhere. This worried him a bit.
He asked Rose, "Am I going to be the only poinsettia in Newton?"
Rose shrugged her shoulders.
(Nah, not really. She didn’t have shoulders. She did indicate that she didn’t know the answer to Pointy’s question, but shoulders never entered into it.)
The truck turned off of the road and into a parking lot. After it stopped, the back door of the truck opened and a man reached in and grabbed Rose.
Pointy said, "Good luck, Rose! I hope you bring much joy to the people in this building!"
Rose blew a kiss to Pointy, and then she was gone. The man carried her inside of the building where they had stopped.
The man had left the door of the truck open. Pointy was able to see, through a window in the building, Rose being carried by the man. The man stopped and handed Rose to a woman who was sitting behind a desk. The woman immediately became very happy, a big smile appearing on her face. As the man who delivered Rose was leaving the building, Pointy saw the happy woman carrying Rose all around her office, showing Rose to all of her friends. Everybody smiled as soon as they saw Rose, and Rose was very happy in her new home. Pointy was also very happy, for now he was extra excited about how happy he was going to make the people in the building where he was going.
The man closed the door to the truck. Soon, the truck was moving again. Pointy imagined being carried into an office where all the people would smile and say, "What a beautiful poinsettia! How pretty it is, with its big red and green leaves! Merry Christmas!"
While Pointy was imagining this, the truck stopped in front of another building. The back door to the truck was opened, and suddenly Pointy was in the man’s hands, being carried outside.
"This is it," thought Pointy, "I’m about to make many people happy! I can’t wait to see their smiles, and hear them say ‘Merry Christmas!’"
The man brought Pointy up some stairs and then through a glass door. There was a woman at a desk just inside the door. Pointy tried to make his big, red leaves stand up as straight and proud as possible. As he did so, he heard the woman say:
"What the hell is that?"
The man said, "Gift from your landlord. It’s a poinsettia."
"Duh! I can see it’s a poinsettia. What are we supposed to do with it?"
"I don’t know, lady. I just deliver ‘em. Merry Christmas."
Pointy didn’t understand. The woman didn’t seem happy at all. Had he done something wrong?
The woman yelled to someone, "Hey, come see what we got."
A man came out of an office, saw Pointy, and rolled his eyes. He said, "Ugh! Another poinsettia? Every year we get a friggin' poinsettia, and every year we have no place to put it. What in the hell are we going to do with it?"
"Don’t look at me," said the woman at the desk, "I don’t have any room here for it."
Other people came out of their offices to see what the noise was about. As each one saw Pointy, they laughed and made faces and said mean things.
Pointy wanted very much to be back in his friendly greenhouse. This wasn’t at all as he had imagined it, or as Uncle Pedro had told him it would be. He wanted to just shrivel up and make himself as small as possible.
Finally, the woman at the desk took him and placed him on a wobbly table, near some stacks of old yellowed paper and bent paperclips and dried up pens that nobody ever used. Every so often, someone who hadn’t seen him before would walk by. At first, Pointy tried standing up proud and showing off his pretty red leaves. However, it was always the same story. Either the person just walked by without noticing him, or laughed and said something mean about him.
After a while, Pointy just gave up. He stopped caring what the people said. He started losing his big red leaves that he had been so proud of. As he did so, the people in the office started saying even worse things about him. They kicked at his fallen leaves and, when they picked them up, they threw them in the garbage, cursing. He could feel his roots drying out. Nobody gave him any water. Nobody cared about him. There was no sun; just a cold bit of light from some fluorescent tubes. As much as a poinsettia had a heart, Pointy’s was broken.
Pointy lost many more of his leaves. He was dying. He wanted to die. Life was a miserable thing. Christmas? It was just a cruel joke. He had imagined much love, and had received none.
One day, about a week after he had been delivered, a new person came into the office. Pointy hadn’t seen this person before, but he expected that he would hear more of the same insults and derisive laughter. He didn’t care. What could this person say that would hurt him more than what he had already heard, already lived through?
The new person said, "Hey, who gave us the poinsettia?"
The woman at the desk answered, "Oh, the landlord gave us the damn thing. It’s been shedding leaves ever since it got here."
Pointy listened disinterestedly.
The new person said, "Well, heck, maybe he needs a little water. Has anybody given him a drink?"
Pointy’s ears perked up (or, at least, what passed for ears on Pointy.)
"Let’s give him a drink," said the new person.
"Knock yourself out," said the woman at the desk.
The new person went into the kitchen, and Pointy could hear water running. As much as he thought he was beyond caring, he felt himself thirsting for a drink. The new person came back out carrying a cup full of water. He poured it into Pointy’s dirt.
Pointy was shocked by how good it felt.
The new person said, "There you go, guy. How’s that?"
Pointy fairly yearned to jump out of his pot and give the person a hug.
The new person said, to the lady at the desk, "Hey, do you mind if I take him into my office? Maybe I can bring him back to life."
The woman at the desk said, "Give it your best shot, Jim, but I think it’s a lost cause."
Jim! That was the friendly man’s name! Pointy tried to make what leaves he had left stand up a bit for Jim, but he was too weak to do very much. He noticed with gratitude that it didn’t seem to matter to Jim. He was picking him up and taking him into his office, anyway.
Every day, Pointy waited for Jim to arrive. Every day, Jim did something nice for Pointy. He gave Pointy a drink of water, or he put him where he could get a bit of sunshine. When one of Pointy’s leaves was withered and painful, Jim gently removed it, giving Pointy space to grow a new, stronger leaf.
Finally, it came to the day before Christmas. For all of the love Pointy was receiving from Jim, there was still the pain of knowing that what he had heard about Christmas was untrue. Nobody had seen him and said, ‘What a beautiful poinsettia! How pretty it is, with its big red and green leaves! Merry Christmas!’
Pointy had grown back some big, green leaves. The few red ones he had left were strong and bright now. He wished that someone would get to see them for Christmas. He wished that he could bring someone some joy. Of course, Jim liked him, but he still wanted to believe in what his Uncle Pedro had told him during that time which seemed so long ago now. He wanted to be a plant that made someone smile at Christmas.
Pointy saw lights being turned off in the office, and he heard people saying cheery good-byes, and wishing each other happy holidays. Well, he had been lucky to find one new friend, he supposed. Maybe that would get him through the holiday. Jim would be back in a couple of days, and that wouldn’t be so bad. At least he made Jim happy.
He heard the door lock. It was dark and cold now. His leaves drooped a bit. Even though he had known what was going to happen, he had still hoped that Jim might...
Pointy heard the door to the office open and he noticed one light come on. "Probably the cleaning people", thought Pointy. But then, there was Jim! Jim bent down to pick him up, then carried him out of the office, down the stairs, and out into the... SNOW! Jim put Pointy down into the cold white stuff.
Oh, no! Was Jim tired of him, too? Was he leaving him to die in the snow? What a cruel world it truly was!
Pointy only had a few seconds to entertain such morbid thoughts. Jim picked him up again, put him into the front seat of his car, put a seat belt around Pointy's container, and turned on the heat. Then Jim started driving. Jim was taking him home! For Christmas!
And so Jim DID bring Pointy home for Christmas, and Pointy saw Christmas lights and Christmas trees, and he had sunshine and warmth and as much water as he wanted to drink. And love. Pointy had love. And Jim (and JIM'S WIFE) said to him, on Christmas morning...
"What a beautiful poinsettia! How pretty you are, with your big red and green leaves! Merry Christmas, Pointy!"
They even knew Pointy’s name!
And when spring came, Jim planted Pointy in the front yard. And Pointy told his story to the gooseberry bush, and to the little pine tree, and to all of the dragon lilies. He grew big and bushy and bright green. And when the frosts of autumn came, and his leaves turned a little yellow, and he thought that maybe Jim had forgotten all about him, Jim dug him up and brought him back into the house. And he is there even now.
And this year, not only does Pointy know that Christmas will be a happy time, Pointy IS the Christmas Tree - at least for now. And he is the happiest poinsettia in the whole entire world, even though he has no big red leaves at all.
This was written, and first published, three years ago. That's when the final photo is from. Since then, Pointy has had some chance to grow bigger and bushier while planted outside. The first year I put him outside, he flourished. After that...
Poinsettias can get root rot rather easily from too much water, and there was a torrential downpour while he was outside. This occurred while he was still in his non-draining pot. To my shame, I completely forgot that he was out there getting soaked.
After the storm, I remembered him. I was heartbroken to find that his pot was filled to the brim with rainwater. Much of his soil had been violently washed away, and some of his roots were exposed. I immediately did what I could, which wasn't much, unfortunately. I poured off the excess water, added some fresh soil to absorb what was left, and took Pointy back inside to dry off. He survived, but it was touch and go for a week. He lived, but it was obvious he might not continue to do so.
After I was sure he had dried sufficiently, I planted him in the front garden for the summer. He did okay, but only okay. He didn't flourish as he had during the previous plantings.
When it became too cold outside, I dug him up and brought him back in. All of the combined shocks to his system were too much. He lost his leaves in bunches. I did what I could by pruning away the dead bits, giving him some Miracle Gro, making sure he had sunlight, and (yes, I bought into the anthropomorphism I had used in the story) talking to him in soothing tones. It didn't work. Long past the time when anyone else would have reasonably given up on his surviving, I had to admit to myself that Pointy was gone. He had nothing left but dry and hollow leafless stems.
I truly teared up when I discarded what was left of him. MY WIFE and I had referred to him by name so often, he did seem like some sort of family member (or beloved pet, at least.)
Sorry for the bummer ending, but (once again buying into the anthropomorphism) I somehow feel I'd be doing Pointy a final disservice if I didn't give you his entire story, now that it's over.
But, he lived more than three years longer than he would have if I hadn't rescued him in the first place. And I've heard tales of poinsettias surviving for 15 and 20 years, at least, so if you somehow get a poinsettia for Christmas, it doesn't have to be tossed to the curb with the old tree and discarded wrapping paper. With a bit of love - and a careful eye on how much water it receives - it can keep growing big and bushy. It probably won't have big red leaves for too much longer, but green is a nice Christmas color, too!
Soon, with more better stuff.