and it takes me a triple-take to realize it's scanning me, or something near my ear—that must be it. No plant’s ever complimented my perfume—wait—there it goes again. Did you see that? [Time passes, drinks] "Sure, I remember when I thought you were a fern but you were! Who could blame me?" I tell the what’s now a magnificent purple tetrahedron, eggplant-sized cilia straining at its corners, just a hint of ferniness remains in its fingertips—enough to blush. We hug goodbye. The scent of flowers lingers around me the next day. Flying home, a decorative airport fern that really is a decorative airport fern says, "You smell nice." I don’t believe it, but it's still a happy ending.
A Fairy Tale
When my father was nine years old, his mother said, "Tommy, I'm taking you to the circus for your birthday. Just you and me, and I'll buy you anything you want." The middle child of six, my father thought this was the most incredible, wonderful thing that had ever happened to him—like something out of a fairy tale.
They got in the car, but instead of driving him to the circus, his mother pulled up in front of the hospital and told him to go inside and ask for Dr. So-and-so. After that they'd go to the circus.
He went inside and asked for Dr. So-and-so. A nurse told him to follow her into a room where she closed the door and gave him a shot. My father fell asleep, and some hours later, woke up crying in agony with his tonsils gone. A different nurse got him dressed, and sent him outside where his mother was waiting in the car with the engine running. He couldn't speak on the way home to ask her, "What about the circus?" Days later, when he could, he didn't. They never mentioned it again.
Fifty-eight years later, he tells this story to his wife, his only explanation, when she asks him, "What are you doing home from church so early?"
He'd walked out in the middle of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," never to return.