exercise: N 2.12 – a garden for three stories

N exercise 2.13: a garden for three stories

The foliage in the garden glisten under the blue light of the morning sun. Leaves whisper to one another in the boughs of great green trees, sharing secrets, giggling softly. Tree jokes shared among friends, those who would ‘get it’. There are many such compatriots up there – thousands of little green buddies, touching, caressing, feeling themselves, together. It’s a leaf orgy – or rather more of a giant masturbation session, as each pair, each threesome of leaves, belongs to the same tree, more or less. There’s some mixing, of course, when branches grow close to one another, but that’s basically the exception rather than the rule.

Fat purple imbia flowers, rich like the coat of a Roman senator, reek of the insoles of some old athlete’s lucky shoes. The smell attracts all manner of bug and bird, little beetles with coats like the Royal Navy, and birds with beaks of needles, all tiny and sharp and glinting silver when they catch a ray of light. The whoops and whistles these things let out is overwhelming, more like a pub on a raucous Friday night somewhere in the highlands north of here. The birds’ wheedling cries must mean something to them, else why would they do it, and that’s fine, except if you’re a person and the sound is just like those needly beaks right into your eardrums.

Otherwise the garden is pretty normal. Little brown and green bija plants with their viny fingers reach up to wrangle errant shoelaces. They grab the loops and tangle in there, god knows why, and within just a minute of stomping through the underbrush your carefully tied sneakers are loose, laces frayed and flaling behind you, covered in burrs and small grey ants. If you watch closely, the ants are trying to snip off singular fibres from the fraying laces, to grab a piece twice their own body length to bring back to the nest or the hive or whatever. Their mandibles make a vicious sawing noise but it’s so far below the decibel threshold of the human ear that it’s hardly worth mentioning.

The stink of the imbia flowers almost masks the decomposing smell of the body. Local PD found it in the early hours on an anonymous tip. Traced call went to a burned number, the kind of ID you can rent by the minute from any number of underground islands in the Caribbean or the South Pacific. No intel there.

In the murky grey-blue light of the coming dawn the canopy of the garden hangs low, and the chittering leaves reach out to brush the cops’ heads, steal their starched caps with the bronze stars sewn on. One wrong move and that thing is gone, the cap snagged on a sticky vine or tattered by a bough of thorny branches.

A pile of disturbed dirt smells of springtime, when honest people till the fields of their front lawns so the new sod will take. That wholesome scent here, though, is subdued, taken to task, humiliated by the overdone, meat-in-the-sun smell of the body beneath the pile. That smell brings the fresh dirt back behind the shed and puts one clean through the brainsteam – no pain.

One cop stumbles in the thicket and spills into the bija plants, comes up with her uniform all brown-grey-green, and her unprotected hands slashed up with surface wounds, lines of red ink where the thorns have left their unfriendly corrections. She brushes herself off and leaves the garden through the rusted front gate, seeks medi at the ambulance, whose attendants are lounging against the hood, smoking cigarettes. Eventually they’ll grab a gurney and load the body up but not before the rest of the cops finish their investigation.

A cold breeze picks up and turns the cops’ flesh to satin – silky and chilly to the touch. They shiver in their blue wool, slap away hungry insects that come to land on the cops’ bumpy flesh. The sun comes up too slowly to burn away the fog.

Purple flowers bloom and smell of socks. Trees sway and dance in warm breezes, their leaves alive and chatting. Soft, silken sounds waft down to the underbrush from the verdant canopy and the flowers crane their necks to hear.

Bugs buzz all over, little ones with tiny wings, big blue ones with bulbous thoraxes. Their flight paths erratic, responding by instinct to every little fluctuation in temperature, air pressure, heat. They zip into sunbeams with a twinkling sound like the shortest string in a piano, then zoom back into the shadows with a bassy whump. In this way the garden is a symphony, or a game of Pong; treble and bass, treble and bass, back and forth and forth and back as all the insects make music in their flight.

The undergrowth is grabby like a drunken perv. Some leaves down there are impossibly sticky – processed somewhere for industrial adhesive, surely – while others are made entirely of hooks and catches, like velcro plants. When they grow up they may bear velcro fruit. They grab anything frictive and won’t let go. Their roots get pulled up from the loose soil and before you know it your pant legs and socks are covered with anemic green-grey plants, their leaves and stalks and roots dangling off like rock climbers fearing for their lives. This can make walking tough.

As the afternoon wears on the noises in the garden amplify. Impatient birds give out calls to chill your spine, insistent, demanding calls like creditors whom everyone owes. Somehow they’ll find mates like this, when the season comes. In the meantime, the birds mind their territories. Get out, they scream, in their bird language, from their silvery, needly beaks. Get the fuck out of here already. Of course the bugs and birds and bija plants pay the noises no mind. They’re part of the landscape, like thunder over the horizon, or the heat of the sun.

Logan Bright