IMPERFECTION • by Rosanne Dingli

Did I tell you about the geranium I grew from a cutting? I stole it from someone’s front garden as I raced for a bus one day. This huge unruly bush — which someone should have pruned — spilled over the footpath. It was so heavy with huge orange flowers that it leaned and fluttered to one side in the stiff breeze from the beach. I reached my free hand in and snapped off a useable branch, stuffed it in my pocket, and leapt onto the bus just as the doors were closing. The driver gave me a look; not impressed. Bus card in the other hand, quick; zapped, and pocket patted to make sure the geranium cutting was safe.

What did it take — four weeks? New leaves started to appear. I trimmed, planted, watered and fed it, then pushed it in that corner of the yard where several other cuttings had been stuck into similar pots. But this particular one did better than all the rest. For some reason… look, it grew and grew. Now, I give all my plants umbrella treatment. It’s my universal gardening method. I water, prune, and feed them all the same. The ones that survive do, and the ones that don’t are consigned to the composter, or disappear into the soil, shriveled and disappointed with me. Which is why I have been left with a goodly collection of succulents and geraniums; all that survive under this regime.

Surely I told you. You must remember how I made us a pot of tea, and brought out a tray of almost perfect cinnamon scrolls. I say almost because I wished they had risen a tiny bit more, but I got too impatient and didn’t let them prove long enough the last time round. Because look — I do enjoy that punching down of a risen ball of dough. So I wait just as long as I really have to and dive right into it. Punch.

And there we sat, eating those scrolls and drinking the tea Jenny sent me for Easter. She has a knack for choosing perfect presents. Those tea leaves were the real article; excellent quality, and made the most delicious… the most exquisite… tea. You told me about your new euphorbia — I cannot remember the variety now, but you were very enthusiastic and described it beautifully. Of course, being able to find an expensive nursery and walk out with a labelled, well-established, mature plant in immaculate condition, about to burst into bloom, is wonderful. So easy. I wish I could do that, but not on what I make as a line editor, and I wonder whether that would be enough of a challenge. You even showed me a photo on your phone.

And then I walked you out into my yard and from the motley clutch of pots in that corner I pulled out the geranium cutting and showed it to you. It was nothing much because how long had it been since I snapped it off that big bush near the bus stop — three weeks? Something like that. Four perhaps.

Well, it’s started to flower. Listen to this. You might believe this and you might not. I’ll send you a photo if I have to. That is, if I manage to find out what’s wrong with my phone because it’s refusing to do most things now, except perhaps send and receive text messages. And it’s suddenly blown up characters to such a large size I can hardly read what arrives. I must sit down with it, one day, and try to figure it out. But before I do that, I must get my glasses fixed. Hmm — an arm fell off and I simply can’t find the tiny screw on the grey tiled kitchen floor. I tried swishing around with a magnet but all I got was that paperclip I dropped when the documents arrived from Margaret’s lawyer. Never mind that; it would take more than just a page to explain, and you will get utterly bored with me and take off to your enviable garden. How you ever managed to plan it so you have cascading banks of white and blue flowers everywhere is quite beyond me.

But you want to know about my stolen geranium. You should have seen the spectacular bush I took the branch off. And I didn’t stand it in a glass of water too long, because you know what happens when I do that. Forgetting to plant something is more of a disappointment than caring for a shriveled twig that just doesn’t want to respond. Forgetting would be all my fault, whereas if a cutting decides not to strike after I have lavished care on it is another matter. I even dipped the end in honey, like you suggested once. Well, not just once, but you know.

And now? A blaze of bloom and glory. But listen to this. It’s not orange. Not an orange hint or streak or anything anywhere. Big beautiful white flowers. White! With tiny tiny red stamens if you peer inside. Now isn’t that a surprise? I have been back and forth in front of the garden I stole it from, to check. They have pruned it all back. They must be new owners because someone’s even washed the windows. Imagine that. I looked on both sides of the orange geranium, behind and in front of it. Looks like it will break into bloom soon, and there is no sign, no sign at all of anything that might burst into white flowers. Not in that front garden, there isn’t. I did snap the cutting off that bush, I am absolutely sure. What do you think happened?

Let me know when your big seedling order comes in — send pictures. And oh — Margaret did win her court case, and she’s fine. We both have colds, but we’re fine.

Rosanne Dingli has authored 10 novels and six collections of short stories. She has published short pieces in numerous periodicals and anthologies since 1991, and her work has won many accolades. She has held roles in publishing and has lectured in Creative Writing. She lives and writes in Western Australia.

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Every Day Fiction