“Hi, I called earlier about the plant,” Clarissa announced. A little bell tinkled as the door closed behind her. Plants lined the windowsills on both sides of the door; some wrapped with twine, held up with sticks and others cascading to the wooden floor. Tables, benches and an old claw footed bathtub were covered in various types of green, purple and yellowed leaves that crowded the small shop. There were spindly, wide, narrow and even web-footed shaped leaves. Dust hung in the air as the sun filtered in through the large windows. Classical music hummed from the speakers in the corner.
“Oh yeah, one sec.” A male’s voice came from the back of the shop behind the wall of foliage. “And make sure that you don’t water it until it’s completely dry.”
“Uhh, I’m a little nervous about this one.” A lady carrying a slender plant with a couple of leaves on it approached the front of the shop. Clarissa was poking and sniffing the surrounding plants. The spider plant, hanging from the ceiling, reached down and brushed the top of her dark hair. She slapped at her head until she realized it was the plant.
“You know I’m here, you can always call,” the guy replied. The woman thanked him. He ushered her out the front door and turned to Clarissa. “Charity case, she probably has a three-legged dog at home,” he muttered. Clarissa raised an eyebrow at him. “That lady always takes the saddest plants when she comes in . . . she feels sorry for them.”
“Oh poor thing. It did look sad,” Clarissa puckered her lips to a pout.
“I think that one likes you.” He hummed as he pulled a wide yellowed leaf off her pink sweater. “I’m Doobie,” he nodded.
“Clarissa,” she replied.
“So Clarissa, did you have something in mind?” Doobie’s apron had ‘Kiss the Horticulturist’ written on it. Doobie picked up a spray bottle and spritzed leaves. Clarissa sneezed. “Uh oh, are you allergic?” He pursed his lips and cocked his head.
“No,” she choked. “What is that?” Clarissa coughed, gasping for air as her eyes welled up with tears. She held one hand at her throat and the other covered her mouth as she sputtered and spit.
“This?” Doobie held the plastic bottle up. “Water mixed with hot sauce.” Clarissa furrowed her brow at him as she cleared her throat several times. “It’s so Arthur here won’t eat these plants.” He pointed to an orange cat sitting up on a stool licking his paw. Clarissa took a sip from her cup. “What’s that?” Doobie asked.
“Tea,” Clarissa responded and cleared her throat.
“Didn’t you see the sign?” He whispered to her as he held his hands around a plant as if to cover its ears. Clarissa looked up on the wall. The sign read ‘No coffee, tea, salads or veggie wraps’. “These plants are distressed, they don’t need to see us consuming their friends. You can set it out on the outside bench for now.” Doobie popped his eyes wide open at her.
“I’m done . . . ” Clarissa waved the reusable mug in front of his face. She tucked it into her olive green hemp tote bag.
“What were you looking for?” He put the spray bottle down on the wooden table.
“Well, one came up on plantfinder.org . . . I got an email that your shop has it. It’s a fern. I’ve been waiting months for one,” Clarissa replied. “The other rescues don’t have any.”
“Oh, Archie? He left about an hour ago. They’re popular because they’re low maintenance,” he responded. “We have other plants that are looking for forever homes.”
“Dang, I should have asked you to snip a leaf for me.” Clarissa tapped her foot, trying to decide what to do. “Do I wait or pick one of these?”
Doobie dropped his mouth open in horror. He stuck his fore fingers in his ears and wiggled them, as if cleaning them out. “Snip a leaf, please honey, with all these others that need a home?” He dropped his hands to his side. “Pick one of these . . . if another fern comes in, what’s one additional plant?”
“True,” she moaned. “My heart was set on Archie, but I suppose I could look around.”
“Are you looking for low light, sun light, high or low maintenance, indoor, outdoor, large, small, hanging, upright, veined, colored, thirsty . . . ” Doobie paused, staring at Clarissa. “Throw me a bone.” He turned to prune the crusty tips of a mother-in-law-tongue plant.
“I’m looking for pretty,” Clarissa muttered.
“You can’t just go for pretty. Does your house get sunlight?” Doobie pressed and rolled his eyes. “Did you take our online test that matches the type of plant with your personality?” Clarissa nodded yes. “And?” he asked.
“Oh, poor baby. What happened to you?” Clarissa spoke in a little girl’s voice to the tall palm plant with a couple of tired fronds. She circled it. “What is it?”
“Howea forsteriana, rescued from a plant mill. You should have seen the conditions. It was horrifying . . .dried out, packed together in a little room, hardly any sunlight and for sure no fertilizer. I wanted to cry,” Doobie sniffed.
“Oh, how sad,” Clarissa moaned.
“Definitely an only plant. Do you have other plants, children or pets?” Doobie air kissed the palm plant.
“A dog,” Clarissa replied. “But my friends have plants and I’ve taken care of them while they were out of town.”
“Good. Where’d they get their plants from?” Doobie smiled warmly.
Clarissa hesitated. “The plant store and nursery,” she tiptoed on her words.
Doobie put his hand on his chest and gasped. He paused. “I see that you’re smarter than your friends.”
“Oh, I would never do that. . . only rescues. They wanted to give me one as a gift,” Clarissa commented.
“We don’t allow you to buy plants as gifts here. You never know if a person is truly ready for the responsibility of a plant,” Doobie nodded.
“I know,” Clarissa agreed. “I wasn’t ready until now.”
“Okay, I have a feeling that you’re not good at watering, so I should direct you to the succulents,” Doobie narrowed his eyes on her. “That’s the reading I’m getting.”
“That’s what I got on the personality test. I don’t want a cactus.” Clarissa wrapped her arms over her chest and tensed her lips. Doobie looked down on her like she was a naughty child. Then she sputtered, “Look, do you want to move a plant or not? I can leave empty-handed.” Clarissa threw her hands up in the air and pretended that she was going to leave.
“Fine,” Doobie murmured. He rolled his eyes.
“What about this?” She rubbed a colorful, leathery leaf. “Whoa, that texture.”
“Carlton? The croton? His owners moved and couldn’t take him with.” He shook his head in dismay. “Everyone wants full breeds. What about a hybrid? Look at this gorgeous African violet. It’s hardy.” Doobie waved his hand over the small purple flowers.
“I like this one better. The stripes are cool.” Clarissa petted the leaves of another plant.
“Ah, the dracaena with its variegated leaves,” Doobie announced. “Sheila . . .she was found on the street . . .in sad shape. Not sure of her age or history.”
“I’ll take her.” Clarissa crouched, touching the long, upright leaves. It tickled her nose. She giggled and smiled. “Hi Sheila, you come home with mama?”
“Fine,” Doobie huffed. He held a small cactus in his hand. “You’ll need to fill out an application.”
“Yay, I’m finally buying a plant!” Clarissa cheered.
“Adopting,” Doobie muttered. “You can rename her if you’d like.”
“No, I like Sheila. I’ve been wanting one ever since I moved into my apartment.” She followed him back to the counter with her plant. “My friends keep pestering me to get one. I mean, if I can keep I dog alive, I can keep a plant alive.” Clarissa struggled to put the plant down. “Sheila, you need to lose some weight!” She said to the plant in a high squeaky voice.
“Sheila does not need to lose weight, she needs to grow,” Doobie replied. He handed her a clipboard with a sheet of paper.
“Lose weight,” Clarissa whispered to Sheila and giggled. She sat on the stool next to Arthur at the wooden counter and filled it out. Arthur jumped down and walked away casually with his tail waving in the air.
“Do you want to buy our app that reminds you when to water and fertilize your little one?” Doobie peered over his laptop computer. “It’s only ninety-nine cents.”
Clarissa shrugged and said sure. A loud hissing noise came from a nearby plant, like someone had turned on a faucet. “No!” Clarissa shrieked. “Sheila . . .my plant!”
“Arthur!” Doobie shouted. He clapped. Arthur jumped out of the plant without covering his pee. “Well, you don’t have to fertilize it right away.” He chuckled.
“My dog is going to smell that and go crazy,” Clarissa whined. “Sheila, you okay honey?” She pouted at the plant.
“Just re-pot it when you get home,” Doobie commented. Clarissa groaned in disgust. “I’ll be in the back while you fill that out.” He rubbed his hands together and whispered something to himself. Clarissa settled in and scribbled on the application.
A low toning noise came from the back room. It was as if someone were running a wet finger around the rim of a crystal wine glass. The noise alternated between loud and soft. She finished the application and waited patiently for Doobie. Tinkling wind chime noises floated through the air. Clarissa waited for what seemed forever before she hit the bell on the counter. It was barely audible compared to the noise in the back so she hit is repeatedly. The room in the back went silent.
“You ready?” Doobie peeked out. He stopped at the sink behind the counter, washed his hands and wiped them on his apron.
“What were doing?” Clarissa asked.
“I’m a reiki master. I was helping the plants,” Doobie replied. He reached for the application and stuck the end of the pen in his mouth.
Clarissa furrowed her brow. “Why?”
Doobie took the pen out of his mouth and slurped his spit. “The plants back there are quarantined. They came in with bugs or fungus so they can’t be put out into the shop until they’re healthy. I do treatments on them. That reminds me, we don’t allow you to use chemicals. Who’s your local holistic horticulturist?” The end of the pen ran down the application, leaving a slobbery mark. “You don’t have one?” He tapped the blank line.
“I didn’t know it was important,” Clarissa remarked.
“Do you take your dog to the vet?” He raised his eyebrows.
Clarissa shook her head yes.
“Sheila is special, too, and in order to adopt her, you need to have a holistic horticulturist.” He pointed to his framed certifications on the wall.
“Okay, put your name down.”
“And no breeding, you hear?” Doobie blinked rapidly at her.
Clarissa nodded yes.
“You need some dirt?” Doobie set down the clipboard and walked over to the corner of the shop. There were shelves of potting soil, gardening supplies and planters. “Any pots? How about organic fertilizer?”
“Sheila, you want a new pot?” Clarissa asked the plant. Then she turned to Doobie. “She wants the orange one.” She pointed to the pot that had glittery, embellished stones around the word ‘Diva’.
“How about this watering can? This one has directional flow that evenly distributes the water. It makes watering a breeze.” Doobie read the marketing copy on the sticker pasted to the green watering can.
“Sure, I’ll take it.” Clarissa reached into her purse and took her wallet out. “What’s this?” She asked in an animated voice as she dug into the display on the counter. “Sheila, you want a gnome friend?” She danced the little clay figurine in Sheila’s direction. “I’ll take this, too.” Clarissa handed him the gnome and a large canvas tote for all the items. Doobie tallied the numbers and Clarissa paid him.
“Thanks,” Clarissa said as she picked up the plant. The canvas tote weighed heavily over her shoulder.
“I’ll help you,” Doobie volunteered.
“No no, I’m good.” Clarissa pushed through the door to outside.
Doobie busied himself with paperwork as she left the shop. Something caught his attention and he looked up and out the side window. Clarissa was pulling a flatbed of plants. “Oh my gawd, a hoarder!” Doobie exclaimed as he ran out through the front door. “Sheila!”