The Girl With the Silken Sepals

July 22, 2019

Happy Monday. This is a vintage Bob's Little Acre, a repeat of possibly the only noir detective fiction ever published in a garden column. My detective was Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Jacks are one of my favorite wildflowers but actually they remind me more of perv flashers than of "tecs." But both of them wear trenchcoats, I guess, and I thought calling my hero "Sam Spadix" was a little obscure...


The Flowerbed was not my regular habitat but that’s not to say there was anything wrong with it. It seemed a nice enough joint, well-drained, just a quiet little place where your working-slob photosynthesizer could kick back with a cup of something cool after 12 hours in the hot sun. You know. Vegetate.


There was a rose tending bar, heavily perfumed, maybe a little past full bloom but not going to seed just yet, thank you very much. Zinnias perched on toadstools looking fresh as daisies, big heads bent toward their drinks like that was all in the world they cared about. But guys would flash a stamen at them across the room and though they pretended not to see it was safe to bet there’d be some cross-pollination later on. 


Not for me. I was here on business. I sat there in my brown-stripe trifoliate, spadix tucked discreetly into spathe, trying not to do anything that screamed: UNDERCOVER.


Then I looked up and saw:  Her. 


She wilted, sobbing, over an iced mimosa.  She was lovely, slender and long-stemmed, a rich purple-blue flecked delicately with gold.  I moved from the bar to her table as naturally as a heliotrope turning toward the sun. 


“Cheer up,” I said.  “What are you, a weeping willow?”


“Don’t be ranunculus.”  She gave me a drop-dead look.  “Anyone can see I’m an iris.” 


“I know.  You’re practically waving a blue flag.” 


That made her laugh, a low sweet sound from deep in her pedicels.  “All right, Jack, I like your styles.”  She gave me a smile that made my stamens turgid. “Mind if I call you that? You can tuck your spadix into your spathe all day long, I can spot a jack-in-the-pulpit from 100 yards. It’s that holy look.  What are you, an undercover cop?”


I managed not to flinch.  “OK.  Call me Jack.  What do I call you?”

“I’m Angie O’Sperm.” 


“An Irish iris?”


“No,”  she said bitterly.  “I’m just an all-American garden variety. Wanted to be a flower showgirl but I was a late bloomer and missed my chance. Instead I ended up in this lousy joint hustling hostas for the Nightshade Family.”


“The Nightshades own this place?” My anthers perked up, lobes cocked.


“Oh, yes.  Their roots run deep here.”


I leaned forward.  “Listen, Angie, I can help you get away from those stinkweeds.”


“Would you, Jack?  Yes, I believe you would.” She smiled. “God, look at me.  I’d better go fix my face.”


She disappeared into the back and I sat there grinning foolishly until a familiar voice said behind me: “Considering the lilies, Jack?”


It was my partner, “Sweet” William Bloom. “Not just any lily. Bill.  Wait till you see her.  There she comes now!”


Bang!  Bill shot. Angie dropped like a whacked weed.


“No!” I shouted.


“It was you or her.”  He rolled her over so I could see:  She had a pistil. 


“The Nightshades were on to you,” he said.  “Sorry, Jack...


She was a plant.”

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