Fri 27 Apr 2007
Esme was very careful with the ficus. In the old days she used to drag them around by their tasteful white wicker root baskets but it turned out that if you put one near the window in the sun all its leaves would fall off. They would grow back and then when you moved it to the shade they would fall off again. Those fibrous leaves were hard to vacuum up. Now she just kept the trees on either side of the pulpit with the white lights still wound around them. For weddings they’d run a green extension cord from the back wall and presto, twinkle-o, ready to go. What was it with ficus and weddings, anyway? All the girls wanted them. And the white lights, and some precarious arch from the Rent-A-Center as a, what did they call it, “focal point.” The worst part about the ficus was dusting the leaves. The assistant pastor said that the whole point of the ficus was the shiny leaves and if they weren’t shiny then why did the church board vote to pay for the real thing instead of getting the lower-priced fake ones? It was incumbent upon Esme, he said, incumbent, that she be a good steward of the ficus. She was thinking of having business cards printed up: Esme Howard, Ficus Steward. Or maybe Ficus Stewardess? In her mind trees and plants were outdoorsy and you shouldn’t have to dust outdoorsy things. They grew in dirt, for goodness sake, with a layer of green-gray moss over the soil for good taste. The assistant pastor also said that ficus were a type of fig tree. They remind us of our Lord’s homeland. The fig, a mighty symbol, he added, staring over her shoulder as if into Jerusalem. She’d never seen a fruit on either ficus but now while she dusted she sang, “Oh give us some figgy pudding, oh give us some figgy pudding,” and thought about those tiny, tiny seeds inside figs. More like grit than seeds. In a perfect world a fig would have a pit that you could eat around, and the leaves on the tree would stay shiny of their own accord. She took up her cloth and moved to the next branch, individually wiping each bright, elliptical leaf.