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                  The Ficus Tree

                     By Don Urbanus

     Don held the door open with his foot, bent down and picked up his six foot Ficus benjamina in the glazed green pot and walked heavily into the psychiatrist’s office. The receptionist, who was talking quietly on the phone, smiled and pointed at a chair in the corner. Carefully gauging the sturdiness of the coffee table, Don shook his head and set the pot down on the floor. Occasionally Don chuckled, leaned over and whispered something to the plant.
     The receptionist looked over at Don, frowned and shook her head. Don had been an aspiring nurseryman, the cream of the crop, when something had gone terribly wrong. Now, for the last two years, he had been walking around with an imaginary six foot tall Ficus tree named ‘Benji’. It was sad. Sadder still was the way Don talked to the tree and seemed to have conversations with it. He was plainly off his rocker. I guess that’s the life a nurseryman, she thought, sane one minute and loonier than a polka-dot petunia the next.
     A slightly built lady with frazzled blond hair walked out of the psychiatrist’s room and eyed Don, sitting there with his “friend”. She paused, glanced at Don and then over at where the plant was supposed to be. “I don’t suppose you have time to answer a gardening question, do you?” Then without waiting for an answer she continued, “I have these Gardenias and they’re kind of yellow…….”
     “Not now," Mrs. Thornton, the receptionist said firmly as she eyed Don's face twitch and his blank stare.
     “Oh, well,” the lady laughed nervously, “maybe I’ll see you at the nursery sometime…or someday?” She left the waiting room, closing the door quietly behind her.
     “You can go in now, Mr. Urbanus. The doctor is waiting.”
     Don picked up the potted plant, and with the receptionist holding the door open, he gingerly walked in. Doctor Greenburg looked up from his paperwork, nodded and pointed to the chair. “Go ahead and sit down, Don. You can put Benji on the table here. It’s quite sturdy.”
     Don quickly got comfortable and lay back on the couch. “I seem to have a problem, Doc. Benji isn’t doing so well. He keeps dropping his leaves. Of course, I know that’s common with Ficus benjaminas. They don’t like to be moved that much. I think it’s more serious though. Benji doesn’t seem to like me anymore.”
     “Really?” said the doctor. “And why do you suppose that is?”
     “He says he’s tired of moving around and wants to stay in one place.”
     “And what place might that be?” asked the doctor, slightly smirking.
     “He wants to stay right here.”
     “Here!?” asked the doctor. “Why….why would he want to stay here? What do I know about Ficus trees?”
     “Benji is getting harder for me to see lately, Doc,” Don said, frowning, “It’s almost like he’s fading away. Do you think I’m getting better, Doc?”
     “What do you mean he’s fading away,” the doctor said, his voice rising in pitch. “He can’t be fading. It’s not that easy. You’ve been one of my most steady patients, and believe me when I say that you are far from being cured.”
     “Benji is saying good-bye, Doc. He’s disappearing.”
     “No, he’s not disappearing, I tell you. He’s as real as this desk.”
     “I think I’m cured, Doc. I can’t see Benji anymore,” Don said, standing up.
     “I’ll tell you when you’re cured. Who’s the doctor here anyway?” the doctor said angrily. “You just sit back down there. You have another twenty minutes to go.”
     “I’m cured. You cured me, Doc,” Don said, his eyes big and wondrous. “I can go back to the nursery business! I can be normal again! Thanks for everything, Doc.” Don rushed out of the room and through the waiting room, his hands waving in the air and yelling ‘I’m cured. I’m cured’ as he ran down the hallway.
     The doctor ran after him. “Get back here you idiot! Get this stupid plant out of my office. I don’t want your dumb Ficus tree. Come back here!”
                 

 

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