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
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
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
“He says he’s tired of moving around and wants to stay
in one place.”
“And what place might that be?” asked the doctor,
“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
“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
“Benji is saying good-bye, Doc. He’s disappearing.”
“No, he’s not disappearing, I tell you. He’s as real as
“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