Potatoes in the Geraniums

She came in the back door holding a small geranium plant pinched between two fingers. I could tell by the look on her face that I was in trouble again. If not me, it was someone else.

“Who took the geraniums out of the pot?” she said sharply. It was the latest of mysterious violations of the garden that had occurred, probably in the middle of the night. Mother was quite suspicious more often now. She felt there were prowlers about. Unusual noises and unusual events made her nervous and vulnerable. She became critical of my “management” of the house and the environs, and yet she was utterly dependent on me now.

The previous week, we had lost the whole crop of pears from the tree in the back yard. The day before she had tested them and she suggested that in two more days they would be perfect to bring in.
“I don’t know, Mom” I replied as evenly as I could about her wilting geranium. “I’ll go take a look-see. It doesn’t take much to put it back in.”

I relieved her of the offending plant that was trailing bits of dust and root upon the kitchen floor and took it down the back steps to a large planter that I had used for summer annuals. Indeed! It had been dug up and sloppily. There was dirt surrounding it scattered on the cement sidewalk.

I took a small trowel and began to prepare a hole to put the geranium back in. To my consternation, I found potatoes had been planted instead. This truly was silly! Ridiculous! Who would plant potatoes in a flower pot?

I pulled out one of these red brown potatoes only to be confronted with another amazing thing. What had been planted, inviolate, no tears, no scars, no nicking of the skin, were the pears off the tree!

I pulled out the pears and stuck the geranium back in, tamping it firmly so that the roots would survive their adventure out of their element.

“Good news and bad news!” I declared to Mother as I reentered the house. I told her what I had discovered.

“It must have been the squirrel that stole all the pears so you can stop worrying about the two legged variety of animals coming in to steal the pears. But they are all gone, planted somewhere for the squirrel’s pleasure when they ripen.”

Not many days later, I watched a rat climb the pear tree for one of the three remaining pears. It was hanging on the end of a fragile branch and the rat was fearful of falling. It gingerly descended the branch and extended one short front paw out to bat the pear from the stem that held it to the tree. It took a long time, advancing, losing balance and regaining it, tamping that unsteady, wavering branch, his fat, well-nourished body trembling only slightly higher up on the same branch.

As I was out in the yard tending to garden maintenance a few hours later, I noticed that he rat had succeeded in getting the pear to the ground. There it lay, a plump ripe pear with little teeth marks indenting its surface.

I never told Mother about the rat so that it could not trouble her already active sense of vulnerability and doom.


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