The near-death of a potplant

It was the wild Nineties and we weren’t really on top of things. Priorities ran to getting to know the hottest girls in town, ensuring we could get in free at any given nightspot, and catching the Fence every time it was on.
Thanks to our friendly demeanour and our lax attitude to houseguests, we were soon inundated with official and unofficial digsmates. There were comings and goings, leavings for overseas and chaotic house parties.
Even personal grooming and health began to suffer, witness Ready D’s famous spiderbite wound of 1998, the World Cup mumps epidemic and a spate of shingles that still makes my ribcage itch on a warm day.
So things were dire. Someone needed to take charge. I decided it would be me.
I called for a thorough spring clean. We began by dragging all the lounge furniture into the yard and giving the place a good sweep, scrub and polish.
The lounge furniture included a hideous foam-rubber sleeper couch, a cupboard, coffee table and a large potted palm tree in a square plastic pot.
So we dragged this plant into the yard and gave the Oregon pine floorboards a proper going over. There were also about a dozen cigarette butts in the pot, so we dug those out and gave the soil a bit of a brush.
Unfortunately, what happens when you take an indoor palm out into direct sunlight is that it gets violently bleached by the punishing rays of the sun. Thus, when we went back outside after half an hour of diligent scrubbing, we found a snow-white potplant! Within minutes, the fronds had faded to the colour of pristine straw wrappers. The poor plant had been bleached to within an inch of its life!
We were shocked! Who knew the sun could do that? Closer inspection revealed signs of life down in the stalk. So we quickly got the pot out of the sun, then trimmed all the leaves off, cutting the poor plant back to a small stump the size of a hotdog.
Who knows, maybe the thing would recover.
Otherwise, spring clean went well, ushering in a couple of weeks of semi-tidiness and self-respect.
This was shattered with the arrival of our old mate Bruce at the front door of our digs. “Howzit,” he gushed, “I’m back from overseas. Just came to pick up Priscilla.”
No one told, me, but apparently the potplant belongs to Bruce, and we’re only looking after it for him. And he loves this potplant! He’s so attached to it, he’s even given it a name. Priscilla.
In his absence, we’ve managed to absolutely destroy his plant! He left us with a majestic tree and returned to a pale, withered swizzlestick of death!
It was like we’d been baby-sitting his child and let him run into the traffic.
The shame of it!
If there was anything that finally encouraged us to get our act together, it was that, the Great Potplant Tragedy of 1999.

Writer for television, print and digital, corporate and editorial. Editor and writer of books. Musical performance, spoken word as Inspector Ras. Guitar/vocals for The Near Misses, (Worst Band In JoburgTM). The last whitey at umsebenzi. Latest book 415 Action-Packed Neighbourhood Marketing Tips with Basil O'Hagan, out now. @hagenengler

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