THE FLOWER AND THE SODA CANS

There was once a flower, a most beautiful flower, dazzling from inside a bush that stood to the side of the picnic area, where crowds gathered in the summer time. What stunning and bright colors were brandished by this flower: proof of God it was! And those that know flowers know it had a soul, and a heart; its brilliant petals came from hours of work and tears, its moment of shining like the sun had a journey behind it, and months of darkness that had fed it.

Being alive and conscious, no mere knee jerk of nature, the flower was also sensuous. Its dances in the breeze sought a companion, its grandeur came into being seeking a caress. In the distance, it sensed the tiny shadows of the bees flying with compasses of sun rays from their wombs of honeycombs, seeking new love with the buzzsaw-like sounds of rampant optimism: seeking the crossroads of altruism and decadence, where life is perfect. On the bright June day when it was at its peak, the flower longed to have a visitor: a bee who would gently land upon its glorious, unfolded earlobe and whisper needs that it alone could satisfy. When the bee came, the flower would cry joyful tears that would keep the earth in the sky.

But between the beehive and the flower, there were the picnic tables, and beside the picnic tables, the great gaping mouths of garbage bins, demanding good citizenship. As the bees gathered and dispersed and raced against each other towards new treasures for the hive, they came upon the garbage bins, filled with discarded cans of soda: Coca Cola, so sweet and sticky; Seven-Up, less thick but stoutly sugary; and that wonderful fizzing purple drink whose stains were just like ambrosia. So delightful were the discarded cans of soda, and so uncontested - for the giant agitated nervous shapes which swung at the bees and jumped up and down as the bees flew nearby had abandoned the two tables nearest to the garbage bins that soon, a great swarm of bees had descended upon the cans, and were reaping all they had to offer.

Beyond the garbage bins filled with the empty shells of powerful sodas, the flower waited, hearing the din on the horizon: the impassioned shouts and cries of the bees from which the flower hoped to find a lover. The bees were like a cavalry of olden days, racing across green hills; like wild young men, naked on horses, shouting as they splash across rivers. They were boisterous, uncontrollable, irresistible, focused with no awareness of being focused as they threw all plans to the winds. The flower had an opening for just such beings, a sweet and willing opening between the giant colors it had dragged from the hiding places of its heart and hoisted as an invitation; a sweet crawl space in the midst of the petals it had forced from its trepidatious soul, the perfect size for a stranger seeking shelter from the freezing winter that the summer is without a kiss. Like manna, the flower had fallen into being from its own sky of dreams, and now it waited, with the architecture of its generosity nestled helplessly amidst offerings of perfume and shameless color. It was the moment of the flower, when the bee is in the sky.

In its heart, the flower knew the ecstasy of the bees, the wild craving, from the tone of the distant droning that it could feel like hot breath upon its face. The flower knew that the bees were hungry for beauty, mad with the desire to alight upon all things that loved them, desperate to explore a million private jungles that had bloomed in the sunshine of their insatiable need; their universe, at this moment, coincided exactly with the universe of flowers, the embrace of bee and flower was written into the eternal fabric of time, down to the hour and the minute. The joyful, unbridled buzzing hovered nearby, roaring a hundred thousand promises of a moment that was the equal of forever.

But the touch of the bee, the gentle sagging of the petals that was like a sigh beneath its tiny feet, the intimate love-making of body to body, of animal to plant, the harmony of joys, the cooperation of desperations, did not occur. The flower waited and waited, but the bees did not come. Instead, they remained by the garbage containers, swarming over the sticky soda cans of the picnickers, which had been discarded into callous mouths of metal and indistinguishable bags of plastic. There, before they ever reached the flower, the bees found what could sustain them, they found shortcuts to the paradise Nature had charted for them in their little minds, they found abundant lodging along the path of their instincts and ended the journey the first place there was a roof.

In amazement, the flower realized that all the brilliant light of the flower-flesh it had struggled to turn itself into, with the thought of bees in the sun and rain and the earth gripping at its roots, had been in vain; the bees could as easily do with sticky soda cans, half-crushed and hurled one after the other into pits of steel.

In the height of June, the flower was alone. The sun shining on its beautiful head wept tears of light all over it. The buzzing of the bees continued in the distance like the taunts of bullies, like the war cries of barbarians pillaging temples. Their euphoria cut the good intentions of the earth like a rusty blade. The flower did not know whether to pity them, or merely to wither.

It was in this summer, which you may remember, that the flower finally decided it had had enough of bees, and closed forever.

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