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Cheeriness Planted


by nut862

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The mossy wooden dock creaked under the blue Shoyru's feet as she walked towards the edge of it, carrying a rented fishing pole in her hand. I followed her, trailing my Striped Kiko fins against the moist wood. There were a few other pets already sitting on the edge of the dock, waiting patiently with their fishing lines bobbing in the water below. Sparkler and I sat down at a far end of the wooden platform, and she cast her line into the cavern lake.

     I was eager to get this fishing trip over with so that we could return to the surface, and I could return to my Slorg. My Petpet is my greatest joy, but he can't come with us under the sea. For this reason, I usually didn't go with Sparkler on her daily visits to the Underwater Fishing Hole. Today, though, I had decided to accompany her.

     As I watched the bobber floating in the water, the metal fishhook hidden below the surface, I felt a bit of a thrill at the prospect of reeling in a sunken treasure. "Do you think we'll catch anything good today?" I asked, slightly hopefully.

     "Good?" said Sparkler in a bored tone. "What is good? All we ever get from the Underwater Fishing Hole is junk. We never use anything we catch, unless you count the kelp that we planted in the garden, but you can only plant so much kelp before the garden gets filled up."

     "Yeah…" It was true that our inventory and Safety Deposit Box were overflowing with the unused items we'd caught from the fishing hole on previous visits, but I still hoped to one day catch something worthwhile. Sparkler had a point, though; what was worthwhile? Maybe an avatar…

     Sparkler began reeling in her line. "Another Old Rotten Left Shoe," she mumbled, plucking the soggy piece of footwear from her hook. "If our owner didn't tell me to do this every day, I'd never fish again." She handed the fishing pole to me. "Your turn, Lulu."

     "Me?" I was surprised, but I took the rod in my fin, despite being doubtful of my fishing skill. "I'll probably catch an Old Rotten Right Shoe, to match your left one," I said jokingly to Sparkler.

     I let the line down into the water and waited eagerly for a bite. It wasn't long before the hook suddenly sank with a heavy weight. I had caught something, but it didn't feel like a fish. It didn't feel like a rotten boot either, though, and I reeled in my line quickly, curious to see what I had caught.

     The line rose dripping from the water, and at its end, the fishhook was clinging to the fragile edge of a heavy-looking seashell. Sprouting from within the pale pink and orange seashell's elaborate swirls was a thin-stemmed sea plant with broad, bright green leaves. The plant seemed to have an extra element of life, not just because of its very healthy color, but because each leaf had a face. Two small black eyes and a wide, cheerful smile looked up at me from each leaf.

     I loved the plant instantly. I unhooked the seashell carefully from the fishing line and cradled the plant in my fins. Its bright green leaves waved slightly, as if to say hello, and its bright eyes blinked at me. I smiled back at them.

     "It's a Cheery Plant," Sparkler observed. "We've never caught one of those before."

     I nodded, enchanted with the beautiful little plant growing from a seashell. "Hello, Cheery Plant," I whispered to the bright green leaves. The faces smiled back at me.

     I carried the plant carefully on the way home, delighting in looking at the smiling leaves. I couldn't take my eyes off of the happy plant. I was sure that it would be a delight to our house for times to come.

     When we reached home, Sparkler swung open the door and ran into the house; I followed, carrying the plant inside. My Blue Slorg came crawling up to meet me, a wide smile on his face.

     "Oh, Slugger, did you miss me? I'm sorry I was gone for so long," I told him, petting his slimy back. "But look what I brought, Slugger! Isn't it a beautiful plant?"

     I tilted the seashell I was carrying towards him, and the plant's large leaves smiled at my Slorg. Slugger moved back a bit, seeming surprised. I giggled.

     "You're back, Lulu," Floater, a blue Flotsam, observed. "Did you catch anything?"

     I showed her the Cheery Plant proudly. My Rainbow Quiggle brother, Quiggler, joined us in the front hallway. He had a huge grin on his face, as always. He's almost always cheerful. "That's a friendly-looking plant," he said, looking at my prized catch. The Cheery Plant smiled back at him. "What will you do with it?"

     Nut, my owner, suggested, "Why don't you put it in the garden?"

     I beamed, delighted with the idea, and headed out of the house. I made my way across the lawn to the "Spring Garden", which was the second of our grand total of two gardens. We called it Spring Garden mostly because Nut liked the sound of the name, since the garden itself had absolutely nothing to do with either the season or coiled-up lengths of metal, or anything else for that matter.

     I stepped carefully into the garden, avoiding the many weeds that had somehow sprouted up over the small time period of a year since we'd built the garden. I brushed past the Rubber Plant on the way, causing it to bounce and jiggle. I wrinkled my nose at the thick coat of dirt that had accumulated atop the pale pink lawn table that I had once begged Nut to buy for our garden. I realized just how much neglect this garden had seen; we rarely ever came out here. It made me sad to see the plants and ornaments sagging with depression. At least the new Cheery Plant would liven up the garden, once it was planted. Now, where to plant it?

     I thought of planting it with the rest of our catches from the Underwater Fishing Hole, but the Cheery Plant seemed too special to throw among the tangled jumble of green and brown kelp, queer spongy algae, and odd cubical sea funguses. Instead, I chose to plant it next to the twirling stems of the lovely pink rowzez that Quiggler had given to me for last year's birthday. It seemed fitting, despite the fact that, I noticed with alarm, the rowzez were drooping and looked slightly wilted.

     I cleared away a space on the weed-ridden ground and carefully dug out a hole in the dirt. I put the seashell into the hole and filled it in again. The Cheery Plant flared upright from the earth, its vibrant green leaves and smiling faces standing out among the dust and weeds. I shook my head. This garden did need work, a lot of work, to make it pleasant again.

     The Cheery Plant seemed to sense my thoughts; its leaves swayed in agreement. That settled it; I was going to restore this garden, for the Cheery Plant's sake. I never wanted to see the happy plant wilt like we'd allowed the others in the garden to do. I gathered up the pile of weeds I'd pulled and went into the house, knowing that I would return to the garden soon.

      * * * * * * * *

     Over the next many days, I went out to the garden every morning, with Slugger at my side. Nut didn't think that having a Slorg in a garden was a very good idea, but Slugger didn't hurt anything; I made sure of that. He helped amuse me, chasing worms and trying to eat the weeds. I worked hard at yanking weeds, watering the plants, and cleaning the lawn table.

     When I grew tired, the Cheery Plant was always there, smiling at me. Its leaves bobbed when there was no wind, waving to say hello and goodbye, always smiling. It kept my spirits up, encouraging me to continue my garden work. It seemed almost to help the other plants grow, as well, for almost as soon as I began tending the garden, the rowzez perked up and their delicate pink petals opened once again, the purple pebeanjays bloomed, and even the sea fungus and spongy algae perked up a bit. The Rubber Plant stayed the same, bouncing and jiggling, not wilting nor growing. Sometimes I wondered if it was really alive.

     The Cheery Plant was alive. I felt a connection with it, a bond between the plant's leafy smiles and myself. It wasn't just a plant; it was a friend.

     "Hello, plant," I said as I entered the garden that day.

     The Cheery Plant waved to me, its smiles lighting the air. I watered the plants and then sat down and began tugging at weeds. The sun poured down on me, making me hot, and some of the weeds were prickly. Every so often, I looked up at the plant again. With its smiles to encourage me, I returned to my work.

     "See you tomorrow," I said to the plant cheerfully as I left the garden for the day.

     It took weeks of hard work, but the garden eventually became carpeted in healthy green grass instead of weeds, and the plants stood joyfully upright. I enjoyed visiting the garden now, often spending quite some time there. The Cheery Plant was no longer the only point of interest there. All of the plants mattered. I paid attention to them all.

     Today, as usual, I went into the garden with a watering can and sprinkled each of the plants. Then I sat down and looked up at the bright blue sky above. It was peaceful out in the garden. I was glad I had taken the time to make it that way, and I hoped it would never fall into neglect again. I was glad for the Cheery Plant; if I hadn't caught it at the fishing hole that day, I would never have bothered with the garden. I turned to smile at the Cheery Plant.

     I was met with a shock. The plant's leaves were drooping. Its lively green color was faded, and, worst of all, the faces were not smiling. The corners of the mouths were turned down, and the plant's eyes looked at me with sorrow, not with the joy that they always had in the past. What was wrong?

     I quickly grabbed the watering can and gave the plant an extra dose of water, wondering if it was too dry. It was a sea plant, after all, and accustomed to being submerged in water. The water seeped into the ground around the plant, but its expression didn't change. I looked at the plant pleadingly, wishing it would tell me what was wrong. The plant looked at me back, even more pleadingly. Its beady eyes were sad with longing.

     I couldn't stand to see it looking like that. I picked up the watering can and Slugger, and went into the house.

     "Something's wrong with my Cheery Plant!" I announced to my siblings, visibly upset.

     "Isn't it still cheery?" Quiggler asked.

     "No. It's wilting, and it looks sad!" I said unhappily.

     "Have you been taking care of it?" Floater asked.

     "Of course I have. I water it every day and there are no weeds anywhere near it."

     Sparkler looked thoughtful for a moment, and then she said, "Well, it's a sea plant, Lulu. Maybe it's not meant for living out in the air."

     The suggestion made my heart drop. "It was doing fine until now!" I defended my plant. "Besides, the kelp and the sponge algae are sea plants, and nothing's wrong with them."

     "Well, every plant is different," Sparkler said. She shrugged. "I don't know for sure what's wrong with the plant. It was just an idea."

     "It's been fine until now," I murmured softly. "It can live happily in our garden. I know it can." It had to. I didn't think I could ever let it go.

      * * * * * * * *

     Every day, and frequently within each day, I went out to the garden to see if the Cheery Plant had changed its mood. It never did; its condition only worsened. The leaves drooped and began to shrivel, and the faces on the leaves became more forlorn day by day. I hated to see the plant looking like that. I tried everything I could think of to revive it; nothing helped, and the plant only looked sadder. I felt terrible. What had I done wrong?

     My siblings were concerned. "You're awfully upset over…a plant," Sparkler said, her voice trying to be comforting. "You shouldn't worry about it so much, Lulu. It's only a plant…"

     It may have been "only" a plant, but it was still a living thing, a fact that I feared would soon be untrue. I returned to the garden and looked at the plant. "Please tell me how I can save you," I begged it quietly.

     The plant only looked at me sadly, its bright black eyes shining wet. It looked longing… homesick, in fact. The plant's withered leaves sprouted from a single thin stalk buried in the ground. I looked at the earth below it and remembered the large seashell from which the plant grew. It was buried, hidden from view. I hadn't seen the pink and orange swirls since the day I'd brought home the plant.

     On impulse, I began digging up the soil around the no-longer-cheery plant. I dug up the plant and lifted it out of the hole by its seashell. The shell was streaked with dirt, and its pink and orange waves were dusty. I looked at the shell and the plant, both tired, both wilting, both dirty. They didn't belong here. The Cheery Plant was meant to grow underwater.

     I looked at the plant, a sudden flicker of hope filling my mind. If I returned it to the sea, would it grow again? I hadn't wanted to let the plant leave my garden, but it was more painful to watch it slowly dying than to let it go. I thought of how the plant had smiled at me all the time while I helped revive the rest of the garden. Now that the other plants were thriving, this plant had wilted. I couldn't repay its friendship by letting it wither.

     I made my decision. Later that day, when Sparkler left the house to go to the Underwater Fishing Hole, I went with her, taking the plant with me. But while my sister sat on the dock and fished, I swam out to the world beyond, to Maraqua.

     Colorful coral rose up from the sea bottom, and all types of seaweed and kelp waved in the water. I swam around, carrying the plant and its seashell carefully, ignoring all the pets swimming around me. I glanced at the plant, and noticed that though it still looked wilted, its eyes were now looking around alertly. It seemed to recognize its home.

     Feebly, the plant lifted a withered leaf and waved it, as it used to do so often in greeting. I looked in the direction it had waved, and was surprised to see a small group of smiling plants growing wild from the Maraquan soil. Their large, vibrant green leaves and wide smiles looked exactly like my Cheery Plant had before. I knew that this was the place.

     I swam over and pressed the seashell down in place among the other Cheery Plants. The other plants moved in, their smiling faces turning with curiosity to the newcomer. Their leaves waved friendlily, and, for the first time in such a while, my Cheery Plant's mouths turned up into smiles once again. Wilted though it was, it was happy again; the first step on the way to recovery had been taken. I could no longer call it my own plant, but I would never forget it. Every time I entered my garden, I would remember the plant that had smiled at me every day from the soil as I worked to revive the other flowers.

     I looked at the Cheery Plants one last time, and then I turned and swam away towards the Underwater Fishing Hole. I met Sparkler as she was walking up the dock. In her arms was a Cheery Plant.

     I was shocked. "You caught another one?"

     "Yes, I did," Sparkler said. "Do you want it to replace yours?"

     For a brief moment I considered planting it with the other wild plants that I had just found, but then I thought of the empty space in my garden beside the pink rowzez, that the other Cheery Plant had occupied. The rowzez would be lonely with nothing there, and it would be nice to see smiling faces in my garden again, if not the same ones. The other Cheery Plant hadn't been able to live away from the sea, but perhaps this one might be happy in my garden…

     "Yes," I decided. "I want it."

     So I brought the Cheery Plant home and planted it in my garden, next to the rowzez. Right away, I could tell it was not the same. It seemed bleached of all personality, cold to my attempts to befriend it. It was only then that I realized that I don't know how to befriend a plant. The other plant was naturally joyful and vibrant, but this plant…it didn't seem to truly mean its smiles.

     It stands there, starkly upright, its many leaves smiling blankly and its eyes' meaningless cheeriness masking a dull sheen. The plant only waves its leaves when there is a wind, and even then it is involuntary. It just smiles tiredly day in and day out. It did not wilt like the first plant; it only stands, frozen in its forced cheeriness at all times.

     I wish that the first plant could have stayed in my garden forever. I've never gone back to Maraqua to see how it is doing, but I like to think that it is smiling happily all day long, and is healthy once again. It is free out in the water, and it deserves to be free.

     I know now that every plant is different. The remembrance of the first one has planted a love of the garden in my heart forever.

The End

 
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