With thanks and apologies to Pet Fly, and proceeding under the assumption that forgiveness is easier to ask than permission....
Obsenad: short piece written for the Senad mailing list.
Jim sniffed, snorted, bypassed his nose to breath through his mouth and tried to ignore the sliminess filling the back of his throat. Herbs dried, shredded and buried in tomato sauce he could handle ... herbs in pots, stretching themselves in the summer sun and infusing the air with a riot of spicy fragrance were more than he could tolerate. He gripped his nose firmly between thumb and forefinger, pinched back a sneeze in development, and yawned to clear his ears.
"Chief, jud get wad you deed ad led's ged oud ob here, OK?"
His misery was lost on Blair, whose attention was divided between browsing through the herbs lined up like soldiers on the nursery shelves, balancing a half dozen clay pots of already-selected plants on a flimsy cardboard box lid, and avoiding tripping over the nursery cat who was exploiting the entertainment value of Blair's untied sneaker lace. Head tilted sideways to read the small labels stuck in the containers, Blair's hair hung low; brown curls captured blossoms and tiny new leaves and beads of oil from rosemary, thyme, basil, and lemon grass as they brushed the tips of the foliage. Jim would have thought the sight and smell utterly endearing, if his eyes and nose hadn't been rapidly swelling shut.
"Yeah, yeah, Jim. OK. Movin' on, man."
Bobbing his head like one of those small dogs that people put in the back windows of their cars, Blair moved down the aisle toward the open end of the greenhouse. To Jim's relief, they soon left the herb section behind and found themselves knee-deep in gallon pots of perennials. He breathed deeply of the slightly clearer air.
"Wow, Jim, check this out!"
Blair bounced in excitement; the box lid flexed and the pots rattled, and Blair ducked a shoulder and pivoted his body in a uniquely graceless move that nonetheless spared the herbs from tumbling onto the gravel path. He knelt and placed his collection of purchases on the ground, gave the tabby cat a quick pat, grabbed a gallon pot of ... something ... from the rows of plants, and held it up for Jim to see.
"I don't believe it!" he crowed.
Jim knuckled his bleary eyes. "Wad, Chief?"
"Look, man! Look at the name!"
Jim tried to focus, blinking rapidly, but could see only a blur of lettering.
"Sandburg, I cuden'd read a billbowd on de side ob de road ride dow."
For the first time, Blair focused on his friend ... the eyes red and teary, the nose red and running, the cheeks red and ruddy.
Jim couldn't believe it. His Guide, ordinarily so sensitive to the Sentinel's well-being, should have been wracked with guilt over what he'd been putting Jim through. In fact, Jim had been anticipating that guilt, counting on it, planning on using it to get Blair to drive home, cook dinner, and maybe rub his temples and then his back and then his....
But Blair was laughing.
"Wad's so fuddy?"
Blair choked, pointed at the plant in his hand, and laughed some more.
"Sandburg ... "
With obvious effort, Blair responded to the warning in Jim's tone and tried to get himself under control. "Sorry, man." He gulped, choked, swallowed again, and grinned widely.
"It's just ... hee hee ... well, this plant ... the name is 'Astilbe, Red Sentinel'."
"Asdilbe. Red Sedinel. Ride. And dis is fuddy becaud...?"
The grin widened.
"Because, Jim ... well, hell, right now you're the reddest Sentinel I've ever seen in my life."
~ 30 ~