Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I scrunch my face to the greenhouse window and eyeball the throng of orchidmaniacs, all agog to get inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens to admire Platanthera yosemitensis, a rare and foul-smelling fug of a flower. Stuff a gym sock with gazpacho, bake it in horse manure, then spritz it with skunk juice, you won’t begin to rival the aroma of this dainty bog orchid. Unless, of course, you consider the cadaver-scented corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum. But I never had the privilege of waxing in the waft of its rotting flesh aroma. So, until then, Platanthera yosemitensis remains, for moi, the grand opus of stink. And today it has reached pitch perfect putrification.

I should know. I work the sanitation crew at the Conservatory. Night shifts, mostly. My job is to tidy up. People leave cookie crumbs and bits of tuna sandwiches and hot dogs lying about. In my opinion, humans are way bigger slobs than their simian cousins. One night I found an entire wiener stuffed into an Oncidium sphacelatum. I had to call in crews from all over The Gardens. It took us hours to sweep the joint.

The next morning I was in a foul mood. Indigestion probably. Usually, I’m pretty good with the tourists, mellow, stay out of their way while they smoosh their fat proboscis into the fragile blooms. But that morning, some old fart leaned way over, and stuck his jowly face into a gorgeous Cattleya aurantiaca. And just when his bulbous beak was smacking up the scent, I peaked from behind the petal and spit in his eye. HA! Sent him screaming out the door, covered head to toe in horripilation.

Me and the crew had a good laugh about that. But to tell you the truth, I’m ready for a change. My family has been working the sanitation crew at The Gardens since they opened 250 years ago. I’ve always been an orchid guy. Kind of sensitive, fond of beauty. But I hear there’s an opening in the cafeteria. And that does appeal to the gourmand in me.

I have a cousin, thrice removed, who worked in the caf when she was a kid. She loved it. In fact, she’s full of stories about her salad days. She said she could get me in if I was serious.

It would take some doing. The cafeteria is a long ways away and there’s a lot of foot traffic between here and there. We’d abscond after dark, of course. Keeping careful watch for the unsavory characters who creep through the night. Like rats. Ugh. Sends a shiver down my leg spines - just the thought of those squalid vermin infesting The Gardens. But my cuz says not to worry. Our fifth column is well established in the caf, ready to lend tactical support for forced entry, or God forbid, rat patrol.

But I don’t know. I can’t decide. Like now, just when I think I’m ready for a change, I settle into a downy petal and stretch out my knees - all eighteen of them. I breathe through my cheeks and sniff with my feelers. I get a stiff whiff of Platanthera yosemitensis, the odiferous bog orchid. And the symphony of smell sends my cerci aquiver. I whisper to my Blattodea brethren, “Wooo mama, there’s no place like home…”

The end

This story was written for the creative writing challenge. String these ten words together: agog; fug; horripilation; Kew Gardens; abscond; gazpacho; simian; fifth column; opus; salad days. The story practically wrote itself. I stand agog at the final opus. I hope you enjoyed "Filth at The Gardens."


df63 said...

I really like this story! I can't wait to read more!

Lynn Montgomery said...

I'm glad you liked it. It was fun to write. It is for a contest on In fact, I had so much fun with it that Terrie (my wonderful illustrator friend) and I decided to turn it into a specialty gift book to be sold at Gardens and Museums. We already have three venues here in Santa Barbara that want to stock it. So we put it on our production list for ZuZu Petals Publishing. First - BUTT UGLY, then HANNAH SMASHED BANANA, then FILTH AT THE GARDENS. And they will all be printed on recycled, unbleached paper! No trees will be harmed in the making of my books.

df63 said...

Great! I'd like to help support a company with this philosophy - having great stories would be enough, but I can really feel good about buying a book on tree-free paper AND having my children read wonderful stories!

Anonymous said...

I always feel different and better each time I read your words. They stay with me and days and months later reappear in my mind as insightful and funny quideposts. I am always on the lookout for your latest contribution to my consciousness and the one we all share.

Jackie said...

I love it Lynn! So cute & imaginative :)