Poinsettia

Diana Pollin



A plant that wants to be a flower

Make-up half on, half off.  Feel like a  half-Kabuki.  Final dress rehearsal, like a funeral, went on for hours. The twilight hour.  Blink on, nosey neon lights ! ...Like the bluebird, at my window ! Bird of no foul play.   Candy cane red, Bombay Sapphire blue, lizard green or is it yellow ?  The Marquees are on Broadway,  not in Glamis Wood.   We premiere tomorrow . Wudja believe Macbeth? Raaaaaap! Who can that be ? Tissue tissue...my kingdom for a tissue. No time to ...Odd hour for a rap on the door. No Sir Somebody in Particular is expected.   Whoosh, goes the dressing room door and voilà!   A poinsettia alone on the  threshold. A gentleman admirer ... unless it's the teeny bopper who has seen the Ponzi  cold cream commercial?  But where is he or she? The Procurer of the poinsettia. Ah poignant poinsettia!   Your green  green  leaves below and your red red   leaves above know the white hand that...All the perfumes of Araby... But  why?

Beautiful . Sheer Christmas Cheer. God in His Heaven misplaced it as a plant when it really should be a flower.  Look  around. No card, no letter. It finds a spot on her window and chocolatey night behind the peeping tom neon lights  tells her that she is running late and better get that cement factory off her face and stop  chasing butterflies. Sugar Daddies have all shot the breeze  and as for the teeny bopper fan...Nah!

Ah! The mystery of the pointless poinsettia. She thinks. How chilling ! Champagne anyone ? Good idea, there's some in the fridge, spooning with the roses. Undoubtedly. She re-opens the deflowered bottle, pours the hissy bubbly into a glass and toasts the Unseen Purveyor of the Poinsettia and then herself for whom it was intended.  Intended? Who aside from her Kabuki Kream Self loves the poinsettia? Who knows that she loves poinsettias ? No. Nah! Never! Couldn't be!  Has pro'bly been dead for ages but just the thought of death in the dressing room spoils the champagne. So down  you go,  hissy bubbly, do a Titanic, down the sink.  Let bygones be gone. Let  nothing occupy your little active actress brain, Katherine Finnegan nom de stage Falane. Well. Almost Nothing. Kleenex Pulease! A ton of Ponzi cream off and ex Kabuki Katherine  to take a powder, direction a hot bath until the pretty poinsettia window-pane-ing, ditties in with "I keep thinkin', hopin' and prayin'  That you will remember and come back to me". Yes. Yes Yes. That's it ! Big Daddy! That's IT.  It has come back to me. The poinsettia no longer, pointless. The lady is elated. But, the ring of Reason resounds. Call it a day. Stage the exit.  Wish  Jamal, Sylvia and Toby a happy. Phil  will get the taxi. The music will play the home sweet home suite. Only it doesn't.

Katherine the casual ex-Kabuki now dressed in thespian sloppies, decides to forgo the taxi and, impulse-enters  Sardi's in the expectation of... It's  a hoity toity watering hole but as the Poinsettiadexter once said, she is the ultimate actress.  She can and will pull anything off. She can even fool death. So she does a Betty Davis at Sardi's and even that goes over. Can even melt  the Sardi-onic glances of the out of towners out for a good time  at tI'm a square. Dollops of disapproving from the all dolled up. And, already the indignities have started. The Maitre D has shuffled her off to  The Table  Out of Everyone's Sight. She feels frumpy- dumpy and lure-poor.  Should have brought along the mink but you think mink when your world's going down the sink. And brother it's not, not ton nite ! So Showup Frank Castelli Poinsettiadexter showup! "I'll do the cookin' honey, I'll pay the rent..."

Won't poinsettia my sights too high but, a  resoundingly  dippy dippy doo day dithyrambic from The Critics ( the Educated Scowl Brotherhood)  would do for tomorrow night and already her star zoomz on the rocket feeYule  of the sweet unassuming Christmessage plant that Frank Poinsettiadexter Castelli, first boyfriend, first florist of her life sent her after so many years. Old loves like old superstitions never die. So  showwup Frank, showwup as promised  and be a sweetheart, buy her the second of those whiskey sours . " Remember, kid, when ya make Broadway, ya get de record-setting poinsettia  an' drinks at the whatsitscalled  Broadway barh where de bigwigs go?" Sardi's  yeah, Sardi's. And, Frank, Knight of the  Order of the Pointsettia, IT  has come through so showup Poinsettiadexter – showup. And then you can disappear into your  Frank's Finest Flowers in Jackson Heights. Forever! Sweetheart, a third whiskey sour just for the sake of ... and despite the young waiter- actor's  tut-tutting eye movements, she does the third act but Frank of the Finest Flowers shows up not. Gimme a break. I'm thirty five. Youngish for the Part. Everyone down to the ushers is Macbetting on me an' Frank camouflages into the poinsettia. Haven't you Queenies hoid of Macbeth? Its in awl de paypuhs! You can relax wannabenot-less-than-Barrymore –bartender... an' call me a cab. The Queen will to Jackson Heath ride.

Estremamente Commossa

Night already. Sneaks up on you. Even in a cab. Plainly a ride down memory lane.  Stop here an' keep the change. Lights are on at Frank's sweet little clapboard house with garden, of course the prettiest of the neigh-boring hood. But what is this in the house of the First Florist ?  Darkened lights all around. And the mellowyellow glow of candles hinting that something's an unquiet not-right. Women in black. The peppery sounds of Italian but in soft voices. Mantillas and  white hanka-chiffs out and in use. Who are they? The women in black speaking softly with  three banshees, melting into serpent slithers as they muffle wails. Who are you? Como ti chiami?

Dear ladies, my name is Katherine Falane. Your husband-brother-cousin-son-son-in-lore knew me as Katherine Finnegan. We were friends from high school. We used to work the registers at thee ole A yam Pea. We kissed by the swimming hole at blumpty blump in New Jersey and I am now an actress, and I hope, a good one, as the  saying goes. Frank of the Flowers, Frank of the Poinsettia, and I had a little agreement. In case of success on Broadway,  Poinsettia precedes Sardi's precedes Hit. The Broadway kind. Well, Mama mias, the bitch goddess is  out, trampling the daisies. I've done it. Far from Queens and the queenies in the black mantillas ; and I've come to celebrate with Frank who made it all possible because, bubble bubble toil and trouble, nothin' will  be possibol without Frank-Poinsettiadexter.

She goes through gateways of wet lipsticky kisses.  Her cheek does dosados with the fleeting cheeks of others. The women outshine the men in grief. Estremamente commossa, Mrs. Frank Castelli, of uncertain English, dissolves in the First Love's  arms.  Her fingers grip and shake an unseen ball above her head while she gives an undaunted Dante rant to the uncomprehending Kate. A few bored bambini mill about looking like the angels the defunct is supposed to encounter. Death and youth share the same ending if nothing else. And nothing else.

Frank oh Frank. My First  and my Last love. Strike that out. This is not some dumb popular song. It is real and it explains why you were away  and at your wake. But your last thought, was for me.  Estremamente commossa am I. For that stupid post-teenage bet we made. That you remembered until your dying day . The signoras and the padres have all shuffled out. Autograph signing will be held after. I wanna be left alone with you.

The Dead are in good wid...

The chamber, a cappella funeraria, strewn with poinsettias, right  and left, green and red , green and white, are the hanging gardens of Babylon and Frank, the Lord Nebu  in his casket asleep, grease-painted like we never do on the stage. Awful in the highest. Don Dracula.

"Not a nice thing to think," says the Don as he rises from the coffin. "But true. Come gimme a kiss. Don' tell me I'm lookin' great. But very very commosso that you are here. And that you made it. And you made it big."

"Oh Frank, what can I do for you? Anything to express my deepest love and appreciation..."

"Don't get sniffly on me Funny Finny. Look.  Send me off wid a big bang. Wid the scene that will bring down the house. That will really be sumpin."

"Glamis thou art,  and Cawdor, and shalt be What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o'th milk..."

"Yeah yeah!  Stop.   There's a rest aftuh art and anuder after nature; both expressing the same things. The true charactuh of de proto-agonist shows up  an' ya gotta respect that."

"But Frank..."

"I know, I know. When I wuz alive, I nevuh opened a book. But, it's diff'rent now. The Dead  are in good wid de hi-yuh powers. So, Funny Finny, the sit-you-wation is slightly diff'rent. Read me the whole speech. I'll be wazhisface. An' yewl do his old lady. An' give it all ya got!"

Sleep blows like  Banquo's ghost. They run on Heaven powered batteries.  Strutting and fretting to the poinsettias as a nice clapboard in Jackson Heights sees the sun rise over Great Birnam wood. Frank the First florist, a perfect Macbeth and Kate, his perfect Lady.  Who collapses like a blanket in the coffin. The kindly commossas signoras, let her sleep. Their Madonna faces melting into smiles. They will have the elegance not to ask her for autographs.

Sleep no more! Morning and mourning. Time for the funeral. And it's like Omigod! What funeral?  Hers of course. She has missed it. SHE HAS MISSED THE WHOLE DAMN THING! A taxi! A taxi! The battle's lost and ...

Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee and the Vulture.

They are all there, her welcoming committee. Lined up like tin soldiers in her distressing room.  She dare not go to the fridge for champagne and even has to ask permission to smoke. Her voice no longer needs the honey tones. What the hell. Shoulda known. Never drink champagne before... Oh Shut up Kate the Dead Kissed. You know where  stupid superstitions lead to. Now beg beg beg. To come back to where you have never been in the first place. The plant that wants to be a flower never will. Face the firing squad. Drag on that cigarette and hope it won't be the last. Yeah. Missed the night of your life. Missed your life.

The first battalion of demons. Her agent. Her press agent. Her manager. Shocked in their socks as Kate the Dead Kissed arrives bleary eyed and eating her Kate entrails out. Also her understudy has upstaged her. She's like last year's paypuhs.

Then there's Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, black clad and the Silent Partner, the Vulture. The Tweedles do the tawking. They're the legal guys and they are all" according tos" and "to wits "and "party's that breach" and they page turn in sync. They at least know their scripts. But the worst for last. The Vulture. Don't know who he represents. Someone from the theatre management.

"Miss Falane. You have brought on untold embarrassment to the theatre and its management. You have acted more than childishly. I would say that you have acted with foolish abandon and we cannot justify your irrational and erratic behaviour. In view of these circumstances, we, the theatre, demand that you remove your belongings from our premises. Your champagne, your make-up, your jewels... a complete inventory will be drawn up. You will, however leave the poinsettia. As it was delivered to you by mistake"





Diana Pollin studied writing, French and History at New York University and at the Sorbonne University in Paris. After a career in ESL teaching and translating in France, she is devoting most of her spare time to writing. She lives in Marseilles which, like her native New York, is a crucible of cultures. She has been published in MicroHorror Fiction, Bewildering Stories, 63 channels and Abjective and is finishing a first novel.