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Saturday, 6 October 2012

His Xanadu

my first rose of the season
The Adelaide Hills growing season is typically about six weeks behind the Plains, or at least mine is when compared with a friend’s garden in the northeastern suburbs.  Yellow-flowering plants have a tough time in my garden because they normally prefer full sun and my garden is mostly semi-shade. I really enjoy the yellow roses that add floral sunshine to my view.

The short story this week centres on a garden, a far more planned and perfected one than mine. Nevertheless, all is not as it seems in paradise…

His Xanadu
The air is warm and sweet with the subtle scents of pine and citrus mingled with just the right amount of frangipani. Michael breathes it in slowly, each step of his sojourn in the garden of his dreams bringing a new and exquisite cocktail of fragrance. Living perfume, he says to himself. As glorious, as perfect as the forms of the plants which offered these delectable aromas, as the fluorescence of the flashing wings of parrots fluttering among the delicate marble turrets above him, as the melodious thrummings of the harp strings hidden within those spires.
            How he had laboured to build his dream, the palace to surpass the fabled pleasure-dome of Kublai Khan himself. He had planned, he had sought craftsmen inculcated in the mastery of their trade, sourced the matchless materials, he had watched and inspected, corrected, even demanded parts rebuilt until the dream was satisfied. Now all that remained to be done was to revel in the feast to his senses that unfolded each waking day within his paradise, his Xanadu.
            Scanning again the indescribable beauty all around him, his senses heightened, Michael notices movement on the path ahead of him. Looking more closely, he sees a Rottweiler nosing something on the ground, something small and living. He steps closer, still more conscious of the mellifluous tumble of the crystal stream than the rumble of the dog's response to its toy.
            The dog plays with a mouse. Michael watches absently, his well-ordered paradise still joyful. Suddenly the dog jumps, pouncing almost catlike on the small creature, and Michael is roused from his reverie. The worrying of the great black beast at the defenseless mouse stirs a gust of passion within the man.
            'Leave it alone, Shadow,' he commands. The dog pays no attention.
            The contempt of the dog goads Michael to unpremeditated action. He picks up a stone from the gravel bed next to the path, an angular weight of pink marble which fits comfortably into the crook of his fingers, and throws it at the black dog.
            Now the dog heeds him. An initial yelp, a savage bite, and then its tail between its legs and its nose dripping, it looks at Michael. Waiting.
            Michael's sight is fixed on the spreading drops of bright blood splashing onto the pristine white of the paved path. Worse is the sporadic thrashing of a piece of grey fur at the dog's feet. Michael's stomach clenches.
            He strokes the dog's head. 'Poor Shadow, your snout is hurt.' The dog's tail thumps once, twice. 'Go,' Michael commands. The dog obeys, trotting off in the direction the man points, its nails clipping the stone with a faint 'tick, tick' and a thin trail of blood marking the way.
            There by the misplaced stone lies the mouse, broken by the bite of the surprised dog, neither dead nor alive. It cannot stay, this blot, this insult to beauty, this illogic in the perfectly logical. Michael wipes a suddenly sweaty brow. He is alone. He would have to finish it off. His stomach lurches, the stench of flesh strong in his nostrils, the ugliness of death taking place in the heart of beauty's realm a travesty which offends him to the core. He will not allow himself to be sullied by this act. He tears at a nearby tree, ripping a broad leaf from the bough, splintering the soft timber. He nudges the leaf under the twitching rodent and stands. With carefully controlled steps, avoiding the spattered trail, he walks to the water and throws the malodorous bundle into the singing stream which carries it away, out of sight.
            Michael sighs, a deep breath as of a man recovering from a blow to the chest. It is gone. He takes another path. Yet he feels disturbed. How had his paradise been invaded by such ugliness? What force is at work to disrupt and destroy the glory he has created?
            He paces his paradise, oblivious to its charms as he wrestles with foreboding.

Until next week…
Claire Belberg

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