1965-06-01 - Clearly it was the Ficus
Summary: Halgrim, Carson and Elmo meet at the Friends of the Horticultural Society's plant sale and discuss party tricks and the merits of hiding things society may not be interested in seeing.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
elmo halgrim carson 


.~{:--------------:}~.


It's a lovely day for a plant sale, which the Friends of the Horticultural Society are grateful for, because no one wants to buy wilting plants. They've set up their long line of tables on a modest field next to one of the Park's central paths, making them easy to spot by passer-by. At one end is a table for information (because who wouldn't want to join?), while at the other are the cashiers; between these is a long series of plants for sale. All kinds of plants: one table is fresh cut, wildflower bouquets (featuring all the lovely iris breeds who bloom this time of year); another table sports drought- and heat-tolerant plants from the south and southwest (the leopard lillies from Oregon are especially popular); still another is so-called house-plants, including the ubiquitous maidenhair ferns and spiderplants everyone knows so well, and a few exotics donated by collectors.

Halgrim is hovering at this last table, a small, flat box in hand with one maidenhair fern in it. He's eyeing the 'air plants' (aka tillandsias, but someone among the Friends apparently thinks average buyers won't recognize the name) with a mix of skepticism and curiosity. The people manning the table seem somewhat reluctant to interact with him, but he's paying them no mind at the moment.


Anything that involves a lot of plants is likely to lure Carson out of hiding, even if the 'lot of plants' comes with lots of weird, greasy humans. He likes to come and see that the plants being sold are in good health, and rescue the ones that are not. Carson is currently toting an ill looking ficus when he notices the man eyeing up the tillandsias but receiving no interaction from the people manning that table. That does seem rather odd to him, but it also seems rather odd that Carson is carrying around a dying ficus he actually paid money for too. There's plenty of odd here.

"Most Tillandsias are ephiphytes, means they grow atop of other plants and get all their moisture from the air, the rain and any debris around them." He offers as he sets down his dying ficus. "I.. I'm not sure that's the question you had written on your face but if you've got another one and these…" What was a good word for humans that was not 'humans'? "Uhm… guys, won't tell you, I can." Guys. Yeah, that was a good one.


Halgrim gives Carson a brief, puzzled look, and glances up at the Friends who are hovering as close to the table as they can without making themselves too close to Halgrim. He gets a rueful look on his face and goes back to poking among the air plants. "Thank you," he says, sounding sincere. "I don't blame them, or anything, it's just that I seem to put people off." He shrugs, and nods at a cluster of bulbous tillandsia. "So, they don't need soil? At all? You just, set them on your shelf, and that's that?"


"They are rather hardy, no you don't need to pot them. They are rather hardy but you will need to protect them from frost and mist them and if you add a pinch of soil to what you're misting them with, it acts like a fertilizer." Carson explains. He reaches towards the cluster that Halgrim has his eye on and when Carson touches them, they seem to shift, grow slightly bigger.


Halgrim blinks at the plants and leans in, curious. He seems about to say something, stops himself, and straightens. He smiles at the Horticulturalists, two of whom (the older ones, a stocky Latina and a wiry East Asian man) smile back, if fanitly. The younger, blond, blue eyed teen with them keeps a perfectly straight face that threatens to break into a grimace at any moment. Halgrim takes two of the larger tillandsias, adds them to his box. He turns to Carson and nods at his ailing ficus. "Personal project?" he asks, eyebrows rising.


Carson looks down at his ficus, picking it up and setting it on his hip. He drops his voice low, meant for only Halgrim's ears. "You want to see another magic trick? I know you saw that one." He nods at the plant he'd made move and finds it in him to wink at Halgrim, which is truly a feat in and of itself. "I always take the plants that look the least healthy at these sales for a reason. Might have to get you away from everyone else to show you though. They don't like my sorts around… anywhere."


Halgrim is some time in responding to Carson's suggestion. His stare is that of someone thinking things over very, very carefully; it's almost birdlike, the way his dark eyes betray a lot of activity in almost no movement. Presently, he nods at the cashier's table and begins moving that way. "It, ah…can't be very safe, though—trusting a random person to a thing like that?" he says, his voice conversational but low.


"It's not really safe to trust anyone anywhere, is it, um…" What do you call someone you don't know the name of? "My man? Did you know that we as humans decide to trust someone within 33 milliseconds? So, I've clearly already made that decision… or decided not to, by now." Carson explains and jerks his chin forward to a place that isn't quite as crowded.


Halgrim makes a low mmmming sound as they approach the cashiers. "But is that decision based on useful information, or the prejudices and notions society has bred into us? Is it a worthy gut instinct, or habit?" The young black girl who takes his money, unlike those manning the house plants table, doesn't seem put off by him; she asks him if he has any questions, and tells him how to care for his chosen tillandsias ("Wow! Look at these, so nice—I might have to get some for my mom," she comments) and fern, and sends him on his way. He takes up his box and waits for Carson.


Carson likes this guy, the way he speaks sounds like the exact same way Carson is trying to do this whole conversing thing and it's so relieving, to spout a fact off and have it met by another fact, a question for him to elaborate further on something. Oh how delightful! Hell, he even smiles at Halgrim as if he's asked him for the secret to the universe. "Well, perhaps I should have said that our brain decides whether or not to trust someone within 33 milliseconds, it's truly only one molecule, oxytocin, that controls our trust. Those of us with more of it trust easier, those with less, well that sort of explains itself." He explains nodding to the girl, glad to see that she is at least approachable to this man. He pays for his dying ficus as well. The girl does tell him that he may prefer another one but he insists this one is fine and insists on paying full price though he knows she's trying to be kind. "Not always can our brains be trusted to make useful decisions or right decisions on their own."


"Oh, that's for certain," Halgrim says, his tone wry. He gestures further along the field, towards a stand of trees that offer a fair amount of shade, and just enough privacy to keep them out of eavesdroppers but in sight of others. His accent gets a little stronger as they move away from the plant sale, the Scandanavian lilt strengthening. "I suppose it just comes back to a need to always be evaluating ourselves internally. Perhaps not to the extent our self esteem suffers, but certainly enough to prevent making errors of grave judgment."


"You know, sir, it certainly sounds a lot like you believe I am making one of those such mistakes right now and I think that it's quite unfair for you to tell me how my mind should work. Already it doesn't bend to the rules of society." Carson says, but he is still smiling, this is the most beneficial and lovely conversations he's had in awhile. "Does this mean that you don't want to see my magic trick because then I have brought you all the way out here for just a disappointing conversation where you try to convince my mind to conform for your, possibly ill concieved notions about yourself and that's certainly no fun." He sets his dying ficus down and kneels beside it.


Halgrim laughs; it sounds heartfelt, but like something he's not used to doing very often. "Well, far be it for me to convince you not to show me your…magic trick." He says that last bit carefully, to emphasize how he knows it's a euphamism they're indulging in. He sobers, reluctantly letting mirth give way to regret. "And it's reasonable to warn people when there are things they can't anticipate or predict."


For some reason, this man's laugh pulls a smile onto Carson's face and it also settles there somewhat uncomfortably, as if he hasn't much practice with it, and well, it's not often he enjoys conversation with anyone else that isn't leafy in nature. "Ahhh, so the set of cards up your sleeve just might be carnivorous in nature and may jump out and bite me. I see. That is rather unfortunate." Carson frowns. "I cannot harm you with mine… well, I could perhaps but I would not and you may see it coming if I did." He settles his hands on the edge of the pot and begins speaking to the plant in some low, hushed tone and it sounds like Spanish. After a moment he moves his hands into the soil and the tree blooms a vibrant green as if it had never experienced a close brush with death at all.


Halgrim swallows visibly and glances away. There's a sense of a shroud drawing over him, an unwelcome memory that's never far. "It's unpredictable, as I said." But whatever might have been bothering him takes a back seat when the ficus is renewed, and he kneels down to look at it. "Oj, vad vackert," he says in a hushed voice. He stops just short of touching the leaves. "How—how do you do it?"


"I gave her what you might call a pep talk of sorts. You may touch her, I haven't done anything to her molecular structure to harm you." He encourages and gestures towards the plant. "It's only one of my many magic tricks, but I just told her to live, so she did. I can also," He reaches into the soil again and the ficus moves, one of the branches comes out to brush the tip of Halgrim's nose before Carson removes his hand. "Make them move."


"Molecular structure?" Halgrim seems about to take Carson up on the suggestion of checking the plants leaves, but when it touches his knows he jerks back up to his feet. For a second he merely stands there, looking like he's balancing precariously on a ledge only he can see. This tense moment lasts for a handful of breaths, and then he exhales. He seems smaller now (despite his size), and more tired than he was even moments ago. "Sorry, I just wasn't…expecting that," he says at last. "It's very amazing. Do they have—minds, then, if you will? Souls?"


Carson holds up his hands in a surrendering motion when Halgrim jumps up suddenly. "They have analogous structures but to me, they can speak. I have always thought they had souls but, not to anyone but me, it seems. As in, science says no, my.. um… party trick, says yes. I may be the only person in this universe that believes all plants go to heaven." He smiles. "To me, when I communicate them, they feel pain, they can say that they are hurting, if I say, touch a tree, with a scarred trunk, they can tell me that it hurt. When I felt her, she tells me she has no will to live. They can tell me they are hungry, they are thirsty, they feel sick, as plants can also get infections. So to me, yes, they have will, soul, heart but for you, for everyone else on the planet? No. They are just plants."


Halgrim listens to Carson intently. "Is it really only your perception which gives them a heart or a soul? Maybe it's just you can sense it and we can't. Just because science says something isn't there doesn't mean it isn't." His mouth twitches in a wry smile, and he gazes up at the skyscrapers surrounding the otherwise green and growing spot which is Central Park. "It must be very difficult for you, then, to be in this city, or any city really."


Elmo walks along the path, hands in his pockets, with the fast no-nonsense stride of a native New Yorker. He doesn't even glance at the tables with plantsin that same New York style, ignoring absolutely anybody he even faintly suspects might try to sell him somethingbut when he sees Halgrim and unknown cute guy, slows down. "Hey, Grim, how's the typewriter treatin' ya?" he greets him.


"It can be, at times, quite difficult, but here there is a… um.. well, I'm not meant to talk about it, am I? Let's just say, for people like me, there is a more friendly place here, for me to grow as an individual of my.. nature." He tries to explain, being unusually coy for a man who was readily willing to show Halgrim absolutely everything he could do. "I suppose you may be right, perhaps they all do have souls and your minds are just not advanced enough to realize this or.. really, could the human race survive knowing all the murder on their hands?" Carson is really not helping poor Halgrim's crisis right now.

"Grim? Is that your name? Oh that is unfortunate, sir." He asks, almost a little too blunt. "Or had you picked after you found out about.. whatever predicament you may be in?" He places his hand in the soil of his ficus once more to make it wave at this new arrival.


Halgrim seems a little lost at the decription of 'somewhere friendlier' for people like Carson, but then Elmo has arrived. He raises a hand, saying, "Well, thank you. Your efforts have given it a new life. I may never need a new one." He gestures at Carson. "We were just…discussing the plants we found at the Horticultural Society's plant sale. If you were looking for something to fuss over around your home or shop, or some flowers to give someone, they're a wonderful group to patronize." In a small cardboard box on the ground next to him is a few large and healthy-looking air plabnts, and a delicate, lacy, maidenhair fern. When Carson makes the ficus wave, Halgrim's eyes widen noticably. Probably to cover up his concern, he says, "Halgrim, more properly. It's an old Norse name. It's not the same root as the 'grim' you're referring to, it's a different word. In Norse, it means mask, or a helmet that covers the face." He gestures over his face, as if he were donning one of said items.


"That's what I like to hear," Elmo says, cheerfully. "Break somethin' harder next time, willya? You got one of those theodolites? I never repaired one of those before." He hikes his eyebrows at the plants. "I got way too much to fuss over as it is. …I could use somethin' to give my, uh, friend, though." His eyebrows //really/ go up when the little plant waves at him. He looks at Carson. "Hey, pal, you doin' that?"


"No, clearly the ficus is doing that." Carson says matter-of-factly with a scrunch of his nose at Elmo as if this question were absolutely preposterous, The ficus' branches move as it to mimic placing hands on hips but Carson's smile, creeping up on his face would give him away, if the fact that when his hands move out of the soil, the tree relaxes didn't. "You know, my.. good… guy, house plants provide plenty of benefit, you truly should consider having some, they lower stress, background noise and, they improve air quality."

"Ah, Norse, that explains why you're as gorgeous as you are. I was wondering your ancestory, not everyone is as blessed with cheekbones as you are." Carson says, and it's as easy as breathing, that coming off his lips, like he's just stating a fact and not flirting at the much older man. And perhaps he is. Carson is a peculiar creature.


Halgrim sighs, torn between amused exasperation and real concern. He gives Elmo a cagey look, concerned over his reaction to the tree's display; one can't be too careful right now, with tensions as high as they are. "I don't own one personally, I usually have one signed out by the university. Of course, I can steer the department your way, if you wouldn't mind the extra customers. And depending on what your friend likes, there's sure to be something for them there, among the tables."


Elmo looks over at Halgrim with suppressed amusement. "Well, he's not wrong," he says to him, mouth quirking at both that and at Halgrim's use of a neutral pronoun. Looking back at Carson, he just ventures, "You a mutant?" Busting the M-word out in front of God and everybody. "Hey," he adds, "it's okay. I am too."


"I am not wrong. His entire being just radiates Norse Gift. Face cut from marble, truly isn't fair you know." Carson says, /again/ just as easily as breathing, like he's stating facts to be written down in history and called science, not blatantly flirting with the older man, while he is also a man, in public, in front of another man.

"Oh goodness, we're not supposed to say that out loud, but yes," He pulls something from his pocket, a blue petal rests in the palm of his hand. It multiplies and spins around him like a tiny, beautiful tornado. "I suppose that's a word that could be used to define me."


Halgrim blinks at Elmo, too surprised (and more than a little relieved) by his later comments to be particularly focused on the former. "You are?" he says, and tilts his head, considering Elmo in a new light. Maybe he thought it would be more obvious, since of course with some mutants it is. His expression shifts, he smiles at Carson. "You're a terrible flatterer," he says, not unkindly. Watching the petal spin about, he says, "You probably shouldn't, no—it's, not particularly safe to admit such things so freely, these days. But I appreciate the trust your candor implies."


"I'm not just good at fixin' stuff," Elmo admits to Halgrim with half a wry shrug. "I can do other stuff, too, but not in front of these nice ladies. Don't wanna scare 'em." He watches Carson's petal storm, and looks pleased. "What I can do ain't half so pretty. …Why shouldn't we say it? Is there something wrong with bein' a mutant?" It's not to Carson he's talking; it's a general challenge at the world. A few nearby people glance at him with varying degrees of annoyance or worry. Some young mother grabs her child's hand and hastens away.


"It's simply not flattery, Mister Halgrim, I am telling you gospel truth. Have you never owned a mirror. Certainly you must know how handsome you are. If you do not, then it's a good thing that I have told you. You should always be informed." Carson insists as all of the petals combine back into one and he pockets it.

He considers Elmo's statement. "No, I don't believe there is anything to be ashamed of, in fact, some mutations can benefit society, I not only can heal plants but I can change their molecular make up. I can make them higher in nutrition, and if people were not so afraid of me, I could easily solve this city's hunger problem. I have known of others that can speak a thousand languages, create water to put out fires. The world just wants to be afraid because fear is comfortable." Carson says, watching the mother drag her child away lest Elmo eat him. "Ah, I should have said. I am Carson."


The question of Halgrim's looks, it seems, isn't something he's interested in discussing. He accepts the compliment with a slight smile, but only comments on the rest. "There's not anything wrong with it, no," Halgrim says, and he nods at Carson, "but unfortunately, there are a great number of very ignorant and dangerous people, who have convinced themselves, or been convinced by others, that there is." He looks around them, gauging the various reactions to those who've heard or noticed. "It's a risk, to be open about who you are in such a climate. I marvel at people such as yourselves who are brave enough to do so." He might be talking about something else, or maybe something that was roughly the same some time ago. He looks at Elmo and Carson again. "But you're both old enough you don't need me warning you off if you're willing to take what comes from such admissions."


"No kidding?" Elmo says, impressed. "You can do a lotta good in the world. Howyadoin, Carson. I'm Elmo." He doesn't offer to shake hands. In fact his hands remain firmly in his pockets. Glancing sharply at Halgrim, though, he seems to take the older man's statement very seriously. "Yeah. It's a risk. I can handle myself. And Carson here, he can blow petals at 'em." He grins at him, now, like who can resist petals?


"Life is a constant game of risk, Halgrim. Every action has an equal opposite one. Every word you breathe about yourself is fodder for someone else's cannon, it's true, but living in fear and hiding in the dark is no way to blossom. We have to bloom where we are planted, no matter the circumstances of our soil." Carson may not be good at the whole speaking thing, but he can understand body language so he does not mention again that Halgrim is quite beautiful. He can also tell that this other mutant would rather not be touched. He makes a mental note of it and gives Elmo a nod. "I can do more than just blow petals. I am handy with vines and I haven't quite mastered it but when I do, I will be able to move trees."


"Just the same—I don't blame anyone who'd rather stay out of things for fear of losing, well, everything. Even if that's not how we'll ever win against this kind of," he waves a hand in the direction the woman and her child scurried off to, "ugliness. But, as you say, we must make our choices and live with them, or at least try to." He huffs a laugh at Carson. "Ents, as Tolkein wrote about? Now that would be impressive." He offers his hand to Carson, adding, "Halgrim Lindqvist, to complete our introduction properly." It's a hand much-accustomed to manual labor; calloused and a bit rough.


Elmo nods, agreeing. "Mutant Town's full of people who can't fight." He seems like he wants to say more, but doesn't, dropping his eyes away from Halgrim. Nobody really likes being reminded of the war. For all he knows, Halgrim's a crypto-Jew, anyway. He half-smiles at Carson. "Pretty words, pretty petals, that how it is?"


"That is true. We all do have things to lose." Carson thinks to his father and even his estranged mother. He smiles though, when Halgrim offers his hand and he takes it with both of his because he clearly has plenty of experience shaking hands. "Carson Flores, and yes, it means flowers and no that wasn't intentional. And Carson was a gift my mother gave me."

He turns to Elmo and smiles slightly. "I don't know that my words are pretty, but perhaps you think so because you seem to be filled with an excess of that yourself." Again, Carson just says it, like it's fact and like it's also perfectly publicly acceptable to suggest a man is pretty. "I can make my ficus here swat you if it would make me more intimidating."


Halgrim's handshake is firm and friendly. "A pleasure to meet you, Caron Flores," he says. He even manages to pronounce the rolled R in Carson's name. He murmurs, "Mutant Town," sounding charmed by the name, and nods at Elmo. "I imagine more than a few mutants don't haveabilities, or differencesthat are particularly powerful or out of the ordinary. And all of you, regardless of how you differ, just want to live your lives."

Taking up his box of plants, Halgrim warns Elmo, "You know, some ficus can become extraordinarily large. Trunks as broad as your torso." He gestures at Carson's newest friend. "This one could turn out to be quite dangerous." As he turns to go, he says, "It was a good to see you again, Elmo, and to meet you, Carson," over his shoulder. In a few long-legged stride's he's lost to sight along the path.


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