Another Man’s Trea­sure

A pot plant causes chaos in this amus­ing com­plete story by Jean Cul­lop.

The People's Friend Special - - CONTENTS -

A light-hearted story by Jean Cul­lop

LOUISA, look at that huge as­pidis­tra!” It was nine o’clock on Sun­day morn­ing and the car-boot sale was heav­ing. Louisa and I cruised from stall to stall, try­ing to give the im­pres­sion that we ac­tu­ally knew what we were look­ing for, which we didn’t – we just liked to soak up the at­mos­phere.

We were fa­mil­iar with names like Clarice Cliff, but our en­tire knowl­edge of an­tiques was gleaned from TV pro­grammes. Some­times we bought, some­times we just browsed. We were ladies of a cer­tain age and we wrote our own rules.

Wear­ing boot-cut jeans, tai­lored jack­ets and del­i­cate pash­mi­nas, I thought we cut quite a dash. Louisa stared at me. “Aspi-what? So­phie, there’s no such thing!”

I ran my fin­gers over the plant’s dark fo­liage and its touch rekin­dled heart­warm­ing mem­o­ries. “Oh, yes, there is, Lou.” The stall­holder con­firmed the over­sized green­ery in a brass planter was in­deed an as­pidis­tra. Louisa shrugged. “I al­ways thought it was just a made-up name in that song the oldies used to sing; re­mem­ber it? ‘The big­gest as­pidis­tra in the world,’” she war­bled.

“My granny Bar­ton had an as­pidis­tra stand­ing in her win­dow,” I re­flected. “Be­fore that, her mother kept it in her front par­lour. My mum gave it away when Granny died.”

“I can’t say I blame her,” Louisa replied, heart­lessly ig­nor­ing my nos­tal­gia.

I felt I had struck gold at the car boot sale – and best of all, I was pretty sure no-one else would want my prize!

“Ac­tu­ally, Louisa, I just might buy this. It would re­mind me of Granny and it could stand in my new con­ser­va­tory.”

“Oh, have you got a new con­ser­va­tory?” Louisa asked in­no­cently.

“Sar­casm does not be­come you.” I sniffed. “Point taken, though. I sup­pose I do go on about my con­ser­va­tory. We waited so long for it.”

“Oh, So­phie, I was only teas­ing. Are you re­ally go­ing to buy that plant?”

The stall­holder en­deav­oured to look hope­ful but not pushy, which re­sulted in a skewed grin. I could al­most read her thoughts. Was she get­ting rid of this thing at last?

“I’m not sure. We can’t carry that great heavy thing around the sale. Let’s have a look at the other stalls then col­lect this on the way back to the car.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to pay for it now, So­phie? Re­mem­ber when you said you’d go back for that leather coat in the sales, and then, when you did, it had been sold?” “I’ll risk it.” Her com­ment ir­ri­tated me. Louisa al­ways had to know best! She had a knack of high­light­ing my short­com­ings, which was an­noy­ing be­cause of­ten she was right.

Louisa and I had met at an­te­na­tal class and we clicked im­me­di­ately. We gig­gled our way through the ex­er­cises then re­gret­ted not hav­ing lis­tened as we groaned through labour, and re­solved to pay more at­ten­tion next time.

As it hap­pened, there was no next time, for ei­ther of us. We slipped into be­com­ing an ex­tended fam­ily and we were con­tent, me with my Ben­jamin and her with dainty Rosie – who stopped be­ing dainty when Ben­jamin taught her to ride on the rope swing, hunt for newts and frogs and climb trees.

But now our off­spring had flown the nests and to­day our hus­bands were play­ing golf and bowls re­spec­tively.

We’d opted to spend a gir­lie morn­ing at the car-boot sale and then treat our­selves to a pub lunch.

“This is wicked!” Louisa sighed hap­pily, ex­am­in­ing a hand­bag.

I laughed at her teenage speak. It came from her be­ing a teach­ing as­sis­tant. “Are you fifty or fif­teen?” She gave me a strange look. In her head she prob­a­bly was fif­teen.

W****

HEW, So­phie, it’s busy now!” As the morn­ing moved on the crowds grew, but with a skill ac­quired from years of shop­ping Louisa neatly tucked the lit­tle jug she’d found safely into her shop­per.

“This jug could be worth

some­thing,” she whis­pered dra­mat­i­cally. “It looks like Moor­croft.”

“The name would be un­der­neath,” I pointed out and her face dropped.

“I sup­pose it would. Trust you to think of that.”

“If you like it what does it mat­ter who made it? If you’re done shop­ping, Lou, we could go back for the as­pidis­tra, then find some­where nice for lunch.”

“That sounds like a plan. Shop­ping stim­u­lates the ap­petite.” I grinned. “The stall is close to the car park so I won’t have far to carry it.”

Sud­denly Louisa gave a loud squeal and stopped dead.

“Look! Over there!” she squeaked, point­ing to the car park.

Way up high over the heads of the crowd a shaky as­pidis­tra wob­bled its way to­wards the rows of cars.

By now I had re­ally set my heart on buy­ing that plant. Granny had taken care of her as­pidis­tra, just like she’d taken care of me when my par­ents were at work. She’d never laughed at my dreams; she’d thought of ways to make them hap­pen.

It had been Granny who’d en­cour­aged me to pur­sue my am­bi­tion to paint, and she’d helped me find free­lance work as a chil­dren’s book il­lus­tra­tor. I would never be fa­mous, but I earned enough to keep the wolf from the door . . .

“That as­pidis­tra is mine!” I sounded like a two-year-old, I knew.

We fol­lowed the as­pidis­tra, be­ing car­ried on the shoul­ders of two young men, un­til it came to rest in front of a lit­tle red hard-top sports car.

The next few min­utes verged on the hi­lar­i­ous. No way would the over­sized plant f it into that mo­tor!

Louisa and I looked on as the lads scratched their heads and grew more red-faced un­til fi­nally they gave up.

“See?” I whis­pered smugly. “It wants to come home with me. Where are you go­ing?” “Fol­low my lead,” she hissed. With me snap­ping at her heels like a wor­ried ter­rier, Louisa strolled across to the car.

“You seem to have a prob­lem, guys,” she said ca­su­ally. “Can we help? My friend knows about as­pidis­tras.”

The taller of the two lads stared blankly, but the other one’s face cleared.

“Oh, is that what this plant is? We bought the brass planter for his mum, but it won’t fit in the car.”

His friend now looked dis­mayed.

“Come to think about it, I don’t think Mum is very keen on as­pidis­tras. She al­ways says they re­mind her of an el­derly aunt who was a bit of a tar­tar. But she needs a new planter for the palm tree in her porch and I thought this was just the ticket.”

“In that case, why not dig out the plant and give her just the brass planter?” Louisa sug­gested. “We could take the as­pidis­tra off your hands, if you like.” I held my breath. “Would you re­ally?” the lad replied. “Mum’s been un­der the weather re­cently. I wanted to cheer her up. She loves any­thing brass.”

Even­tu­ally Louisa found a huge plas­tic bag from some­where in the dark depths of her shop­per.

We man­aged to wrig­gle out the plant and care­fully place its roots into the bag.

The lads re­fused to take any pay­ment and then even car­ried the as­pidis­tra to my car, where it quiv­ered on the back seat, un­der­stand­ably con­fused.

They waved us off, thank­ing us pro­fusely. Af­ter all, we had done them a good turn, hadn’t we?

****

“What nice young men. I knew we’d be bet­ter off wait­ing,” I said smugly as we set off to the Danc­ing Duck and lunch.

“Just as a mat­ter of in­ter­est, what are you go­ing to put it in?” Louisa wanted to know.

“An old bucket will do un­til we find a nice planter to match my new con­ser­va­tory. Did I men­tion we got a new one?” I smiled sweetly.

“That means more days out for us, then, So­phie?” Louisa said, ig­nor­ing the dig.

“Yep, days out are good. But right now I’m ready for lunch.” I glanced side­ways to smile at her. “Oh, Lou, your jacket is f ilthy! I’m so sorry.”

“It’ll wash,” she replied calmly.

“Well, lunch is on me,” I said f irmly.

“Lovely. And if my jug turns out to be Moor­croft, I’ll treat you next time!”

I was about to re­mind her about the lack of a sig­na­ture, but glanc­ing in my rear mir­ror I saw the as­pidis­tra’s leaves bounc­ing as though try­ing to get my at­ten­tion.

Granny Bar­ton would never have tram­pled on another per­son’s dreams.

So what if, some­times, Louisa and I were im­pa­tient with each other?

Our dif­fer­ences were part of our friend­ship, and friend­ship is very pre­cious.

“You never know, Lou. I might hold you to that,” I replied in­stead.

The End.

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