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The Bonsai Who Loved Me

Em called me into her office with fair regularity to issue directives, so that day’s request didn’t strike me as irregular at first. Emma Klein is in charge of all of the mall’s maintenance and landscaping, and I report to her as the head groundskeeper, my charge being all vegetation in and around the sprawling property. We’ve worked together for six years and have formed a tight bond, though she still often thinks of me as a bit of a loose cannon. There was no choice but to turn to me that day, though, given the circumstances, and before she began to nervously speak, I knew I was up for the task, whatever it was. After all, I’m Frond. James Frond.

This was a doozy though. Several animals had escaped the local zoo and made their way into the mall, where they were wreaking havoc on our plants, both indoors and out. Em was disconsolate, unmoored, as she spoke to me, describing what she knew. “There’s a giraffe eating our palm trees, an elephant outside trampling whatever grass it isn’t eating. I heard something about alligators in the tropical pond too. God knows what else is happening. You have to do something, James!” And I had every intention of doing just that.

Once she had finished, I headed straight to my coworker Cue’s office, who repairs and manages all of the motorized equipment around the mall. Martin Cue is a dream of a handyman who has a penchant for creating new machinery out of spare parts, and I knew he’d be able to assist me with something special, as he always did. Rushing to his office, I nearly tripped over a series of gears he had assembled in the hallway, and leapt half into the wall to avoid it. “Well, hello there, James,” Cue smiled as he emerged from his office at the sound of my collision. “What can I do for you today?” I explained the situation and the urgency it required, and the grin never left his face as he assured me he had just the necessities.

Minutes later, I sped away toward the main atrium on a nitrous-fueled Segway with a highly specialized leaf blower on my back. I followed the crescendoing shrieks and quickly discovered the alligators, three of them, all mostly submerged in the central pond’s reedy waters, but making their presence known by snapping at everyone nearby. One suddenly emerged as I pulled up, scuttling across the tile toward a stroller and a mother frozen in horror. There was no time to think. I ripped the leaf blower from my back, set the nozzle to flamethrower and barbecued the gator. Leaping sideways and somersaulting backward, I returned to the pond and finished off the others in identical fashion.

The giraffe was in the midst of the food court, chomping away on the various palm trees potted around the area. It had made quite a lot of headway on the trees already, so it took me little effort to tie and secure the animal to the tree it was standing before, given how satiated it was already. I finished the impromptu leash and raced outside on the Segway, frantically searching for the elephant. We had just reseeded the grounds the previous spring, and the damage it could cause would be devastating. Rounding the eastern side of the complex, I finally spied the great beast near the strip of loading docks, and knew just what to do.

After all, there was one more thing Cue had given me that morning: Bethany, my precious bonsai tree I hadn’t seen in months. She had sat on the precipice of death for months, and I finally became convinced she was dead, and gave her to Cue to bury because I couldn’t do it myself. Instead, he had spent all that time rejuvenating Bethany by making her bionic with an elaborate learning circuitry system that also shot tasers from her branches. She was perched in the basket mounted to the front of the Segway, and I pushed the nitrous lever as far as it would go, launching us headlong into the pachyderm.

We subdued it, of course, and it was returned to the zoo safely, as was the giraffe. The alligator incineration was glossed over by the local news, and nobody really cared anyway. There were all sorts of other animals roaming the mall as well, but there were no real dramatic stories compared to what I experienced. As I maneuvered the now-dented Segway through the overturned chairs of the food court, intending to return it to Cue, I noticed that the remaining ferns the giraffe hadn’t eaten were in desperate need of watering. True duty called, and here it was.

I pivoted the Segway back toward Cue’s, when an announcement resounded over the loudspeaker: “A grey Ford Fiesta with the license plate AGT007, you have your headlights on,” which was of course my car, but my responsibilities didn’t die just because my battery did. Not for head groundskeeper Frond. James Frond.

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