Monday, 8 November 2010
Small Chilli, Big Heat
It began as most plants do as a seed. She'd been given a chilli and wrinkling her nose at the thought of the sharp heat, she'd put it in a pot with soil and left it. When it first sprouted, she'd been thrilled - even though by then she had forgotten what it was. She put the pot on the kitchen window sill and watered it when she remembered.
It was rarely watered, she kept forgetting. But it took in the warmth of the morning sun coming in through the window and began to grow. She admired the way it spiralled upwards, elegantly almost artistically and the gentle curve of the leaves. She had stroked a leaf of it once feeling the delicate softness between her almost too clumsy fingers compared with the leaf. Yet, there was a strength there, a fire of it's own as it sought to grow and reach upwards.
For a while, she thought little of it, work consumed her energies and her time. She was making books and the stitching of pages, the attaching of spines and covers were all jobs that took time and patience. Her lover was a calligrapher and it suited them both to create books that were hand-written in an elegant hand and bound just as elegantly. It was hard work, but they enjoyed the company of each other. Occasionally a hand upon a shoulder, the soft caress of hair, the gentle hand upon a knee.
"Ah love and bookbinding!" her lover said with a smile, kissing her.
So they went on like this, unaware of the chilli in the kitchen that blazed with it's own heat. They did not notice the small flower or the tiny bud of a chilli that formed and swelled. Only when it had turned from green to a dark green to a dark red that lightened to a fiery flaming red did they notice it. They had just cooked and were washing up when her lover noticed it. She peered at it and smiled. She had not expected anything from the little plant and the little chilli was an unlooked for bonus.
They went to bed that night wondering idly if there would be more chillies on the plant. But both were tired and fell asleep in each other's arms, their mass of dark hair mingling on the pillow like fine filaments of ink running into each other. A warm hand upon a warm back pulling the beloved closer.
She dreamed - at least she thought she did, she could not be sure at one point that almost scared her, if she was dreaming or she was actually experiencing it. There was a soft sound from downstairs in the dark and soft spiralling sound that had something of music in it. Music that was sinuous and powerful without being loud. She had arisen then, gently untangling herself from her lover and kissing her as she slept. She drew her shawl about her shoulders and slipped on her red slippers before going down softly. She was half terrified and half curious. In the end the curiosity won her and she went through towards the kitchen.
The plant seemed to have grown considerably and the chilli seemed to have cracked open spilling its seeds like small gold coins on the dark earth that she suddenly noticed was upon the floor of their little kitchen. For a moment she did not know what to say and remained silent. Then a small voice called her name and she peered into the soft, bright light of the kitchen. She did not know where the light was coming from but it seemed to pervade the dark in the way full moonlight will. Gently and yet with a pale insistence.
"Who is it?" she whispered, "Who's there?"
At first nobody answered her and then she heard her name again from above and looking up a small cry slipped between her lips and shot up the trunk of the chilli plant. The plant had pushed out of the ventilator and continued upwards. It's trunk was now thick enough to climb and she was about to climb when the voice told her to pick up the chilli seeds but with care for they were hot. She took an oven glove and with care tipped the seeds into it. She flung the oven gloves over her shoulder and began to climb now.
After a little while she came to a very broad leaf and stepping gingerly out upon it she saw that she was above the clouds and that a little way off was a large house. She walked cautiously towards the house and found herself sweating as she did so. The air grew warmer and warmer and the seeds in the oven glove grew heavy as if they were gold. At the house the door was opened by a small pretty girl with blazing red hair and green eyes. She wore a red dress and smiled at our maker of books.
"I wondered if you'd come," the little girl said quietly.
"I brought the seeds like you asked," She told the girl.
The little girl nodded and led the way inside the house. There in the grand parlour was a big red and gold dragon with fiery eyes and claws like golden chillies. Along his back was a dark green frill and he asked Her when She entered the room,
"You planted the chilli, you watered it when you remembered and now it has grown and I must know what you will have of me?" he said.
"I don't know," she said truthfully.
The dragon sighed and said slightly peevishly, "Alright then, you have three wishes, will that do? Now do get on with it we don't have much time."
She bowed and said that she would have eternal love from her lover, that she would always have slightly more than enough to live on and that her work would always be in demand. The dragon raised an elegant eyebrow at that. He was used to more dithering.
"Will you plant the seeds you have gathered?" he asked her.
She assured him that she would and he nodded and said that would be all then. She was a little confused but went back the same way she had come. She put the chilli seeds in a jar and gathered up some earth from the floor of the kitchen to put them in. Then she put the jar on the window sill next to the plant already there and went back up to bed.
Two years later the plants had all grown up and the greenhouse at the bottom of the garden was full of chilli plants. Some she gave away and others she kept. Her lover continued to write elegantly and she bound the books. They could not help it, in every book there was always a red and gold dragon with a dark green frill. Furthermore, one afternoon a pretty red-haired girl came to live with them and stayed. She grew into a very beautiful young woman who was somehow wise beyond her years and never married. She managed the business and made it grow. She made the two lovers their clothes and their food and kept them well. Such is a good life, such is a good life. Only love can make it grow, for like a chilli, love is a small thing but has a mighty heat.