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Clement's Corner: Marigolds Stink

Can an innocent bunch of marigolds break up a marriage? Owen Clement presents a tale of floral conflict.

Read also Owen's vivid life story. Click on Highlights In The Shadows in the menu on this page.

Manuel De Cruz hated marigolds. Oh how he hated marigolds! He had said so to his wife Margaret on many occasions. She however, either conveniently forgot, or purposely chose to ignore his protestations. She never understood the real reason for his dislike, which was his homesickness for the hot steamy South Indian town of his birth. His constant nagging to revisit India almost drove her mad. It was the last place in the world she wished to see.

Due to their adversarial relationship Margaret derided his yearning by constantly belittling him intimating that his behaviour was both childish and maudlin. Her lack of empathy enraged him to such a degree that at times he seriously contemplated leaving her. He knew however that if he ever did; it would further complicate his relationship with his only child, his daughter, Theresa.

As a boy Manuel remembered that marigold blossoms were ever present in great numbers at every festive occasion, be they births, marriages or deaths. He remembered basket loads being carried on women’s heads or displayed in large mounds in the bazaars. Elegant young brown-skinned girls wound the flowers into their coconut oiled black plaits, while at every festivity men and women hung marigold garlands around each other’s necks. They were everywhere. Their cloying perfume seemed to penetrate into his very soul.

The miserable drooping specimens Margaret had bought and was now sticking higgledy-piggledy into a nondescript vase further intensified his exasperation for her lack of consideration.

“It’s all I could get dear,” she said in a simpering tone as she placed each bloom in the vase. “Their colours are so vibrant and their perfume brings the tropics into the room, don’t you think?”

Manuel now finding their scent and hot turmeric colours extremely irritating grunted turned and stalked out of the room.

“Oh, dear Lord, you’re not still going on about them?” she exclaimed.

Manuel turned, marched over, snatched the blossoms out of the vase, opened the kitchen window and flung them into the back garden.

“How dare you, “she shrieked too late to stop him.

He turned to face her, “How dare you!” he snarled back.

“This stupid business of yours has gone much too far, ” she said, pushing past him into the garden to retrieve her flowers.

Manuel stood blocking the kitchen door to prevent her from bringing them back into the house. In a flat hard tone of voice he said, “If you bring those things in here, I’m leaving. Believe me, I will.”

“Neither I nor the flowers are responsible for your foolishness. You need a psychiatrist.''
With that she pushed passed him into the kitchen.

“You think more of bloody flowers that I cannot stand than you do of me,” he snapped.

Ignoring him she continued to rearrange the flowers.

Manuel turned and strode into the bedroom, opened his wardrobe, pulled out his suitcase and began packing.

Margaret placed the flowers in the sink, picked up the telephone and rang her daughter.

“Theresa,” she whined, “can you come over right away, I think your father’s finally gone mad?”

After he finished packing his clothes, his toiletries and a few other personal items, he walked into the kitchen and rang for a taxi.

“Where are you going? Can’t you at least wait and speak to your daughter first?”

Ignoring her he hung up, picked up his case, walked out of the house and stood waiting on the footpath.

“You’re being ridiculous”, she called out from the doorway. Then, bursting into angry tears, she slammed the door shut.

Theresa arrived before the taxi.

“Daddy what are you doing?'' she demanded angrily.

Manuel knew that she that she had been well informed by her mother. As far as Theresa was concerned her mother was a martyr who had had to put up with a husband’s infantile’behaviour for the whole of her marriage. She thought that her faher had never grown up.

“As you can see darling, your mother has never tried to understand my need to go back to my old home town and see the sites of my childhood. If only she could showsome consideration. Anyway, she is finally going to be free of me. Don’t let her fool you, sweety. She is very glad that I’ll be out of her hair forever.”

Theresa folded her arms and glaring at him said, “Daddy you’re talking nonsense again.”

“I know you and your mother are convinced that I always have done.''

”Oh, for heaven’s sakes. Can’t we at least sit down and talk about this?''

“Like adults?”

“No..um.. just calmly and quietly...'' She fumbled with her words.

Manuel gave his daughter a sardonic grin.

At that moment the taxi drove up.

“Never mind,” Theresa called out. waving the taxi on.

“No...'' Manuel’s voice cut her off as he moved to the cab.

“Come on Daddy, please!” Theresa anrily grabbed his arm.

Manuel held out his case for the cab driver, who took it and placed it in the boot, then gently freed himself from his daughter.

“Dad, you stink,'' Theresa exploded.

“No sweety, not me. It’s those damned marigolds.”

© Clement 2006


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