In preparation for The Journey, Fire Bush traded his trailer for an old school bus. Before he’d become Fire Bush, when he was Professor Greenman, studying the medicinal uses of plants and herbs among the few remaining indigenous peoples in jungles South of The Nation, a Healer introduced him to the Tree of Life.
Greenman took fruit from the Tree of Life and planted seeds in a desert oasis way out in The Nation, yet not of The Nation, where Life is.
One of the seeds burgeoned and grew. Now, out in The Nation, there thrived a genuine Tree of Life. Each year, toward the end of Summer, it bore fruit, and each year, toward the end of Summer, The Missing Girl would visit this oasis to renew herself by eating fruit of the Tree of Life. Thus she remained both Missing and Young. She would always be Missing Young — so long as the Tree of Life was tended lovingly and thrived.
“I invite you to come with us on our Journey,” Fire Bush said to Plantman. “Plantman must tend the Tree of Life.”
“And then?” asked Plantman.
“We will wait for Her to taste its fruit.”
“How do you know She will?”
“It’s what She does. A ritual, of sorts, but even more essential. It’s Her nature. She will retain herself, and only Her Self, the Self that blossomed when first I introduced her to The Fruit, always and forever. So long as The Tree of Life thrives and disperses its seed, and is maintained.”
Buffalo Gal, Chicken Killer, and the rest of Fire Bush’s entourage loaded provisions onto the bus. Already seated were a dozen of the Green-Haired Young. Six male, six female, all between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two. Among them were the young lovers, Smashed Deer and Fidelity.
“Are you ready to leave the potted, imprisoned flora of The City to tend The Tree of Life, a tree born of wild ancestors and living wild among wild Life?” asked Fire Bush.
“I am,” said Plantman.
“Are you ready to sleep on the wild grass of the oasis out in The Nation, yet not of The Nation, and wait for The Missing Girl to partake of The Tree of Life’s fruit?”
“I am ready.”
Plantman boarded the bus among Fire Bush, Chicken Killer, Buffalo Gal and the dozen Green Haired Young, including that exemplary couple, Smashed Deer and Fidelity, who reminded Plantman of the copyrighted lovers reproduced on millions of bottles of Earn cologne. The bus was driven by a giant of a man named, appropriately, “Tree.”
But also on the bus: an older woman, familiar face known. Thirty-five or thirty six. Still Missing (from The Nation), though not particularly young. Yet, Young. Perhaps the Youngest of them all.
“Maybe,” thought Plantman. “Maybe yes. Maybe. Maybe can. Why not?”
Cradling Rose, he looked back on The City shrinking, fading as the bus began its epic journey. Watching the woman he had always known, yet always missed, he had a premonition that, much as he was needed, he would never return to The City or The Nation again. At least not for many years to come.
“‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth, that is all ye need to know,’ etcetera, etcetera and all that.” said Fire Bush.
“Yeah, yeah; sure, sure,” said Plantman. “But what is to prevent me from eating The Fruit myself? Why shouldn’t Plantman remain eternally young?”
“I’ve tried it,” shrugged Fire Bush. “I’ve given it to others. The Healer who introduced me to The Tree warned that only certain rare types respond to the fruit. The Missing Girl is one of those types. But then, so might be Plantman. Extremely rare, but possible. I’m not sure whether this is a matter of mental, perhaps extra-sensory capacity, or body chemistry. But it is something, something real and natural, that some very few possess and the majority of us do not. The right ‘presence’ or mind-set or biology, of some sort. The right Condition.”
“Yes,” responded Plantman. “I’ve heard of such ‘Conditions.'”
He boarded the bus and took his seat beside the familiar, older woman.
“I’ve been searching,” Plantman said. “Always. ”
She turned to face him, and Plantman was lost forever in the Youngest eyes he’d ever known.
Nuff Said. Finis