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For sale: a Reagan Bush

THE other day my neighborhood secondhand dealer, Eddie, called me with excitement. He said he was now in possession of a rare Reagan Bush, a botanical wonder alleged to burst into bloom after eight years of dormancy. Would I care to take a close look at this low-maintenance, once-in-a-lifetime gardening opportunity and make a serious offer? ``A blooming bush?'' I asked, puzzled.

``Right,'' said Eddie. ``Extremely rare. Native to the East Coast, but does well in Texas soil or Washington shadows. Grows tall for a bush, a sort of a pale, conservative green, but, Wow! What a flower! Red, white, and blue, and the aroma is sweeter than cherry blossoms along the Potomac.''

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I was skeptical. Eddie once sold me a Carter Mondale, a peanut-eating, Nordic watchdog that slept 14 hours a day.

``Has anybody actually seen the flower bloom?'' I asked, knowing that Eddie liked to attach visions of prowess to the utilitarian and perfunctory. He promised the world in a bush.

``Let me put you in touch with my sources,'' he offered, ``secondhand consultants with impeccable credentials, people who actually saw the Ford Rockefeller convertible running on four wheels before the recall, people who saw the Nixon Agnew crash in flames.''

``I dunno,'' I said. ``When will this bush flower?''

``If the conditions are right, you get a flower in November of 1988.''

``Red, white, and blue, right?''

``A burst of unabashed patriotism.''

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Eddie could feel me hesitating.

``Listen,'' he said. ``In all honesty the Reagan Bush is unknown flora. It's a hybrid. Lots of promise, but who knows what can happen between now and November. Look at your Colorado Hart and your Delaware Biden; both sprouts that couldn't survive the summer storms.''

Eddie paused.

``OK, listen,'' he went on, ``because I like you I have in front of me right now, right on my desk in a jar, one of the most remarkable desert cactuses known to man: the Arizona Babbitt. This little beauty blooms every hour on the hour no matter where it is - Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, even California.''

``I dunno,'' I said. ``Do you have a plant that bears fruit?''

``Do I have...,'' he feigned effrontery. ``Listen to this. I have a very sturdy but transplanted Mediterranean tree, about six feet tall, a shy, reserved tree that is capable of producing the most luscious fruit, a cross between an apple and a pomegranate, and it's just waiting for the right soil.''

``I dunno. What's it called?''

``A New York Cuomo.''

He could feel me hesitating.

``OK, would you be interested in a Kansas Dole with a female mate?''

``I dunno...''

``A Tennessee Gore?''

``I dunno...''

``OK,'' he said, sighing, ``a Minnesota Stassen?''

David Holmstrom is the Monitor's Home Forum editor.

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