Spiritual Growths by Lori Ann White
Spiritual Growths by Lori Ann White (Eggplant, 2013) is one a series of novellas published as e-books by Eggplant Literary Productions. As publishing ventures go, this is quite brave because, if you were to ask market professionals, they would tell you short or shorter fiction doesn’t sell. That this operation has a growing list of stories at novella length should tell you something about expertise. It’s only good for what you know. People who work off the beaten track can often find enough buyers to sustain their operation. Anyway, Eggplant specialises in fantasy, horror and science fiction both as standalone stories, in Spellbound, a fantasy magazine aimed at children, and Mescellanea: the Transdimensional Library which collects and provides access to books, periodicals and other media materials from all “known” sources.
In this story, Robbie Holman finds comfort and consolation in a regular hour-long bubble bath to soak away her stress and find new joy in wrinkled skin. On this auspicious evening, she selects a lavender-scented solution and is preparing to enter the nirvana of bubbles when she catches her arm on the faucet and twangs the elastic of her new bead bracelet — a gift from a co-worker, Cousette McCandless. This forces her to consider whether to wear it in the bath. Will it be spoiled or damaged if it gets wet? Ah, such decisions slow down the ritual of entering into the water. So remembering Cousette telling her to wear it all the time, she leaves it on. Sadly, when she looks at her wrist at the end of the soaking session, it’s empty. The bracelet has disappeared. When the loss is reported to Cousette, she’s not entirely calm. The bracelet was made from the seeds of the Bodhi tree. As a purely theoretical problem, Ms Holman dismisses it until it’s time for her next bath. She then discovers there may be a tree growing out of the drain. When she asks the new guy at work for advice, he’s all-fired-up to come to her home to inspect this phenomenon. The question, of course, is not so much how the tree comes to be in her bath — obviously, she dropped the seeds — but why it should have taken root where there should be no soil and why it’s growing so fast — she does take a bath at fairly regular intervals. The situation gets interesting when one or two more trees appear in different locations. Cousette is excited because there were twenty-seven seeds on the bracelet. San Francisco could soon be a forest.
If backed against the wall by some demanding person holding a gun, I might offer the opinion this is a science fiction story that just happens to walk into religious territory when the “what if” takes root. It doesn’t matter this appearance of the trees is scientifically implausible. The story is perfectly credible as a study of human nature and the need for some people to believe in something supernatural. Let’s, for a moment, take at face value the idea this random appearance of the trees is a miracle. There would be a certain weight of expectation about how the trees might manifest, “behave” and, if necessary, defend themselves. If the Dalai Lama came in all seriousness to consider the implications of this event and to say “Hi” to the trees, the world would look on, impressed by the mystery, and enthralled by the magic of the occasion. Put the individual drama of Ms Holman against the world’s fixation with the trees as potential symbols of a faith reborn, and you have a completely entrancing story which is nicely logical and, at times, mildly humorous. I’m definitely converted to Spiritual Growths if not to Buddhism. More power to Eggplant if the other stories are this good!
A copy of this e-book was sent to me for review.