Harley harboured a secret interest in botany, especially the exotic. Plumed rat-catchers and frail orchids. There was a cigarillo tin under his mattress, bristling with clippings from gardener’s periodicals. Stuffed with plant trimmings and ticket stubs, it bore evidence of his furtive visits to the botanical gardens. For a small while during his youth the tin had hidden cannabis, only rather than drug addiction, Harley was fostering his inner horticulturist. He discovered the creepers early, the cannibal parasites. The fly traps drew him in with their charms and glue syrup lures. The misfits and the monsters, purblind and treacherous, most attractive of all. He saw reflected in the split stems and dolorous traits of the wildest specimens the manifold contretemps and infelicities of his own life.
The gigantic, phallic Titan arum, largest flower on earth – the corpse flower - blossoms once a century. Redolent of an abattoir, its commodious petals swooning to the stench. Harley thought of his mother, who had breached her celibacy just the once, her love blooming. Her fruit, however, arrived late and feculent, Harley, who, with his precocious bowels and unfettered pores had stunk out every classroom, restaurant and work seminar since the tender age of four.