Pregnant Onion

Donald Shephard

Colleen and I joined a group called “Let’s Dance” that meets at the Ledford House restaurant with its panoramic view of the Pacific. We know many of the retirees that congregate there including one of our neighbors, who shares our surname, but not its spelling. She complimented us on having a good time while we toured the room although she did not say we danced well and, frankly, we do not. Yet our neighbor wanted to partner me presumably to enjoy the hilarity of it rather than the skill.

Clearly, there are two sides to a partnership, in dance as in life. No doubt, I could entertain my neighbor, while we stumbled around the floor, but in no way could I give her the kind of jocund company that Colleen enjoys. One reason for this discrepancy is the pseudo-fantasies my wife and I share. What, you may ask, are pseudo-fantasies?

For the sake of amusing myself, my wife, and my colleagues at work when I was cursed by that necessity, I invented a fantasy fetish, in fact, I invented two fantasy fetishes. They are reasonably harmless, far from messy, painless, disease-free and, for the most part, do not embarrass me, although they have both caused me awkward moments.

My first pseudo-fantasy was a rare fetish for sex on a giraffe with bungee cords and Mazola oil. I told my colleagues that I climbed to the head of the giraffe, tied one end of each bungee cord to its horns, soaked its hide with Mazola oil and made love while bouncing up and down its spinal column. When the giraffe flicked its tail at the right moment … Ah! Ecstasy! Most people seemed to be amused but, few, believed me.

The second fantasy involved a more doable activity, if you will pardon the expression. The State of California, where I used to idle away my days, has the enviable catch phrase as an employer, “Diversity is good”. I would tell people of every sexual orientation, or even no orientation at all, that on Friday nights I put on my blue dress, the one with the deep décolletage that leaves my graying chest hairs seductively exposed. Gussied up in this way, I would don my rhinestone-studded fishnet stockings that so beautifully disguise the varicose veins on my legs, slip on my iridescent blue stiletto heels and walk down T Street in Sacramento. This simple ruse was an antidote to the bores that went around saying TGIF, a phrase that lost its only drop of humor in the middle of the last century.

A lovely, young female colleague accosted me in the corridor one day. She raised her brows above the wide eyes of the religiously compassionate and asked if it was true that I wore a blue dress. I was sorely tempted to lie. Another co-worker wanted to know my source for giraffes so I referred him to the rental section of Yellow-Pages.

A second awkward moment lasted longer, when my good friends accompanied by my supervisors at the Air Resources Board threw me a retirement party. My supervisor’s supervisor, sewed me a blue dress to wear as I opened their gifts which had a distinct motif of giraffes, bungee cords, and Mazola oil. Naturally, I donated the frock to the thrift store and destroyed all my photographic evidence of the event but others may be saving theirs in case I should foolishly return to work and give up this second childhood called retirement.

All this nonsense may help you understand my wife’s hilarity at the dance. By the time I could explain to my neighbor the esoteric references in my wordplay the band would end the number and her toes would ache, a formula for disappointment. Whereas over the thirty years of our happy marriage Colleen and I have developed a kind of mutual laughter-language like the gobbledygook of baby twins incomprehensible to the rest of the world. In fact, while we danced, we discussed the pregnant onion.

Ah yes, the pregnant onion. Colleen does not like my pregnant onion. My Western Garden Book describes it in these tersely turgid words:

Ornithogalum caudatum. Pregnant Onion. House plant. Grown for bulb and foliage. Strap-shaped leaves grow downward to five feet. Big, gray-green, smooth-skinned bulb grows on, not in, the ground. Bulblets form on the skin before they drop out and root.

Those bulblets give the plant its name, the pregnant onion. I must admit, I am rather the doting father of my plant’s bulblet. I talk to it daily, play Mozart for it, and tell it to be kind to its mother. I water it with tender care and fertilize it with gentle passion. My friend the urologist and amateur glass-blower made my beloved plant a special eye-dropper with two bulbs, one pink, one blue, so I can feed the expectant mother vitamins and fertilizer at the same time.

But, as I say, Colleen does not like the plant she calls a waif and a hussy. She has grown jealous of my ministering to it. A slight, albeit niggling, discord signaled me to pay my wife the attention she so richly deserves. So I agreed, against my better judgment, to join “Let’s Dance”. At that first session, I made an effort to distract her from the four left feet colliding below us with an alarming regularity totally devoid of synchronization with any music ever heard. I resorted to our normal method of diversion from ill will. I made her laugh.

What our neighbor did not, cannot, and shall not know about the cause of our hilarity at the dance, was my tearful confession to Colleen of just how the onion got pregnant in the first place.

Back to ... Stories | Home page