The Amnesia Defense

by Bev Wagar

Vinca cannot remember how he ended up in the forest. Or can he?

“The Amnesia Defense” is fifth in my Hort Court series. These stories were originally printed in The Point (the community newspaper of the Crown Point neighbourhood in East Hamilton, Ontario) in my regular gardening column “Lovin’ Your Garden.”

Periwinkle had let his stolons go full throttle–he was literally running to the courtyard, leaving a trail of glossy green leaves in his wake. Phlox noticed the swath of carnage. His previous run-ins with Vinca (Periwinkle’s street name) had not ended well. Still, he managed to grab the evergreen perennial and swing him around. Their remarkably similar blue, five-petalled flowers stared each other up and down.

“You little creep! Don’t you see what you’re doing? You’ve spread yourself all over the woods. Slow down and show some respect”!

“Get out of my way! My trial is this afternoon and I gotta show up this time or else.” He pushed past Phlox, who quickly shook off the brittle remnants of stem before they could put roots down.

“At least let me get you a lift.” Phlox hailed a passing deer and rather roughly plunked Periwinkle on her antlers. “Take this one to Hort Court” he instructed. “And no dallying in the meadow!”

Deer quietly obliged, and soon Periwinkle was sitting comfortably in a specially re-inforced box at the front of the court room. He later learned it had been built for Goutweed, who had managed to elude capture for so long that the box had started to rot. But that’s another story.

The gallery was filled with dozens of native species, all looking forward to a stiff sentence for Vinca. The back row was occupied by several Periwinkle supporters who periodically waved blue flag irises and chanted “Not illegal! Not illegal! Later it was revealed these were actors, paid by a shady organization known only as “The Industry.” They were showing up more often these days, armed with a diverse array of four-syllable words gleaned from brochures.

The prosecutor didn’t even bother reading the charges. They’d been read at Vinca’s last hearing, when the slippery groundcover had escaped the courtroom and set up another secret camp in the nearby ravine.

“How do you plead” asked the prosecutor.

“Not guilty! How can I be guilty of a crime I don’t remember committing? I have severe amnesia!”

A chorus of guffaws and boos rose from the gallery, drowning out the fan club. Vinca’s charm and good looks were no match for this crowd.

“On the day in question, what’s the last thing you remember?” the prosecutor continued.

“It was early October. I’d been spaded up and jammed into a big plastic pot. Then came a bumpy journey but I didn’t see anything ‘cause I was upside down. My captor took me to the edge of the escarpment and dumped me over the cliff. When I woke up it was April and there I was, still alive.”

“You expect us to believe you don’t remember doubling in size and spreading to four other spots along the trail?” the prosecutor was clearly irritated with Vinca’s absurd story.

A noisy commotion erupted in the gallery. Wild Strawberry scrambled to the witness stand with Wild Ginger trying hard to keep up.

“We know how it happened!” cried Strawberry. “We used to live in those spots until that jerk Periwinkle showed up. One time it was a dog with a tail full of burrs that picked up some bits of stem and dropped them near my place.”

Wild Ginger bent its fuzzy green leaves and spoke softly, “Once I saw a skunk with some periwinkle stuck in its claws. Another time I saw a human dig some and deliberately plant it further up the trail.”

Several more witnesses came forward that afternoon, all testifying against Periwinkle. One, a big maple tree, claimed to have seen the actual dumping event.

“So many of my old friends are gone from the forest now because of this Vinca character,” Maple told the court. “His leaves may be small but they’re so dense they make a mat that blocks out all the light for new seedlings. His roots may be shallow but they’re indestructible. When I saw that pot hit the ground I put two inches of leaves on top of it, but that Vinca grew right through them.”

On cross examination Periwinkle stuck to his story. He didn’t remember being dumped. His weak little stolons didn’t move very fast. It was others who spread him around. He couldn’t help being handsome. How could he be invasive when the humans kept promoting him as a ground cover for difficult spots in the garden? Humans loved him in his Mediterranean homeland and they loved him here, too.

Periwinkle nattered on for so long that his brittle stems began to trail from the wooden box. A few broke off in the breeze and took root on the courtroom floor. At sundown his paid supporters packed up their placards and left the courtroom, and soon only the old Maple, the Prosecutor, the defendant, and Judge Mama Nature remained.

Mama Nature, who had been knitting up an intricate spider web during the proceedings, gave her verdict.

“Clearly you are a threat to the forest, Periwinkle. Your amnesia seems to be selective. You don’t remember being dumped but you do remember your European homeland from 300 years ago. The fact that other creatures so easily and unwittingly spread you around is a sign of your inherent danger.”

Nature’s condemnation left Periwinkle visibly shaken. There was an aura of shame and guilt in the air.

“I declare you officially unwanted. Even if the forest flora cannot fight you, the humans can. I have turned their minds against you, Periwinkle. From this day forward your allies will dwindle and your foes will grow in number and power.”

Moved by this powerful message, Maple vowed to spread it throughout the land. He had many friends, in gardens and woodlands alike.

Mama Nature wafted away, leaving behind an exquisite spider web glistening in the moonlight.

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