Whilst splitting the tomatoes open with his bent hands, he espied the Madame coming down the gravel path in her tatty deshabille.
He quickly slurped up the juicy red seeds and wiped his hands on his leather apron.
“ Fossick. Bloody Fossick! “ she cried.
He creaked open the door of the glasshouse so she knew he was there. Then he banged it shut.
“ Fossick!” .
He poked his head out of a window which was broken and made her start.
“ Where are the radishes for the table?” she demanded, pulling at a tendril of her hair which had come loose from its copper combs.
“ Just getting them up from the sandbox Madaaame.”
She disliked him extending the vowel and kicked at a petunia at her feet. It screamed in dismay and bit her slipper. She couldn’t feel it through the paduasoy and the flower sulked and wilted.
She didn’t even like looking at him too much. He disturbed her. His hair was woolly and he wore very old trousers ripped in the seat. He was lumpen and unholy.
She turned to go assuming he would bring the vegetables now, but he called after her in his mocking insulting way:
“Madaaame! Madaame! Radishes be damned! I am turning into a tree.”
She waved a hand angrily without turning and Fossick was left to contemplate the moss growing up his arm. At least it looked like moss, but really it could just have been green hair.
He knew that his legs were gnarled and brown and his cock had sprouted a green shoot. He would like to show her that sprout one morning, maybe cut it off and put it on a salad she had to eat.
He sat back on a rotting chaise and lit a black cigarette full of tweed and dust. His ears were itching badly again and he scratched at them feeling the little buds and shoots embedded in the cilli.
It was good being a tree. He wouldn’t have to eat or sleep any more. He could just be.
He pulled his boots off and rich humus fell out. His socks had long since rotted and his feet felt tough and alive.
Roots shot down into the gravel of the glasshouse floor splitting stone and lifting slabs.
Things creaked and fell and burgeoned. The glasshouse slid and splintered into the potato beds.The cook dropped a plate of fried zucchini with a clatter as a slow drifting roar of wind encircled the chateau shaking its foundations and making all the portraits hang crooked.
Madame felt a shuddering deep inside her belly as she powdered her backside, but she put it down to nerves about the evening’s ball.
Later that evening after their delicious glace fruits from the espaliers and wines from the vineyard the guests wandered down the parterre.
A sweet rich couple wandered hand in hand tugging at each other. The young man pulled the girl through the yew topiary arch and into the dark netherworld of the kitchen garden.
He pressed her up against a wall and his hands sought her nipples under her thin sateen dress and slid down and round her waist with arms as sinuous and strong as a vine.
She gazed up at the sky to create an illusion of boredom secretly feeling a huge pulse of stellar energy. She giggled and demurred but eyes suddenly grew large as she noticed a most peculiar excrescence growing from a tree. It bulged and hung from the middle of a huge oak, distended and covered with pocky bubules and rank veins.
It dripped some greenish sappy liquor.
As she grew accustomed to the darkness and her partner grew more amorous she suddenly screamed pushing him from her, she picked up her skirts and ran down the path. A shudder ran through the earth like an electric eel of horror.
The young man with his shirt all adrift and his pants half undone turned . He espied a huge hideous green face staring down at him with a distinct leer. It spoke.
He fainted dead on the ground.
Alerted by the hysterical nymph, a whole cavalcade of guests came running and saw a huge man tree or treeman thrusting out of the greenhouse with a monstrous erection.
Madame held her little gloved hands to her face in horror as she gazed up into the branches and leaves which swished and shivered in the black moonlight. He was forty feet tall and covered in chicken of the woods and other vile common fungi.
“ Bloody Fossick!” she screeched, but he just let out a peal of atrocious deep laughter full of flapping bats and incontinent owls . His great roots twisted and he discharged his sap straight onto the gathered party.
It was hard to cut him down the next day but they did succeed in felling and logging most of his body parts. His head rolled and his green eyeballs glared accusingly at the master woodman who pulled down his mask and carried on with the sawing and carting.
Unfortunately, the next year thousands of saplings sprang all over the Great Estate ruining its value and Madame had a bout of incurable oakmoss and fell into desuetude.
Out on outskirts of the estate the logs rotted and beetles burrowed and skirmished fat grubs and striped hornets. Some said the logs rolled and moved a little after dusk and beady little eyes peeped from the crevices and the stinkhorns and puffballs which exploded into the night air grumbled and exuded foetid human breath.