Sweet Petunia

It was weird. The petunia powder sat forgotten in our old garden shed under a high voltage tower for at least ten years of seasonal and electromagnetic changes, slowly moldering. I was cleaning out the shed to make room for an herbal beer vat when I came across it.

The yellowed, brittle looking plastic container camouflaged the contents, which I was pretty sure were nauseating if not toxic. I flipped the bottle toward a trash can and watched it split open on the can’s edge. I inhaled two lungsful of the acrid dust that filled the shed and passed out.

When I came to, I was tumescent. And felt really, really good about myself. I stood up, regretting that Brenda would be at work for several more hours, and stared at the little pile of powder next to the trash can. This was a magic elixir, the omega of psychedelic restoratives. As I wallowed in the rush of well-being, I also wondered if this could make my fortune. 

Time to modify my plans. I was partway toward commercially selling an herbal beer called Collins Craft. Except I wasn’t sure I could call it beer, since I wouldn’t use hops. And who wants to drink something called gruit? But, but, if I did use hops and flavored it with just a bit of my sweet petunia mix, I could offer a beer that gave its drinker a three way high. Buzzed, happy and randy. Wow. Population explosion.

First things first. I retrieved as much as I could of the powder, hoping it contained spores that could be cultivated. Then I quit trying to make space for an oast, and laid out a little soil bed, using only the best organic loam and cow manure. I very carefully sprinkled a bit of the powder onto the bed, feeling like Jack and his beans. Then I enclosed the bed in plastic and waited. A week. Then two. The soil turned from Navy blue to beige as it dried out, and then to a toast brown. I un-taped the plastic, carefully scraped the toasty bits off the dirt and took in a tiny sniff from my little pile. 

I felt dizzy, bulged, and had a rush like my first feel cop. The future was mine. But did it work with women?

That evening I explained to Brenda what I thought we had, and asked her if she could take a taste to see if it had any effect on her. She agreed, and we never got around to dinner. Before we went to sleep, she sat up. “Tom, we could make a perfume called ‘In the Mood.’ The aromas would work on both partners. Or maybe designer confections called ‘Carnally Chocolat.’ The possibilities are endless.”

I expanded my seed bed, and cryogenically froze samples just in case rot or mildew got to my baby. While things were getting properly sporey, I rethought my beer project. I could charge a lot more per ounce with an elixir or liquor, and target my advertising to both men and women by using differing containers, colors and tastes. All of which required an expertise I lacked and financing I didn’t have. Yet.

First things first. I discovered that spore preparations can be patented, and began the long, tedious and convoluted process of getting the rights to my joy juice. The testing and verification was laborious, down to the chemical composition and atomic structure. Complete secrecy of course. Meanwhile, I expanded our earth beds drastically, and developed a process to skim the spores repeatedly from the same ground. We stored the product in the house and there was inevitably some leakage, leading to excessive connubial bliss.

Eventually I got the patent rights and was ready to proceed. Discreet inquiries led me to Pandemonium Products, a company that specialized in the manufacture and marketing of high-end aphrodisiacs. I tried to schedule an appointment with the CEO, a Mr. Billy Capra. Instead, I was foisted off onto a junior marketing exec called Tom Siever. My presentation was simple. I had him sip a tiny amount of the liquor, making sure to retrieve the vial. His smile was beatific. 

I smiled back. “You should probably tell Mr. Capra about this.”

He nodded and made a phone call. Fifteen minutes later a bow-legged, red-faced man came into the office. “So, you think you’ve got a magic sex drug.”

“Hello Mr. Capra. It doesn’t just provide stiffies, it puts you in instant satori. Here, please take a sip.”

He did. No smile. “You’ve ripped off our formula, Collins.”

“Oh, this is much better than your ‘ancient remedy’ hype. And you know it. My secret formula is patent protected, but available for licensing for a ten-year term, with mandatory volume incentives.”

The temperature in the room seemed to have lowered twenty degrees, the air funky. Capra glowered. “And if I don’t?”

“I’ll find someone else to market it and target your customers. They’re perfect for me, and will rush from your good time to my better one.”

Capra studied me. “You need to be careful, Mr. Collins. The French refer to this ecstasy as ‘la petit mort.’ What we’re both doing is more hazardous than recreational enjoyment.” He shrugged. “Your formulation seems to work. But my franchise goes back millennia, if we were to reach agreement you would have to agree to work under my guidance. Devotees of this practice have been known, if disappointed, to rend the offender into pieces.”

Capra wasn’t smiling, and I sensed that there was quite a lot I needed to be cautious about. “That’s why I’m here.”

“Excellent. We’ll put the lawyers and scientists together and see what they iron out. Evoe, Tom. Oh, and leave me another vial, I have a busy evening.”

[Written by Ed Ahern.]

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