Victor was walking past the greenhouse when he heard the distinct sound of a frustrated grunt, followed by what could only be described as paper being crumpled up and thrown across the room. Frowning, he paused at the door and knocked softly. “Lorina? Are you all right, dear? May I come in?”
As he opened the door he found the floor littered with balls of paper filled with his daughter’s handwriting. He followed the mess to the overflowing waste bin and then to the desk where she was sitting, glaring at a sheet of paper as if it was mocking her by being blank.
Lorina tore her eyes away from the offending slice of tree to look at her father. She appeared very cross. “Dad, it’s not working!” she complained, slamming the quill down onto the desk so hard Victor was surprised it didn’t snap.
“Oh, dear,” he said, coming to stand beside her. Her desk was covered with scribbles and notes etched into the wood and little piles of leaves in various state of health from bright green to muddy brown. “Er…what is it you’re trying to do?” While Lorina’s Creative talent was for botany and his entomology, he wasn’t about to turn a deaf ear to his daughter’s plight. Sometimes all one needed was a third ear to listen in.
“Fertilizer,” she said. “I’m trying to make a fertilizer that really helps all sorts of plants grow. You know, no matter if they’re flowers or vegetables or fruit or anything.”
Victor nodded. “All right…and it’s not working you say?”
Lorina shook her head. “I know manure is the catalyst in this formula,” she said with Creativity in her voice, picking up one of the discarded papers and uncrumpling it. “But I’ve tried everything and it’s just. Not. Working!” Victor dodged the flying ball. “I’ve tried horse and cow and sheep and goat and chicken – ” That made him wince; chicken droppings were some of the foulest muck he’d ever smelled. “and chicken manure is good but I want to make the best and nothing is working!”
Victor put a sympathetic hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “All right. Calm down. Are you sure you’ve tried everything? Maybe ordinary animal manure isn’t…enough…” He paused, thinking, then burst into a grin that was much, much too wide for his face. He took Lorina by the hand. “Come with me.”
She was too surprised to argue and let him lead her outside to the stable where Ferdinand was housed. The giant butterfly licked them both with his proboscis, clicking happily.
“Uh, Daddy? Where are we going?” Lorina let Victor set her onto Ferdy’s back regardless, knowing that it was useless to question her father when he got like this. He took his place in front of her and she held onto his waist as he cued the butterfly to ascend.
“I’ve had an idea!” he called back to her. “You’ve tried the manure of all sorts of animals, right?”
“Did you try unicorn?”
Lorina blinked. “What?”
Ferdinand took them over Secundus and towards the forest. Lorina looked down and watched as the buildings turned into trees as they left the city behind. Her brow furrowed as she tried to figure out just where they were heading.
If the large building, farmhouse and barn didn’t give her the answer, the four equines grazing from the hay bunker inside the short fence did and the light finally clicked in her head.
“Oh! Dr. Lisa’s place!” She eyed the golden unicorn scratching his head on the corner of the bunker. “Do you think it’d be okay to…well, you know?”
Victor shrugged as Ferdinand made his descent. “The worst they could say is ‘no’.”
Lorina conceded that point and held on as their mount landed inside the fence with the horses and unicorn. They nickered a greeting to the group and the unicorn, being the only one who could communicate with them without sign language, trotted up to them.
“Hello, Master Van Dort,” he said in his soft, slightly accented way of speaking. “Hello, Little Miss.” Lorina giggled at her nickname; she liked the way it sounded in his warm, kind voice.
“Hello, Golden Mun,” said Victor. “Is Lisa in?”
The unicorn nodded, his silky mane swishing. “I’ve already let her know you’re here.” He paused, tilting his ears towards the hospital. “She’s busy at the moment but you can still go in; she’ll be with you as soon as she can.”
“Thank you.” Victor took Lorina’s hand to bring her towards the house.
“Daddy, why didn’t we just ask Golden Mun for the manure?”
“I think we should ask both of them. It would come from Golden Mun, of course, but I think it would only be right to include Lisa as well.”
It made sense. They walked together into the hospital to find several animals waiting in the lobby. It was rather noisy but at least they weren’t running around causing trouble like one would assume unrestrained animals would. They assumed it was because Lisa, with her ability to speak to animals, had probably asked them to wait and they felt the need to obey.
There was a group of rabbits and squirrels sitting on the windowsill while more squirrels and chipmunks huddled on a chair. Different kinds of birds were perched on the lamps and a buck and a doe were lying in one corner.
“Oh, dear…” said Victor. “Quite a crowd she has here, isn’t it?”
Lorina nodded. Luckily, they didn’t have to wait for too long. From the exam room they heard Lisa call “I’ll be out in a minute!” and she exited with a bundle in her arms. “Hi. Hang on, okay?” She went to the two deer and knelt beside them and that’s when Victor and Lorina saw that the bundle was a little baby fawn.
“Aww!” Lorina cooed. “She’s so cute!”
“He’s a he, actually,” said Lisa with a smile and said to the parents, “And he’s just fine.” She unwrapped the fawn from the towel he’d been swaddled in and the baby looked around with huge eyes. It looked like his nose was running and he coughed a little, then sneezed. “It’s just a cold. What I want you to do is give him one of these every day before bedtime, okay?” She gave them a little sack of bright green leaves tied with twine.
The buck grunted and snuffled and took the sack into his mouth while the doe helped the fawn to his feet. The baby wobbled unsteadily but a few gentle nudges from his mother helped him regain his balance. Together the family left the hospital as Victor and Lorina watched.
Lisa stood up and turned to the Van Dorts. “So, what brings you all the way out here?”
“You don’t know?” asked Lorina. She was aware of this particular veterinarian’s ability to read minds.
She blinked. “Now I do. You weren’t really projecting until now.” One of the chipmunks chittered at her. “Yes, I’ll be with you in a minute. Um, if you want some unicorn manure for your fertilizer experiment then it’s okay with me. You just have to ask Goldy. I’d go with you, but you can see I’m swamped.” Lisa gestured to the door. “You know where he is.” The chipmunk chittered again, this time a little more angrily. “Yes, okay!” She sighed. “Sorry, guys.” Making a face, she lowered her voice and said, “There’s really nothing wrong with that one…he’s a hypochondriac. But I indulge him otherwise he bothers the other animals.”
“Oh, dear…” said Victor. “I’m so sorry. We’ll leave you to it, then.”
Lisa gave them a grateful look. “I appreciate it. Let me know how the experiment goes, okay?”
“Okay, Dr. Lisa!” said Lorina, waving as Victor took her out of the building. “Bye!”
“Goodbye, Lisa,” said Victor. “And good luck.”
They left the hospital and returned to the pasture where Golden Mun and the horses had returned to eating their hay. Ferdinand had found a small group of flowers near the equines and was carefully using his proboscis to drink the nectar from them.
“E-excuse me, Golden Mun?” said Victor as they approached.
The horses eyed them and the unicorn turned to address them. “What can I do for you?”
“Can I have some of your manure?” Lorina blurted.
“Lorina!” Victor chastised while Golden Mun blinked and pricked his ears forward.
“Excuse me?” said the unicorn, confused.
“Well, people use all kinds of manure to make fertilizer but I want to make the best so can I use your manure?” There was definite Creativity in that explanation.
Golden Mun snorted in amusement. “Well, who am I to stand in the way of discovery?” They could have sworn his golden fur had taken on a slightly pink hue. “Do…you want fresh or…?”
Lorina thought about that a moment. “Horse manure needs to cure for months before being useable…but I’m not sure about unicorn…I could take it fresh and go from there.”
“Your experiment may take months to complete, then,” Victor pointed out.
She shrugged. “Whatever it takes, Daddy.”
Golden Mun nodded. “There are some feed bags in the barn…I could…fill a few for you.” The pink got a little deeper.
“Thank you!” said Lorina, clapping her hands happily.
Golden Mun made a noise that sounded like he was clearing his throat. “Wait here,” he said, turning towards the barn and trotting away.
In the time he was gone, several of the animals that had been inside the hospital left and made their way into the forest while other animals came from the forest and went inside. Lisa certainly was busy today.
After a few moments, Golden Mun returned. His horn was glowing and two tightly-closed bags of manure were levitating beside him, a strong rope tying them together.
Lorina bounced on her heels. “Oh, thank you, Golden Mun!” She ran to hug the unicorn around his neck; his beard quivered as he seemed to smile.
“You’re quite welcome, Little Miss.” He nuzzled her back and proceeded to place the bags onto Ferdinand’s back. The butterfly clicked, wiggling his antennae. “There you are…please let me know if your experiment is a success. I’m…rather curious.”
“Okay! Come on, Daddy! I want to get started right away!”
“All right, all right,” said Victor, chuckling. “Thank you for your help, Golden Mun.”
The unicorn bent his head in a little bow and watched as Victor and Lorina mounted Ferdinand. They noted once aboard that the manure did not smell, though they weren’t sure if that was natural or if it was because the bags had been tied so tightly.
“Goodbye, Master Van Dort. Goodbye, Little Miss.”
Victor cued Ferdinand to take off and they flew back home. Upon landing, Lorina grabbed the bags and hauled them back to her greenhouse leaving Victor to make sure Ferdinand was settled. He shook his head at his daughter, knowing full well what it was like when you had an experiment you wanted to start and start now.
Lorina set the bags down in the greenhouse, grabbed a fresh sheet of paper and quill and started writing furiously. Horse manure needs to be composted to be usable and she wasn’t too sure about unicorn. It was time for some experiments!
She set about starting with seedlings. One she just placed some of the manure – noting with interest that while yes it still smelled it wasn’t as pungent as horse manure – on top of the dirt, setting it aside. Then she started the composting process. She separated the manure into smaller piles and started building her heaps.
Making air holes, turning it to make sure the heat was getting everywhere in the pile, keeping it damp, adding grass clippings and some of her other homemade manure to keep up the nitrogen; every couple of weeks she would take some and put it on another seedling, taking many notes on the status of the plants’ health. It was tedious work but something inside her told her that she was on the right track.
The first seedling with the straight manure had withered pretty quickly. In fact, the first five seedlings withered. Two months had passed and though Lorina was beginning to become discouraged, the support from her parents and brothers was encouraging so she trudged on.
And then, three-and-a-half months after starting her experiments, Lorina came running through the house excited beyond belief, simultaneously barreling through the house and carefully holding onto a seedling in her hands.
“I DID IT! I DID IT! MUM! DAD! VINCENT! CHESTER! I DID IT!”
Alice, Victor, Chester and Vincent came running to meet her in the hallway.
“What did you do this time?” Vincent asked, an accusatory note in his voice, thinking she’d misbehaved.
Lorina held up her prize: a newly grown red tulip, however, the color was brighter than any flower they’d ever seen. The green stem was vivid and strong and the petals almost glowed with health. None of that, however, compared to the blossom, which was almost three times the size of a normal tulip blossom.
“Oh, goodness, Lorina!” said Victor. “That’s wonderful!”
“I’m so proud of you!” said Alice, hugging her daughter.
“Thank you!” she beamed. “Once I had the right formula, it was really very simple! The formula was one thing but then I realized that making a sort of ‘tea’ out of the fertilizer was what put it really over the top!” The Creativity was clear in her voice. “Just three drops into the soil once a day and the plant grows three times as fast and three times as large! Just think! With my Invention, I could revolutionize the food industry! NO ONE WOULD GO HUNGRY AGAIN!”
“Whoa, Lorina…” said Chester. “You may want to relax a bit.”
The girl wasn’t listening. She was on a tangent. “You don’t understand! This is BIG! SO BIG! I WILL BE ABLE TO END HUNGER! AND NOT JUST EDIBLE PLANTS! I CAN FILL THE WORLD WITH FLOWERS!”
Victor and Alice looked at each other and put a hand on their daughter’s shoulders. “Take it easy, honey…” said Alice, gently stroking her hair.
“Calm down, sweetheart,” said Victor, hugging her.
“I – I…” Lorina blinked. “Oh…I’m…I’m sorry, everyone.” She shook her head to clear it. “I’m back.” She hugged the oversized tulip to herself. “I still made the greatest fertilizer ever, though.” She smiled wide.
“Yes, dear,” said Victor. “You did.”
“What’re you going to call it?” asked Vincent.
“Yeah. The stuff needs a name, doesn’t it?” added Chester.
Lorina screwed her face up in thought. “Hmm…maybe something like ‘Wondrous Germination’?”
Her brothers grimaced and her parents gave her an encouraging smile. Lorina shrugged. “I’ll work on it.”
“Well,” said Victor, ruffling Lorina’s hair, “now that we’re all done revolutionizing the food and flower industry, let’s wash up for dinner.”
She nodded. “All right, Daddy. Let me put the tulip back and clean up my notes and I’ll be right there.”
“Good girl,” said Alice. “Vincent, why don’t you go and help your sister?”
“Do I have to?” His mother fixed him with a hard stare. “All right, all right. Come on, Lorina.”
“Okay. Then can we tell Dr. Lisa and Golden Mun that I finally made the Best Fertilizer Ever?”
Her parents nodded. “Absolutely. After dinner we can contact her.”
And so they did.
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