For years nothing much had happened in our unadventurous lives but we were quite content with our little lot. At least I was. There was a regular pattern to our days that we found reassuring. At least I did. Then one day we found this strange plant in the garden with yellow flowers, purple florets, red berries and heart-shaped leaves.
Let’s dry the leaves, Dorothy said. Out of the blue.
Try the leaves?
Dry the leaves Cloth-ears!
What’s the point of that? I asked and immediately regretted my question as Dorothy went straight into her Primary School Headmistress mode. Like a TV presenter reading from the auto-cue:
Drying, she said, is a method of food preservation in which food is dehydrated. This inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and mould through the removal of water. Dehydration has been used widely for this purpose since ancient times. The earliest known practice is 12,000 B.C. by inhabitants of the modern Middle East and Asia regions. Water is traditionally removed through air drying, sun drying, smoking or wind drying, although today electric food dehydrators can be used to speed the drying process and ensure more consistent results. So What do you think? We have a dehydrator up in the attic somewhere. Let’s do it.
Okay, I said. Without any great degree of enthusiasm or expectation. For all that she watches so many cooking programmes on television, Dorothy isn’t the world’s greatest cook. Her timing. Things are either under- or over-cooked.
Okay. Let’s do it.It’s not as if it can do us any harm.
Six hours later, the leaves were so brittle that they turned to powder at a touch.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, I said, not sarcastically, a feeble sort of joke which I regretted as soon as I’d made it..
Good thinking, Batman, Dorothy said. Let’s do it.
So I went out to the tobacconist and bought a Meerschaum which the tobacconist said would ensure a pleasingly cool smoke.
You first, Dorothy said.
No, after you, I said.
I lit a match for Dorothy and held it over the bowl of the pipe. Dorothy took a puff then passed the pipe to me.
I took a puff and waited. Nothing much happened. A cinamonny flavour left in the mouth. A slight smell in the air like after you’ve peeled an orange. Not unpleasant. But all in all a bit of an anti-climax.
The effect won’t be immediate, Dorothy said. It takes time for it to get round all your …whatyamacallits and reach the brain. We’ve hardly started yet.
We took a few more puffs.
Can you feel anything yet? Dorothy asked.
I shook my head then I began to panic a little.
How do we know what effect it – whatever it is – will have on our brains?
That’s the beauty of it, Dorothy said with one of her little smiles. We don’t.
Tomorrow we’re going to do something with the berries once we get back the use of our limbs