Acarpous

Dr. Ino, in his lab coat, early in the morning. The clock, six minutes to three.

He slices the leaf along its axis. He wipes his thumb in the fragrant wax on its adaxial surface, and leans back. The short stem in the hydroponic vat quivers, bereft now of half its lone garment. What is left is the amputated green oval, the opened green vein where he has broken the shoot.

“I am sorry, my friend,” he says to the stem.

The stem, as ever, is silent. Dr. Ino consults his papers, the color printed stacks of alleles. The stem should be burdened by branches, the sticky condensation on the rumps of pliant fruits, a kind of fruit not seen on Earth for 10,000 years. The botanist become the geneticist, Dr. Ino, surveys the leaf under his microscope.

Its razored edge reveals healthy chloroplasts, more than any modern flora. Green miracles translucent upon the bright glass slide. Dr. Ino returns his gaze to the stunted stem. It is an acarpous mutant, last of its kind, alive. Not by choice, and by rights should be fertile. His thumb once more smudges the wax film on its surface. Not willing to bear fruit for this millennium.

Dr. Ino, in his lab coat, watches the sun rise in the laboratory glass. The clock, three minutes to six.

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