Sunday, 22 January 2012
Novel: Five-Leaf Clover
Going down the steps into the underpass that led from the station to the university, I found a five-leaf clover. The grass and weeds grew right up to the steps, and I was far enough down that my head was level with them. The clover was longer and more straggly than the plant I remembered on the lawn in my Surrey childhood, but it was certainly the real thing, and every stalk but one had three leaves on the end. The stalk leaned right over the brick wall of the underpass, and brushed my face as I stepped down. It had the usual three leaves in the familiar pattern of the Clubs in a pack of cards, but there were an additional two hanging down underneath it. They were partially fused to the stalk, and a paler colour than the upper leaves. It was obviously some kind of mutation. As a boy, I would spend hours on end sitting on the grass, examining every plant for a four-leaf clover; it was all of a piece with my longing for a wishing-well and the way I would examine every old penny to see if I had one of the pricelessly rare 1933s. Now at last I had been singled out - but by a clover with five leaves rather than four. Did the extra leaf make it even luckier, or cancel out the good luck, perhaps even reverse it? Someone pushed into my back as I stopped to think about it, and cursed under his breath. I reached up and snapped off the stalk, then, as an afterthought, broke off a normal one from the verge, a control specimen for purposes of comparison. I had the vague idea that its status would be disputed, and I wanted to be able to prove what it was. This happened in the summer. I wrapped the two clover stems in tissue and pressed them between the pages of the Gideon Bible on my bedside table at the Squirrels. Now every time I went down the underpass I would look at the weeds in the verge half-hoping, half-fearing to find another. I still didn't know whether it had brought me luck or cursed me.