Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Straight Reading from the Library: Spiritual Growths by Lori Ann White

This post is part of a virtual tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions.  One commenter at each stop will receive a postcard-size cover art signed by the author or cover artist, and one randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour will receive the full set of cover prints in a custom-made handbag embroidered with the logo.  Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Spiritual Growths by Lori Ann White
ISBN: 978-1-932207-37-8


Robbie didn’t think anything of the mala made of bodhi seeds her co-worker gave her until it fell apart during her Sunday-night soak.  Now a sapling has sprouted out of the drain, and it’s not coming loose, no matter how hard she tugs.  Stranger still, more trees start appearing throughout the city: in fountains, in toilets, even in the middle of Candlestick Park.

Before she can ponder the sound of one hand clapping, a full-fledged media and religious circus has descended on the city; complete with Zen masters, protesters, investigative reporters and police cordons. Now Robbie has to figure out what to do with the bodhi tree before her co-worker finds it and brings the circus to her bathroom.


According to the tree report, the official total now stood at twenty. The highest profile tree grew in the middle of the fifty-yard line at CandlestickPark, forcing the ‘Niners to scramble for alternate space for the next home game. Most controversial was the tree at Rancho San Antonio, a popular park in the hills near Palo Alto. The park ranger who’d found the tree, an unhappy woman in a Smokey Bear hat and a rain slicker, admitted that yes, the Park Service was aware of the religious significance of the tree. “However, it is a nonnative species. We are currently investigating ways to remove it.”

“Good luck,” said Alan. Robbie whooped aloud.

The station cut to Hector Corregas, who still reigned as the station’s TreeMan. He was bundled in the same overcoat he’d worn—was it only two nights before?—backlit by hastily-erected floods that shone down on a tree easily topping four feet. In the background, over the ranks of kneeling worshipers with their heads bowed over clasped hands and past ranks of standing live-bloggers and tweeters, their heads bowed over clasped phones, Robbie could see glints of light sparking off dark water—the tree at Oracle, a giant database company about midway up the peninsula. Muffled chanting could be heard in the background. “Today marked another fruitless round of scientific tests. There are still no definitive answers as to how the trees got here, why they can’t be removed, why they don’t damage plumbing, how they grow so fast—no one in the scientific community can even begin to address such questions.

“Are they miracles? Switchboards at area Buddhist organizations are jammed. Traffic at Buddhist websites has skyrocketed. Orientation classes in Buddhist philosophy are standing room only. Meanwhile, despite the breakthrough in negotiations yesterday at Google, other problems are arising. Other religions are starting to respond.” The camera panned around. The chanting, Robbie now saw, wasn’t all Buddhist. A mixed crowd of men and women, mostly white, waved placards warning of the Antichrist, warning of false prophets. Robbie winced.

“The Buddha is the Antichrist?” said Alan. “I don’t think so.”

“Well, at least people are starting to think about the deeper implications.”

One of the men in the picket line dropped his sign and broke free from the group. He sprinted past the camera, which tracked him well enough to catch a glow in his right hand. Screams broke the chanting. “Oh my God,” yelled Corregas. “Keep taping, keep taping.” Security guards converged, but as they reached an inner semicircle of kneeling Buddhists, the guards slowed to keep from stepping on people while the man bulled his way through, bowling over worshippers left and right. He emerged into the flood-lit circle, raised his hand as if in victory, and slammed the lit Molotov cocktail to the ground.

A sheet of flame shot toward the sky. The camera caught the attacker as he was blown backwards into the crowd. The flames died down almost as quickly as they’d begun, and a profound silence blanketed the scene. The tree, untouched, spread its branches in a silent benediction over a semicircle of charred ground. One by one, the worshippers, also untouched, rose, stumbled forward, and dropped to their knees in the ashes.

“Or not thinking at all,” Alan whispered. He groped for Robbie’s hand. Their fingers met over Percy and locked together tight.


Originally from Idaho, Lori Ann White now lives near San Francisco with her husband and their adorable cat Halvah. Her real-world job is unreal enough—she is a science writer at SLAC National Accelerator Lab and can honestly say the Higgs Boson ruined her summer vacation. Her work has appeared in such publications as Analog, Asimov’s, and Polyphony.


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