The Black Thumb of Calcutta


This is my response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt for February 6. The challenge is to write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt. Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create. The photo prompt this week comes from Melanie Greenwood. My story this week weighs in at exactly 100 words.

Copyright Melanie Greenwood

Copyright Melanie Greenwood

The Black Thumb of Calcutta

“What is that bare patch?”

“It’s a reminder that all people have unique gifts. When our community was new and much smaller, a journalist came. He took many pictures. Finally, the Mother Superior told him to put the camera down and do something useful. He stopped taking photos, picked up a hoe, and managed to kill every tomato plant in the garden.”

“He didn’t have a green thumb.”

“No, but he took amazing photos. When he published them, people began to donate their time and money. The community flourished, but that corner of the garden never grew another living thing.”

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46 thoughts on “The Black Thumb of Calcutta

  1. Dear Marie Gail,

    We used to joke about my mother’s (lack of) plant prowess and said she had a brown thumb. Bless her heart, she loved houseplants but only managed to kill them.

    I enjoyed your off the wall take on the prompt. Great title, too.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Rochelle. This one was fun, and I needed a break from the tragedy after last week. “The black thumb of Calcutta” is Conja’s term–it’s how she describes her inability to grow or nurture anything green. We had fun brainstorming this one together.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  2. I have a black thumb but take some pretty good pictures. I think me and the journalist guy could probably hang out.

  3. Sandra says:

    Great title, and a profound little tale to go with it. Well done.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Sandra! When I saw the prompt, I thought of this title because my wife is always saying she has the black thumb of Calcutta. We had fun coming up with a story from the title.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  4. Lovely. It’s all those chemicals, probably. Perhaps your wife can cook! Or sing. Or dance. We all bring something!

    • storydivamg says:

      Patrick,
      Oh, she can dance alright! And she has a degree in music performance, so my wife is most definitely talented. She just needs to stay the heck away from my houseplants. LOL

      Thanks for reading!

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  5. draliman says:

    He definitely needs to stick to photography! A great message in your story.

  6. Or you could say “cobbler stay to thy last”.. A good thing everyone has their skills…The concept of black thumbs I will remember…

  7. elmowrites says:

    I wondered about those patches of bare earth, but I shall wonder no more.What a great story and a fantastic lesson to honour and value each person’s unique skills, not try to hem them into a box we have created. Great stuff!

  8. tedstrutz says:

    Uplifting! Nice to see a cheerful story, Marie.

  9. Nan Falkner says:

    Dear Marie Gail, I too have an uncanny ability to kill living plants. I don’t know what I do, but they don’t survive – other than one ivy that my son gave me years ago – and it is still alive. Your story is cute! Nan 🙂

    • storydivamg says:

      Ivies tend to be much easier to keep alive than other plants. I’m hoping to get a few nice philodendrons and maybe an English ivy or two for my home this spring. In the past, I’ve had good luck with those despite my rather wilty brown thumb.

      Thanks for reading.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  10. Both my parents are farmers, yet my mother and I find it impossible to keep a house plant alive beyond a few weeks. It’s rather strange.

  11. Vinay Leo R. says:

    Absolutely! Some gifts are less understood, even when they are useful 🙂

    • storydivamg says:

      Quite true. This story was inspired in part by an anecdotal tale about Mother Teresa, who purportedly said something very similar to a reporter visiting her facility in Calcutta. I remember thinking that she needed the publicity just as much as she needed other forms of help.

      Marie Gail

  12. Michael B. Fishman says:

    A silver lining to every cloud! Personally, I like photography better than gardening so I’m happy for the journalist!

  13. I’d like to believe that’s true – all people have unique gifts even if not obvious or even readily understandable. Nice parable.

  14. Killing all the tomato plants cracked me up. Some people try so hard to help and should keep to what they do best instead.

    • storydivamg says:

      And sometimes teachers, parents and other authority figures want to make everyone fit into a certain mold. We would do well to let each individual do what they do best, wouldn’t we?

      Thanks for reading.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  15. eLPy says:

    I also appreciate your approaching this from a different angle. You’ve given us a bit of historical fiction if you. 🙂

  16. Margaret says:

    Having all the tomatoes die is one thing, but a permanently bare patch! Whatever did he do there? I love how his efforts succeeded in benefiting the community anyway. A lovely story.

    • storydivamg says:

      Good question, Margaret. Do you think he cursed the ground when the tomato plants died? I’ve always found it interesting how some people seem to be able to make anything grow and others seem to carry a death curse around with their watering cans.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  17. rgayer55 says:

    I have a stone thumb. Every time I dig in the dirt nothing comes up but rocks. Your story proves that while not everyone has the same talents (i.e. – gifts) all have value and can be beneficial to the greater good. A great reminder for us all.

    • storydivamg says:

      A stone thumb . . . now THAT’S a problem. Thanks for reading. I hope this came across light-handed even with the “moral to the story.” Always nice to have you reading along.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  18. Subroto says:

    One step beyond brown thumbs then. This is definitely a fine tale about the Darth Vader of the gardening world.

  19. A very nice story! we can’t all be multi-talented i suppose, he may have killed that piece of ground but overall his work has helped 🙂

  20. Melanie says:

    Oh too funny! Poor guy, but it’s great such good came from his work.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Melanie. I have to admit that my ability to be funny this week is directly related to my wife’s influence on the story. She has used the term “black thumb of Calcutta” to refer to her gardening abilities for years, and she was kind enough to brainstorm along with me as I composed this little tale.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  21. Great use of the prompt, Marie Gail. Humorous use of that bare spot in the photo. 😀 I wonder what the photographer did to the soil? Well done. 🙂 — Suzanne

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Suzanne. Actually, I hadn’t even noticed the bare spots when I developed this idea. I just knew that I needed to use my wife’s “black thumb of Calcutta” in a story when a garden came my way. 😉

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  22. erinleary says:

    I like the idea of using the bare patch as inspiration. It was a great way to weave it all back together.

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