Lily in the Moonlight

An account by Professor Fia McCauley, as told to Maureen Bowden
Art by Luke Spooner

My namesake, Saint Fiacra, is the patron saint of gardeners, so I was destined to be a botanist. I specialised in lilies, the loveliest of flowers, but their beauty has too brief a life before it suffers, in Shakespeare’s words, “The wrackful siege of battering days.”

My life’s work was to produce a hybrid lily possessing longevity. Obtaining seeds from the most long-lived species, I cross-pollinated again and again. The lilies didn’t like it. Virginal by inclination, they prefer to reproduce asexually, by splitting their bulbs, allowing each segment to grow into a new plant. It was necessary, however, for me to subject them to the indignity of seeding, in order to achieve my goal.

I had friends in those early post-war days: former students from university, clinging to bizarre nicknames, hanging on to old relationships, before making their way in the world to find their niches, and leave me to mine. They visited me from time to time.

“What’s the plan, Fi?” Jinks said. “Propagating man-eating plants to protect us against the next potential invader?”

“Don’t be an ass,” Bunty said, helping herself from my dish of assorted nuts and berries. “If Fi was doing that, the government wouldn’t let her tell us. Do you want to be hanged as a spy?”

Corky picked up my mandolin. “Give us a burst on your banjo, Fi.”

I forced myself to smile as I took it from him. “It’s a mandolin, not a banjo.”

“What’s the difference?”

“A mandolin’s more feminine.”

I led them into the garden, where they were less intrusive, and I laughed at their lunacies until they left.

In time, the visits grew less frequent, then they stopped. I was happier without the distraction.

Art for "Lily in the Moonlight"

Forty years later, I still looked no older than twenty-five, and my Lily remained in bloom. She was my closest companion.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2017 collection.

Professor Fia McCauley was born in 1920. She studied at the Northern England University College of Horticulture, making a valuable contribution to the development of farming practices and food production throughout World War II. She obtained a PhD, and when the war ended, she purchased a smallholding from university land and turned her attention to botany. She died in 2016, bequeathing her estate back to the university. The students still tend her flowers.

Maureen Bowden is a Liverpudlian living with her musician husband in North Wales. She has had eighty-four stories and poems accepted for publication by paying markets. Silver Pen publishers nominated one of her stories for the 2015 international Pushcart Prize. She also writes song lyrics, mostly comic political satire, set to traditional melodies. Her husband has performed these in Folk clubs throughout England and Wales. She loves her family and friends, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Shakespeare, and cats.

Luke Spooner, a.k.a. ‘Carrion House,’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree, he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales, his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy, or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility, as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at

“Lily in the Moonlight” is © 2017 Maureen Bowden
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Luke Spooner

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