by Arnold Snyder
“We’re going out tonight, Dusty,” I said, as I was carrying the wheelchair out onto the balcony. “You’re my girl and I’m taking you on a date.”
Don’t tell me lies, Morgan. You know I have nothing to wear.
“You do now. I went shopping. You’ll be the best-dressed lady in Vegas tonight.”
You don’t even know my size. How could you shop for me?
I opened up the wheelchair. “Your carriage, madam.”
“Your mode of transportation. You’ll be traveling like a Persian princess. Now I can bring you with me wherever I go.”
Is there something I said that makes you feel I want you dragging me through your life?
“This is only for when you want to come with me. Like for a date. Like now. I’m taking you out for a cocktail. I have a beautiful dress for you.”
Morgan, are you serious? You bought me a dress? And we’re going out for cocktails? Right now? I don’t have any makeup.
“Yes, you do. I got lipstick for you. It’s your perfect color. It’s called Enticing. Now hold still. I’m going to move you onto your new mobile throne.”
I wrapped my arms around her pot and lifted her from the table, lowering her onto the wheelchair seat. “How’s that?” I said. I fastened the seat belt around the base of the pot.
I can’t believe you’re doing this for me. Nobody’s ever done anything like this for me before. Would you tighten my other belt, please? It came loose in the move.
I looked at the belt I’d put on her earlier. “It has not loosened,” I said. “You’re just trying to get me to hurt you. You’re a masochist, Dusty. But I won’t do it. I can’t do it. I’m not a sadist.”
Please, please, please, Morgan, just for our date. Just one notch tighter. One notch. Please?
“Just for our date,” I said, tightening the belt around her torso. “But don’t ask me for any more notches.” I took the silk scarf out of the bag. “What do you think of the dress I picked out for you?” I held it up with both hands.
Oh my god, Morgan, it’s so beautiful. Help me put it on.
Wrapping the scarf around her was trickier than I thought. The thorns that ran up the edges of her leaves kept snagging the silk. When I’d managed to get it more-or-less wrapped around her, I stopped and stepped back to admire my work. A cactus wearing a silk scarf looks absurd. The thorns along the edges of her leaves were now poking through the scarf everywhere the silk touched the leaves.
“It’s absolutely stunning,” I said.
Oh Morgan, do you mean it?
“You’re going to turn heads everywhere we go. Now be still while I apply your lipstick.”
Lipstick? You got me lipstick?
As I took the tube from the box, I was wondering where exactly I should apply it. Was there some specific area on some leaf she thought of as her mouth? Finally, I just started applying it to an area on one of her tallest central leaves, drawing lips as best I could.
“You look smashing,” I said.
Morgan, I’m going to burst from happiness. I can’t believe you’re doing this.
“Now for your perfume—Chanel Number Five.”
No! Are you serious?
I took out the small bottle of perfume and twisted off the applicator top. The aroma of Chanel permeated the air. I dabbed perfume lightly on a few of Dusty’s leaves.
Oh my god that smells so delicious! Morgan, I’m going to start crying.
“No tears allowed tonight, my love. We’re celebrating.” I didn’t believe for a second that she could smell the Chanel. How could she possibly smell anything? She had no nose. “Now for your hat—” I took out the felt beret. “This is the hat they’ll be wearing in Paris come spring.” I tried dangling the hat from various of her taller leaves until the thorns made the decision for me as to how that hat would be worn.
I stepped back to look at her. “Wow, Dusty, you are gorgeous.”
A cactus sitting in a wheelchair, draped in a multicolored silk scarf, with a pair of lips crudely drawn onto one of the leaves, topped with a turquoise beret, looks—I think the word is ridiculous.
I think I’m the happiest woman on the whole planet right now. Where are you going to take me?
“We’re going to take a walk in the moonlight down to the bar at the end of the street. And we’re going to go in and enjoy a romantic glass of wine together. Now you wait here while I put on a nicer shirt and my good slacks.”
Oh Morgan I think I’m going to cry. I’m going to treat you so well. I’ll be the best wife a man ever had.
Wife? Suddenly she’s my wife?
I went into my bedroom to change my clothes. Was I doing the right thing? It was what she wanted. I was fulfilling her longing to be treated like a woman. But what about my longing to be a plant? When do my needs get taken care of?
After changing into clean clothes, I thought about which cologne to wear. Obviously Dusty wouldn’t be able to smell it, so what did it matter? But I decided on the cologne that contained pheromones, supposedly to attract the opposite sex.
I went back into the living room.
Dusty looked so happy. I’d never before looked at her and seen happiness. It was a few moments before I realized why she looked happy. The corners of the lips I’d drawn on her central leaf with the reddish brown lipstick were now turned up in a smile. A chill ran through me. Impossible. I didn’t recall drawing her mouth that way.
Am I going crazy? I’m taking a cactus out for cocktails. My whole life of normalcy has been destroyed. I’m operating entirely on a Smith Scale score of zero.
You look so handsome tonight, like a prince, like a Hollywood star.
“And you look like an angel sent from heaven,” I said, walking up to her. I leaned down and kissed her cheek, or where her cheek would be based on where I’d drawn her lips. “Let’s go, my love. The night is young and so are we.”
Walking down the street with her I felt light on my feet. I was doing something good, something important, something noble. I was fulfilling Dusty’s dreams. How often does a man get to fulfill someone’s dreams?
Go to Chapter Nine