by Arnold Snyder
After a night of tossing my sheets and blankets on and off, I called in sick again and sat on my living room floor in my shorts, drinking a beer. My first beer. The five to come were beside me on the rug. It was abnormal for me to have beer for breakfast, but so trivially abnormal at this point it hardly nudged my Smith Scale score, which was basically hovering between zero and some fraction of one.
I had been abandoned by a plant. I had been used and abused by a plant. I had attempted to have sex with a plant, and failed. The plant was ready, but I couldn’t perform. How far down the Smith Scale had I gone?
I called Megan, my third Megan, whom I shall henceforth refer to as Babs.
“Dusty’s gone,” I said. “I met another Megan at Minnie’s last night and I introduced her to Dusty, and that was that. Dusty threw a tantrum and Megan took her away from me, to save her from me in fact. I didn’t try to stop her. I watched it happen.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Morgan. I thought you guys would be good together.”
“Anyway, Babs, how about we have dinner tonight?”
“Can’t do it. I’m having dinner with Pete.”
Now I remembered—Spago. “How about tomorrow night?” I said.
“You know what, Morgan? I don’t really think we have that much in common. I like you and I like a lot of things about you. But I’m just coming off a long relationship—”
“We don’t have much in common? We’re both transplants!” I polished off the can and popped the top on another. “I don’t know any other transplants, except for the other Megan, and she hates me now since she thinks I was abusing Dusty. She thinks you were abusing Dusty too, so we also have that in common.”
“But now you know where to meet other transplants. And that’s the most important thing in life. To know you’re not alone and you don’t have to be alone.”
“So I shouldn’t bother calling you anymore?”
“We can still be friends, Morgan,”
“Morgan, I’m out of your league.”
“I know that. I knew that from the start. But you’re the one who came on strong. You led me on.”
“Sorry, but I was going through some emotional shit. I really was attracted to you. I still am. I’m just … out of your league.”
“Can I be honest? Your breasts have been at the center of my fantasies since the day I met you, and up to now I have been fairly certain I was going to get to second base. Now my hopes are dashed.”
“I thought you weren’t a tit man?”
“I didn’t use to be.”
“Well, you don’t have to give up hope. Pete’s getting me a job dancing at the Hippo.”
“I’m so glad you introduced me to him, Morgan. I’m going to work weekends only, but you can come in any Friday or Saturday night and my tits will be on display for hours on end.”
“Maybe I’ll come.”
“It’s two hundred bucks for thirty minutes in the VIP.”
“At the Hippo, Morgan, where I’m working.”
“You do VIP dances?”
“That’s where the money is, Morgan.”
“Two hundred for half an hour with your tits?”
“Just you and me in the VIP, babe. Two hundred bucks.”
“Damn, that’s reasonable. I can come up with a couple hundred bucks now and again. Are you sure Pete won’t mind?”
“Hell, no, he gets a piece of it.”
“Well, thanks for talking to me, Babs. You just made my day. I guess I’m heading over to Minnie’s tonight. At least I’ve found my people. I’m going to look into getting a job as a volunteer at the ASPCP. I want to connect with some of the abused plants. I want to hear their stories. I want to tell them mine.”
“I gotta go, Morgan. Have fun tonight. I hope you meet the transplant of your dreams. I’ll see you at the Hippo soon. Bring lots of twenties. I’ll give you the hottest lap dances of your life.”
Life was picking up.
I was walking on air. Soon, with Babs in the VIP room, I’d be embarking on a meaningful long-term relationship. A relationship with substance, based solely on tits and twenties. It was the dawn of a new day.
And at Minnie’s I could meet more transplants, maybe even find a girl to do plant position with on a regular basis. I drained the second beer and after popping the top on number three, I laid my head down on the rug. I wasn’t used to beer in the morning. I liked it.
Can you hear me?
I picked my head up and looked around the room. I’d been under the impression I was alone.
Can you hear me?
I sat up.
“Did someone say something?” I said softly, hesitantly.
Thank god you can hear me.
“Where are you?”
I’m right next to you. Look to your left. On the floor.
It was the big branch that my fourth Megan had been carrying like a staff all night. It was not a pretty thing, what with multiple small branches torn from it, strips of the thin brown bark ripped from it all along its six-foot length. A few healthy-looking leaves still clung to life on some of the remaining sturdy branches near the tip.
But oh my god, another talking plant. Megan, that is Babs, had warned me I’d start to hear other plants talking. But it shook me. It felt like an invader had penetrated the privacy of my home.
Hello. Hello. Can you speak? Can you please acknowledge my existence?
“Yes,” I said. “I hear you. You surprised me because I just recently started to hear plants speak and I wasn’t expecting it.”
Yes, I know. You didn’t view me as a sentient life form.
“But you’re dead! You have been amputated from your roots. You’re a branch, not a living plant!”
Obviously, botany was never your strong suit. Do you know anything at all about trees? Do you see those green leaves? That means I’m still alive. You are correct that without roots I will die eventually. But I’m far from dead right now. I am alive and healthy and if you plant me I will grow.
“It looks like your bottom end was sawed off,” I said. “I’m awfully sorry someone did that to you.”
You know damn well who did that to me. You’ve been trying to seduce her all night—rather pathetically.
“Are you asking me to plant you? I’ll be happy to comply with your wishes. There’s a little patch of dirt out back. Kind of dry, but it’s dirt.”
Thank heaven, Morgan, you’re my savior. But please, I do not want to be planted in “a little patch of dirt.” To grow a tree from a cutting, you have to nurture it with the right amounts of sunlight and water and a soil that’s full of nutrients. And you can’t just plant me as is. You’ll have to get the best cutting from my newly sprouted twigs that have healthy leaves. That’s the only way you can preserve my soul. I’ll walk you through the process.
“I’ll have to go to a nursery to get supplies,” I said. “I don’t have any kind of gardening equipment.”
I see you have a balcony. Does it get much sunlight?
Then I’ll live there and you can take care of my very few basic needs. My name’s Pete, by the way.
“Just what I need—another Pete in my life. How soon do we have to get you planted, Pete?”
You mean before I die? Let’s just say the sooner the better. You’ve got to plant a cutting while it’s young and vibrant. As long as I’m part of this large branch, you have a few days to get supplies, but that’s it. Can you explain to me what you people were doing?
You and the nutcase who hack-sawed me off a tree, then started carrying me around to beer joints, ripping my limbs off so she can give pieces of me to strangers—you being one of the most recent chosen recipients. You and all those people. What the hell was that about?
“Oh. The people that were carrying branches and pieces of branches, like me, we’re all actually plants trapped in human bodies. I take it you’re a human trapped in a tree branch.”
You take it wrong. Human? Ha! That’s a good one. Actually, I’m a dolphin trapped in a tree branch.
“A dolphin? You’re a fish? But you speak English!”
Obviously you know as much about marine biology as you do about botany. The fact is I’ve spent my life providing shade for people having picnics in the park. I got to hear a lot of human conversations though the decades. Mostly in English. I’m fairly fluent in Spanish and Vietnamese also. But there weren’t many dolphins around. So, are you going to join the movement?
The Transearth movement.
We’ve discovered that everything in creation is actually something else trapped in the wrong body.
“That sounds plausible, but so what? What makes it a movement?”
What makes it a movement is that we want our rights, starting with the right to vote.
“Tree branches want voting rights?”
All plants, not just tree branches. We’re totally discriminated against. We have no rights whatsoever. Anyone is free to abuse us, torture us, piss on us, and kill us with no legal or criminal repercussions. Plus, we have no representatives in any branch of government. We think it’s high time some plants were on the ballot. Are we ever going to see a plant elected to a city council, let alone a mayor or governor? And the same goes for the animals and transanimals. Animals are also second class citizens.
“I never really thought about this before. What kind of laws do we want?”
Right now there are zero laws against discriminating against plants in this country, or any country. That sends a message to plants that says we don’t deserve even the basic protections against abuse. But before we go into that, we should be expanding the argument considerably. Did you know that inanimate objects are also sometimes trapped in the wrong body?For example, I knew a dinner plate that was actually an electric lamp trapped in the wrong object. Think of how painful that must have been for that lamp, to never actually be able to turn on its light, because it’s just a flat ceramic thing that people keep putting food on.
“How does a tree branch happen to meet a dinner plate?”
A Sunday picnic. Right beneath me.
“Tell me more about the transanimals. Do cats and dogs ever have people or plants or other animals trapped inside them?”
Back when I was still part of the mother tree, there was a neighborhood dog—a scruffy old German shepherd—that used to urinate on me every day. We became quite close. He confided in me that he was only a dog on the outside. Inside, he was a canary, trapped in a dog’s body.
“That’s so sad. Do you think we’ll someday have the technology to perform an operation on a German shepherd to turn it into a canary? You know, only if the dog wants it.”
Medical science is amazing, but we could still be years away from something like that. And that’s why the Transearth movement is so important right now. We must get political. Our voices must be heard.
“I totally agree with you, but here’s what I don’t understand … Since you can’t move and you can’t talk to regular people, I mean, I can hear you but other people can’t, so how can you foment political unrest, if that’s what you’re trying to do?”
That’s where you come in, Morgan. I will speak through you.
“What do you mean?”
I mean you will be the face and voice of our revolution, and we are not giving up until all plants, animals, birds, fish and insects have full voting rights and representation in our political system.
Yes, insects! What gives us the right to pass laws and make social policies without the insects’ input?
“But there must be a drillion ants in the world! If we allow them all to vote, they’ll rule the planet.”
You want to live in a democracy, don’t you? You are aware of the fact that many people on this planet are actually ants trapped in human bodies.
And many more ants on this planet are actually humans trapped in ant bodies.
“Geez, that must be awful, to be walking around on six legs with that weird ant body and creepy feelers when you’re actually human. Do they even know they’re human?”
No, most of them don’t. And most of the humans who are actually ants trapped in human bodies don’t know they’re ants. But Transearth is here to deal with this problem. Education will be our first priority. We have to let people know that they’re not who they think they are.
“But are any people actually humans trapped in human bodies?”
There are some, but all of them are either men trapped in women’s bodies or women trapped in men’s bodies.
“And they’re the only actual full humans on the planet?”
Yes, and for that reason they’re the only sane humans on the planet. Everyone else is pretty much batshit crazy. We’re going to have to start counseling centers for the people who are corrugated cardboard boxes trapped in human bodies. Many of the transobjects are the most fucked up people on the planet.
“You mean some people are actually corrugated cardboard boxes? I’ve heard of that before, but I didn’t believe it. Why do they need counseling?”
That’s one for the psychologists to figure out. All a corrugated cardboard box wants in life is for people to put things into them. They just want to get filled up and stored in an attic or garage and left alone.
“Are all inanimate objects conscious beings, just like people?”
Absolutely. That chair there has a soul, as do your couch, lamps, rugs, clock. You are probably unaware of the fact that the underpants you are currently wearing are actually an ostrich, trapped in your drawers.
“That’s not a very pleasant thought. So, what exactly am I supposed to do for the Transearth movement? Where do I start?”
You need to write a speech. I’ll help you. You’re going to introduce me as the Founder, President, and CEO of Transearth, Inc.
“Introduce you? Do I call you Pete or do you have a more formal name? I don’t know how names work for tree branches. Will I be holding you, or will you be on some kind of stand?”
You’ll be holding me in the manner that a medieval knight holds a lance prior to battle. You’ll garner more attention faster if you hold me that way, plus we’ll be able to make a fast getaway if necessary.
“A fast getaway?”
I’m just saying if it becomes necessary—
“Why might that become necessary?”
Maybe people won’t like what we’re saying. People don’t like to change their views. When you tell them I’m running for office—
“You’re running for office?”
“Of what city?”
That’s for my campaign staff to figure out. And you are chairman of my campaign staff, incidentally, so you’ve got to get moving on this project. We need to find a city somewhere in this country where the people still have old-fashioned values, the kind of people who would seriously stop and consider electing a tree branch as mayor.
“Okay, let’s say you get elected mayor of some city, what then? All these plans we’re making will be for nothing once the ants get the vote.”
You’re not giving the ants much credit for compassion or empathy. Ants are inspirational. They live in a true democracy with every ant having a voice in their colony’s direction. When the ants control all three branches of our government—as they inevitably will—peace will descend upon our land. When they control the governments of all countries, this will be a marvelous world to live in. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
“I don’t know if I can do this, Pete. I’m not good at public speaking.”
You’ll pick it up fast. There’s no backing out now. Once you’ve made a commitment to Transearth, you’re in for life.
“But what I’m saying is that I don’t think I can make a commitment like that. I don’t know how to get a tree branch elected mayor. The idea sounds crazy to me.”
Crazy? The most brilliant strategy devised yet to transform this planet into a democratic paradise for all creatures, to take the rule of law away from humans and distribute it among all of this sphere’s inhabitants, including the inanimate, you call that “crazy?” I’m afraid it’s too late to quit. You’ve already made a commitment. If you try to bail on us now, you’ll have to answer to the grievance committee. Traitors are dealt with harshly.
“What grievance committee?”
Don’t try to pull the dumb act now. I can see through your scam.
“What scam? I haven’t committed to anything yet. We’re just having a friendly discussion.”
I’m not falling for the old “friendly discussion” ruse. You understand I’m compelled to report you.
“To who? For what? There’s no ruse. You have a misunderstanding of whatever the hell we’ve been talking about. I’m not your campaign manager. I’m going out for a while.” I stood up.
Don’t you dare walk out on me.
“I’m not walking out on you, I’m taking a walk. I’ve got to clear my head.” I walked to the door.
All of this will be reported. You’re just making it worse for yourself. Do you have any idea what your punishment will be if you walk out that door?
“You know what, Pete? Fuck you. And fuck your Transearth bullshit. Inanimate objects do not have consciousness. So fuck you and your screwball theories.”
I slammed the front door behind me.
Go to Chapter Sixteen