by Arnold Snyder
I’d never had an intimate relationship with a plant before and I didn’t know where to turn for advice. I called Pete.
“I don’t know what to do,” I said. “I think I’ve fallen in love.”
“No. With Dusty.”
“I met her at Babs’ house.”
“Perfect! We’ll double date. You hook me up with Babsarella, and you take Dusty. I’ll get us a dinner comp at Guy Savoy.”
“That’s not going to work, Pete,” I said. “Dusty’s not … I don’t know how to explain it. Dusty’s an agave.”
“Agave? What is that, some kind of Indian?”
“It’s a type of cactus,” I said.
“Yeah. A cactus.”
“You mean like a plant with prickers that grows out in the desert? That kind of cactus?”
“Yeah. Like that.”
“Are you eating those mushrooms again? You gotta stop hanging out with those old hippies you work with. Goddamn, the post office will hire anybody.”
“I’m not tripping, Pete. I’m just trying to figure this thing out. I’m not the type of person who would ever consider getting intimately involved with any form of plant life. You know that. It’s just too abnormal for me.”
“So what’s wrong with your brain, Morg?”
“I don’t know. Even disregarding the abnormalcy of my feelings for Dusty, I don’t have a high opinion of plants. I’m not the nature boy type. You know that. I’ve never paid much attention to plants, nor did it ever cross my mind that any plant was paying attention to me. Remember two Christmases ago when Gertrude Vandeville gave me that begonia plant?”
“Honestly, Morg, I have no recollection.”
“One of the old ladies on my route,” I said. “It was a Christmas gift. It had pretty pink and white flowers for a week or so. Then it turned brown. Houseplants do better when they get water. I tried to water it then, but I was too late. I think that was the only plant I ever owned in my life. It lasted ten days.”
“Are you at home right now, Morg?”
“Are you alone?”
“No. I’m with Dusty.”
“Wait there, Morg. I’m coming over.”
I had placed Dusty on a table on the small balcony off my living room, right where the morning sun would greet her each day. I felt like a teenage boy with his first girlfriend. I was enthralled just to sit and look at her. I couldn’t believe I’d gone so many years of my life without a real partner, and now all that had changed in an afternoon.
Pete’s knock made me wish I hadn’t invited him over. He’d never understand. I just wanted to be alone with Dusty.
I opened the door.
Pete was a big guy, probably weighed 240 or so, lots of muscle but an undeniable beer belly.
“Where’s the girl,” he asked as he walked in.
I nodded toward the balcony.
He went to the living room window which allowed him to see my balcony without going out onto it.
“Hey, you got a barbeque grill,” he said. “Let’s cook up some ribs this weekend.”
“I don’t think Dusty would appreciate the smoke.”
He returned to his seat. “I thought you said she was a cactus,” he said.
“She is a type of cactus, an agave.”
“Look, Morg, I’m going to try and talk you out of this. She’ll only hurt you in the end. She’s not right for you. A cactus? You can’t even hold hands with her.”
“I disagree. I think she’s perfect for me.”
“You can’t possibly sleep with her,” he said. “Not unless you wear body armor. Look at those prickers, man.”
“I have no desire to take her into a bed. She wouldn’t be comfortable in a bed.”
“You can’t take her out to eat.”
“I’m perfectly happy being with her right here.”
“But don’t you want to be with someone you can do things with? You can’t go to a movie with her. You can’t even watch TV with her. Sure, you can turn it on, but she can’t watch it.”
“Why do you think television is such a necessity? I don’t want to do any of those things anymore, and honestly, I never did want to do that stuff. I’ve been faking it my whole life, hiding myself even from myself. Now, I just want to be with Dusty. Ideally, I don’t even want to be in this house with her. I want to be outdoors, in the sunshine all day and the moonlight all night. I want a simpler life. I want to plant my feet in one place and stay there until my roots are firmly embedded in the soil beneath me. I don’t know how else to say this, Pete, but I realized today for the first time that I’m a plant trapped in a human body.”
Pete stood up, walked to the door that led to the balcony, opened it and looked out for a few moments, then turned to face me. “You’re not a plant, Morgan. You’re just so screwed up by this chick you wish you were a plant.”
“I am a plant,” I said. “Maybe not on the outside, but I am one hundred percent plant on the inside. Mentally. Emotionally. Intellectually, I know that I’m flora, not fauna.”
“You’re a pussy-whipped moron is what you are. Remember when we made our bucket lists? Our top three things we absolutely positively had to do before we die?”
“Yeah, I remember that.”
“What was number one on your list?”
“But Pete, I don’t care about that list anymore. That’s just another thing I’m sick of—making lists.”
“Number one, Morg, what was it?”
“What was your number one?” I said.
“Me? I want to drive a formula one car two hundred miles an hour.”
“I thought we had to pick things we could really do? Those cars cost a couple million bucks. And you’re too fat to get hired as a driver.”
“No, you’re wrong, totally wrong. You can drive a formula one racer for ten thousand bucks right here in Vegas, out at the speedway.”
“Really,” he said. “You get hours of training by pro drivers. If I ever have ten K to blow, I’m doing it. Now what was your top item?”
“A week in Bangkok.”
“Are you seriously asking me that?”
“Why would you want to go to Bangkok? You were never into traveling.”
“I like Thai food.”
“So, you’re gonna eat it for a week?”
“I’m not going to eat it at all, Pete. That was my old list. I’ve got a new list with only one item on it.”
“What’s the item?”
“I want to put down roots.”
“Tell me that means you want to start a family.”
“No, like putting down roots. I want to live on sunshine and fresh air. I don’t want to wear clothes anymore.”
“You want to be a hippie nudist?”
“I’m sick and tired of walking and talking and eating and shitting. I want to live my life as a plant, not as a man.”
Pete flopped down on the easy chair across from me. “You’re forgetting the rule, Morg. It has to be possible. A week in Bangkok, that’s possible. Standing naked in a patch of dirt twenty-four-seven and surviving on air, not possible.”
“How do you know what’s possible? Modern science can do a lot of things with DNA.”
“Really? Can it turn you into a cactus?”
“How do you know everything science can do? Maybe some people have already had the operation.”
“To be turned into a plant.”
“There is no operation for that, Morg. You’re dreaming.”
“I’m going to find out.”
“There’s nothing to find. No mad scientist is going to operate on you to turn you into a plant. It’s not gonna happen. Accept reality.”
“We’ll see, Pete. We’ll see. But let me ask you for one favor.”
“When I do it. When I find a way to live my dream, will you come and water me once in a while?”
“Fuck you, Morgan!”
Go to Chapter Five