by Arnold Snyder
I wheeled Dusty into Jack’s and steered her to a table. Jack was behind the bar. Otherwise, the place was empty.
“I’ll order drinks,” I said to Dusty.
I left her sitting at the table as I approached the bar. The tile floor felt sticky under my feet, like someone had spilled a drink and it never got wiped up.
Jack was staring at Dusty. The only person he’d ever seen me come in with before was Pete.
“Two glasses of house wine, Jack,” I said. “One red, one white.”
“Wine, Morgan? You’re drinking wine tonight?”
I opened my mouth to say something but nothing came out.
“And why two glasses? Let me give you some advice, Morg. You can’t switch from beer to wine and keep drinking the same amount. I’m not looking forward to wiping up your vomit. So, how about I get you a beer?”
“No, really, Jack, two wines. I promise I won’t get sick.”
“What’s in the tub?”
“That fucking bucket you wheeled in here!”
“Oh, that’s my date.”
Jack stepped back and put his hands up. “You’re fuckin’ with me, dude.” Then he quickly poured two glasses of wine, one red, one white.
“I’ll pay cash,” I said.
I handed him a ten. “Keep it.”
“I’m going to have to cut you off, Morg, if you continue with this suspicious behavior.”
After I’d turned to walk back to my table, he yelled, “Or are you just trying to show off for your girl?”
I sat down and set our wine glasses on the table. I reached out to touch Dusty.
Who was that rude man?
“Just someone who wanted to argue,” I said. “But forget him. I want you to tell me about your life.”
My life? What is there to tell? I’m a plant.
“Yes, but how did you learn English?”
From Megan. And Fred. And all their friends. And the TV. I picked it up in no time.
“So before you met Megan you couldn’t talk?”
Not any human language.
“What’s it like to be a plant?”
Are you going to give me some of that wine? I’d really like some.
“Oh, sure.” I picked up the glass of white wine and poured about half of it into Dusty’s pot. “Now tell me about being a plant,” I said.
It’s no walk in the park. When I was young and going through my first growing spurts, it was wonderful. You feel such life, such energy. The sunshine is such a pleasure. But it all slows down so quickly. The days and nights start to run together. Your immobility bothers you more every day. You’re at the mercy of the elements. Constantly under attack by vermin—worms and beetles and lizards. It’s a lonely life.
For me, it was particularly bad because I’m a human female trapped in this agave body. I didn’t know it until Megan found me, half-dead, and brought me to live with her. I only knew something was wrong. The other plants around me were so much more satisfied with their lives, their destinies, their lots in life. I was miserable. More wine please.
I poured the rest of the white wine into Dusty’s pot. “So how did you discover you were really a woman?” I said, taking a sip of my red, kind of wishing I’d gotten myself a beer.
If not for Megan, I never would have known. I remember when she found me. I was so curious about who she was. I felt an inexplicable kinship with her. I understood her in ways I never understood any plant, not even my mother. And I envied her—her ability to walk and move and direct her life in ways I could hardly imagine before I met her. I wanted so badly to be able to walk, to even just change my position for comfort. Total paralysis is a horrible feeling when it’s not really who you are.
The moment I knew for sure I was a woman and not a plant was one night about a month after Megan had taken me to live with her when Fred came home drunk.
He was not a nice person when he was drunk. He was abusive toward Megan and she had taken to locking herself in her bedroom when he got that way. Her bedroom had a big window and she kept me in a large wooden planter in that window so I could get the sun. She came into the bedroom crying. Fred had hit her.
That was the first time I spoke to her. She confided in me, told me she was really a plant trapped in a human body. I told her I was actually a woman. We laughed so hard at the irony. We wanted each other’s’ life.
I’ll always be indebted to her for saving my life and for helping me to know who I really am …
But enough about me. Tell me about your life, what it’s like to be a man, and especially to be a plant trapped in a man’s body.
“You think the ability to move and walk and talk is so great, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” I said. “Being human is okay if you want to do things, because humans just keep doing things. It’s awful if you’re really a plant and you just want to stop and do nothing. I’m so tired of getting out of bed in the morning. I’m tired of eating and going places. I couldn’t even explain the concept of going to work to you. It’s mankind’s most horrendous invention. Work. I don’t know what’s worse—getting eaten by snout weevils, or having to kiss some dickhead boss’s ass five days a week.”
Just then a half-dozen men and women entered the bar as a group, all talking and laughing.
“Hey, Jack, it’s Thursday!” one of the men called out. “Karaoke night!”
“Go turn on the machine,” Jack replied. “You guys get the party started.”
“We need two pitchers of whatever you’ve got on draft,” one of the other guys said.
I polished off the last sip of my wine and touched one of Dusty’s leaves. “Let’s get out of here,” I said. “We’ll take a walk in the moonlight before we go back to my place.”
Go to Chapter Ten