by Arnold Snyder
An uneventful week passed. I went back to work. I made a few attempts at engaging Dusty in conversation, but she ignored me. The only words she ever spoke to me were No! No water! each morning when I went out on the balcony with a fresh cold Perrier. I could see the dryness in her leaves but I honored her request.
“Look at what a beautiful day it is, Dusty. It’s going to be another hot sunny day. Just take a few drops, okay? Just to cool the dirt. It’ll feel good on your roots.”
“I’ll come see you later. Just to talk. We should have a serious discussion about what’s happening.”
I called Megan to talk about Dusty, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about my taking Dusty on a date. Or about our futile attempt at a sex romp. I just told her we weren’t getting along that well anymore and Dusty wasn’t in much of a mood for talking. And she wouldn’t let me water her.
“Agaves can go a long time without water,” Megan said. “I think Dusty’s just testing you.”
“Where is that transplant bar you mentioned?” I said. “I think I want to try and meet other people like me.”
“It’s called Minnie’s. It’s downtown about a half-block off Fremont. I don’t know the address. Look it up. It’s been there forever.”
“I’m going to go tonight. Do you want to come with me?”
“I already have plans tonight.”
I hated the thought of going to an unfamiliar bar alone. It seemed so desperate. I called Pete.
“Pete, are you working at the Hippo tonight?”
“Sorry, Morg. It’s my night off. Come tomorrow and I’ll fix you up with a pitcher.”
“I’m not looking for a comp,” I said. “I’m going out drinking tonight. You want to come?”
“Sure, I’m not doing anything. You going to Jack’s or someplace different?”
“A new place. Minnie’s. It’s downtown.”
“Never heard of it.”
“It’s a transplant bar.”
“It’s a bar for people like me. Transplants. People who are really plants trapped in human bodies.”
“You mean there are more people like you?”
“There are lots of us, Pete. I’ve started corresponding with other people like me I met online and we’re everywhere. All over the world. In New York, they’ve already got a transplant group working with the ACLU to protect our rights.”
“How are your rights being violated?”
“I don’t know, There’s going to be a seminar next week. I can hardly wait to find out.”
“Morg, what am I supposed to do in a bar with a bunch of transplants? I’m not into plants and I don’t relate to people who think they’re plants.”
“C’mon, Pete, just come for the fun of it. I don’t want to drink alone. If it’s really awful we can hit the Fremont bars. It’ll be fun.”
“Y’know, Morg, you used to be the sane one, remember? I was always the one with the screwball ideas? I’ll pick you up around nine. Be ready.”
Minnie’s was crowded. It was a mix of men and women, a mix of ages, a mix of locals and downtown tourists. Seemed like a lot of other pickup bars in Vegas. Except for the branches. Some people were carrying branches of different types, some with leaves, some not, some long branches being carried like staffs, smaller ones being held like fans. I realized after a minute it was more than some people—it was almost everybody.
“So, this is the new gay?” Pete said.
“It’s not gay, Pete. It’s transplants.”
“Believe me, Morg, everyone’s walking around with their hedge trimmings and smiling at each other? It’s gay.”
“You’re such a Neanderthal.”
Then I saw Megan. What was she doing here? She’d said she had other plans. She saw me and walked right up.
“Hey, stranger,” she said. “Fancy meeting you here. My plans fell through so I came here instead.”
“You didn’t tell me about the branch carrying,” I said. “Where’s your branch? How’s anyone supposed to know we’re vegetables like them?”
“I forgot about that. I haven’t been here for a long time. It didn’t used to be mandatory.”
Pete butted in. “Babsarella, I’m so glad to meet you. I’m Morgan’s friend, Pete, who he always forgets to introduce to his other friends. I’m sure he has a good reason for not introducing me, so don’t blame him if I turn out to be a flake.”
“Very smooth, Pete,” I said. I turned to Megan. “This is my friend Pete who drove me here tonight, which means he’s the one who drinks less.”
Pete stepped between me and Megan then turned to face her with me looking at the back of his head. “How about tomorrow night,” he said in a mellower tone, “it’s you and me at Spago. I’ll pick you up at nine.”
I was about to make some kind of snarky remark with an apology to Megan for not warning her about Pete when Megan responded.
“Spago? Are you serious?” she said.
“Damn straight. C’mon, we can do the tasting menu.”
“Sure, I can do that. Tomorrow at nine. I love Spago. Are you one of the tree people?”
“No, I’m not like that at all. I’m just hanging out with Morg tonight and this is the joint he brings us to. Can I get you something to drink?”
And like that, Pete had Megan by the arm as he escorted her to a couple of adjacent seats at the bar.
I was on my own in a roomful of transplants. I was trying to figure out if I felt at home knowing I was with my own kind, or if the Smith Scale was an insufficient measuring device for the degree of abnormal that my life had become. But when I looked around at the branch carriers, I knew we all wanted the same thing—a life of doing nothing, never responding to anything, not even breathing. Just feeling the sunshine and the breeze.
I approached a woman who was carrying a particularly large branch.
“Excuse me,” I said. “What’s the branch for?”
She smiled a warm smile. “Are you one of us?” she said.
“I’m a transplant but this is my first time here. My name’s Morgan.”
“Megan? You’re my fourth Megan.”
My fourth Megan was nothing like my third Megan. My fourth Megan was only about five-foot-one and she dressed kind of goth, but with lots of cheap jewelry. She had straight black hair, shiny black, long, dark. Maybe she was Spanish or Italian. She had all kinds of bracelets and necklaces and ankle bracelets and rings and dangling earrings. Black shirt, skirt, and stockings with a lot of added sparkle.
“Well, you’re my first Morgan,” she said. “What kind of a plant are you?”
“I don’t know. I just know I’m a plant. Do you know what kind you are?”
“I’m a dandelion,” she said.
“And how do you know that?”
“From my dreams. I’ve been dreaming about dandelions all my life. What do you dream about?”
“I’m a mailman. Every day I spend a couple hours sorting mail for my route before I deliver it. That’s what I dream about. I now work a tedious job even in my sleep. But I’ll bet it’s at least as thrilling as dreaming about dandelions. Tell me about your dandelion dream.”
“In my dream, I’m in the middle of this beautiful lawn. And I know I look like a weed to everyone who sees me, but all the blades of grass love me and think I’m their queen. So when the gardener shows up to get rid of me the whole lawn rises up to protect me.”
“Does the lawn attack the gardener?” I said.
“Not literally, but they send out some kind of negative vibes so he goes away. And that’s how I know I’m a dandelion.”
“So why is everyone carrying a branch around?”
“Just so people know who the transplants are.”
“So why is your branch so big?”
“I always bring a big one so I can pass out branches to newbies.” She broke off a piece of her branch and handed it to me. “Now you’re one of us.”
I took the branch, more of a twig with one pathetic leaf dangling from it precariously. I had no interest in the branch, but felt it might insult her if I put it down. I was starting to notice how pretty she was. I was starting to like her crazy style.
“Do you want to do plant position with me?” she said.
“The way I learned it, I have to take my clothes off first. I don’t think that would go over too well in here.”
“But that’s just how we do it at home. And you really only have to do that if you have a plant that you’re trying to connect with. Some people say they have plants that are actually humans locked in a plant body, but I’ve never met a plant like that. I think it might be an urban myth.”
“That’s no urban myth. I have a plant like that.”
“I’ll introduce you to her sometime.”
“She’s a female? What kind of plant is she?”
Oh my god, I was actually going to be able to get this girl over to my apartment. “She’s an agave cactus,” I said. “Her name’s Dusty. She’s easy to talk to, assuming you’re really a transplant.” I felt a slight twinge of guilt, using Dusty as bait.
“Oh, Morgan, I want to meet her!”
“Maybe you could cheer her up. She’s been kind of depressed lately.”
“Wait a minute … Did I just fall for your pickup line?”
“What pickup line?”
“You have a talking plant.”
“No, I really have a talking plant.”
“You’re not just trying to hook up?”
“No. You’re not even my type,” I lied. “Are you taking any antidepressants?”
“You know, like Prozac?”
“Then you’re not my type. I get along best with women who blot out large portions of their mental capacity.”
“Look, people are starting to do plant position. Let’s do it.”
I looked around. All the people with branches were freezing into plant poses. “Why is everyone doing this all of a sudden?” I said.
“It’s the song the DJ’s playing. That’s ‘Plant Planet’ by Reggie and the Vegetables.”
I listened but heard nothing from the sound system, just the noise of the crowd. “I don’t hear anything,” I said.
“Obviously. It’s Reggie. He plays all silent music.”
“We have our own genre of rock?”
“Just one band.”
“But that’s incredible. How many of us are there?”
“In the world? I don’t think anyone knows the exact number, but most researchers believe there are more transplants than transanimals.”
“You mean there are transanimals too? Animals trapped in human bodies?”
“Absolutely, but not as many transanimals as transplants. I saw a study online that said some scientists think there may be more transplants than regular humans. One survey showed that sixty-one percent of adults say they would prefer photosynthesis to eating. Researchers think that could mean that many of them are actually plants.”
“I guess I have to start following the news more. I didn’t know any of this stuff was happening.”
“C’mon, Morgan, do plant position with me.” She went into a plant pose.
I don’t act weird in public as a rule, but what could I do? It would have been rude of me to decline her invitation. So, I did my plant position, face-to-face with her, not three feet apart.
But something happened. I didn’t close my eyes because I didn’t feel safe closing my eyes in a crowded room full of drunks who are carrying sticks. But my timidity was uncalled for. Everybody was standing perfectly still, many with their eyes closed, and the buzz of voices slowly died to an eerie quiet.
And my fourth Megan didn’t close her eyes either and our eyes locked and we entered some kind of zone where I really saw her as a plant, and not only as a plant, but as a dandelion, a huge dandelion. A dandelion the size of a sunflower, bursting with life.
Then she became a girl again, but a naked girl. She looked smaller and more delicate, more fragile than when she was wearing clothes. She appeared to be weightless, floating a few inches above the floor.
I wanted to go to her, take her in my arms, kiss her small breasts and suck on her pink nipples. I wanted to explore every inch of her flesh with my eyes, my hands, my mouth. Then, as smoothly as she had gone from being a dandelion to a girl, she once again became a dandelion, but whereas before she appeared as a dandelion, bursting with life, now she appeared tired, wilting, sad.
A voice broke into my consciousness, an unwanted intrusion.
“Morg, Morg, Morg, you mean I can’t leave you alone for twenty minutes or you go full vegetation on me?”
It was Pete. He had no respect for the importance of plant position to me, or for the depth of the connection I had with my new Megan. It was a religious experience for me, but he just butts in.
The DJ’s voice boomed from the speakers: Looks like we got lots of transplants here tonight. We’ve got some more Reggie coming up a bit later.
“What happened to Babs?” I said.
Pete shrugged. “She’s powdering something I think. I just came to tell you we’re going to leave. If you want a ride home or anywhere else I’ll take you, but if you’re not leaving now, you’ll be hoofing it later.”
My new Megan said, “I’ve got a car. I’ll take you home.”
“Then that’s perfect,” Pete said as he was walking away, obviously wanting to extricate himself as quickly as possible. “I’ll catch you later this week, Morg. Come to the Hippo!”
I turned and looked at my new Megan. Though she was back in her black clothes, I could still see her as a dandelion bursting with life and a young naked girl, fragile and delicate. I felt a connection to her on both a human and plant level.
It was hitting me that I was now bound to her, and not just metaphorically. She was my transportation. This was a date by default. Nobody asked anybody out but here we were. She was standing right in front of me, not two feet away, but I felt an urge to get closer to her. I stepped into her space, so that our faces were mere inches apart, close enough to kiss her. Closer than people get to each other if they’re not kissing.
“That was unbelievable, Morgan,” she said. “What happened? I felt like we connected on this amazing level that only vegetables can relate to where I could see you, the real you, you as a plant.”
“Wow, the same thing happened to me, Megan. You were a dandelion, the most astonishing dandelion, so big and just bursting with life.” I decided not to tell her I’d also seen her naked.
“We were meant to find each other, Morgan. This has never happened to me with anyone else.”
“Tell me what kind of plant I am,” I said.
“Oh, you’re a piece of crabgrass.”
That sounded awful to me. I was hoping maybe I’d be some kind of powerful tree—an elm, a redwood, a giant sequoia. “Like how big am I?” I said.
“You know, regular, like maybe about six-to-eight inches in diameter, kind of scruffy looking, but you know, that’s how crabgrass is, pretty much lying flat on the dirt. But the amazing thing is we connected on our plant level. Do you think there was some power that brought us together for a reason?”
I remembered my third Megan saying that transplants were touched by the hand of God. Hmm … crabgrass … I’m going to have to mentally process this. “Historically,” I said. “crabgrass and dandelions have always gotten along well in nature. It’s confusing. I don’t know what to think. I’m very attracted to you right now, even though you’re not my type.”
“That’s how I feel too. It’s kind of scary. Like the Fates have thrown us together for a reason.”
“Why don’t we go to my place? I’ll introduce you to Dusty.”
“Oh, I’m so excited. I want to meet her so bad.” She was so cute and bubbly. I wondered if I could get her into my bed tonight. I felt fairly certain Dusty would have nothing to do with her. The fact is I’d given up on Dusty. She gave up on me first, but I felt she had been right to give up. There was no future for us. She saw that before I did.
Maybe that’s the reason I went to Minnie’s tonight. I couldn’t relate to a woman in a plant’s body. I wanted to find a plant in a woman’s body. I wanted to find my fourth Megan.
“Now keep in mind,” I said, “like I already told you, Dusty may not be real responsive. I’m hoping you can cheer her up and she’ll talk with you, but she’s been so depressed lately.”
“I hate it when a plant gets depressed. I never know what to do.”
“Same here. I’m just saying don’t be expecting much. She might not even say hello.”
I wanted to connect with Megan on every level. I wanted to know everything about her. I wanted to be naked with her. I wanted to touch her in ways that made her sigh in pleasure. I wanted to fuck her.
Go to Chapter Thirteen