The Plant That Never Gave Up

Submitted into Contest #143 in response to: Start or end your story with a person buying a house plant. ... view prompt

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Fiction Bedtime Friendship

The Plant That Never Gave Up

Out of curiosity Cecilia walked into the garden shop and trolled around. The air inside was remarkably cooler than the stifling outdoor summer heat and she felt refreshed as she walked among the ferns and the palms touching their surfaces and just enjoying the textures. Reaching a shelf of very angular straight leafed plants she hesitated and stared at them. She had never really seen these before and she found the clustered sharp tipped plants very intriguing. The leaves were a sharp green with a yellow outline and white mottling. Reaching out, she touched the large thin leaf, curious about its fleshy thickness and amazed by how rigid they were. 

“That’s a Snake plant.” a soft voice from behind her said.

She quickly withdrew her hand and turned to face the voice. It was from a gentle, rounded man with a kind face who stood there smiling with his hands clasped tightly behind his back. 

“Why is it called that?” She asked. 

“You can see, at the tip of the leaf blade, it narrows to a point like a snake’s tongue.”

“Oh yes.” she said. “I see.”

“This is a wonderful specimen and the best part of it is, you can’t kill it. It’s impossible.”

he added. 

She nodded slightly. “Well, I’ve never had a plant before.” She thought for a second, twisting the ends of her red hair before deciding. “Ok, I’ll give it a try.” and with a delicate motion, the shopkeeper took the plant she liked, wrapped it in tall brown paper to protect the sides and off she went. 

She was pleased with herself as she took the plant home and set it on the sill at the west facing window. She had been depressed lately and had hoped this could brighten up her mood. She stood back and looked at it in the afternoon sun. It seemed to glow in a sunbeam as she crossed her arms and smiled. As she stood there, her yellow Labrador trotted over and sat next to her, trying to appreciate whatever she was appreciating. “What do you think Ollie?” Cecilia asked. Ollie’s only response was a nudge on her leg with his nose. 

As if on cue, the doorbell to the apartment rang and Cecilia opened the door for Amanda, her best friend. Stepping into the apartment with a nod to Cecilia and carrying a canvas shopping bag full of groceries, Amanda walked through the apartment straight towards the kitchen, as the dog trailed behind her with a steady jog and a wagging tail. She placed the bag on the counter and it promptly collapsed, allowing a variety of fruits and vegetables to tumble out. Quickly, she snatched a tomato that was rolling off the edge and towards Ollie's curious jaws.

“I am going to make you dinner tonight!!” Amanda exclaimed with a flourishing wave of her hands. “Since we are now in our late thirties and we can no longer handle our booze.”

“Uh, actually it was the hangovers that I am having trouble with.” Cecilia corrected.

“Whatever!” Amanda retorted. “I will instead intoxicate you with a Nicoise salad and a small glass of Chianti!” Amanda grinned at her presentation and was pleased with Cecilia’s soft smile. Amanda held out her arms and approached her best friend. They hugged very tightly and the small silence was soothing. “How are you doing?” Amanda asked sincerely once they parted.

Cecilia nodded slightly. “I’m ok. The funeral was tough, but a lot of my dad’s friends were there, and my brother was there with his wife and three kids.”

“Have they been trained yet?” Amanda asked.

“They were nice, however, I think it was a small dose of Bendryl that may have played a part. With kids under three you can get away with that.” Amanda resumed her station behind the center counter in the middle of the kitchen.

“In my parent’s day,” Amanda began as she took a knife out of the block. “it was the whiskey rag. They said it was for teething, but I now appreciate its duplicity.”

The kitchen wall was open to a large dining room with windows which faced the west, where the new plant had been placed. Amanda glanced into the dining room and spied the plant. “What’s this? Did you buy a Sansevieria?” she asked, pointing the knife loosely towards the new addition. 

“It’s a Snake plant.” Cecilia corrected her.

“Same thing.” Amanda replied. “What is with this! A new chapter in your book of life?”

“No, well maybe” Cecilia replied sheepishly, “Just saw it and it cheered me up.” She was reflective for a minute. “It’s been a tough year, with my mom dying last summer and my dad dying last week. You know, the decisions, the saying goodbye, the telling everyone.”

Amanda now pointed her knife at Cecilia. “Don’t forget the grief. You need to handle that.”

“Well,” Cecilia reflected. “Maybe this is a first step towards that.” 

Amanda opened the bottle of Chianti while Cecilia took two large wine glasses out of the cupboard. Pouring generous amounts of equal part each glass, Amanda raised hers and then Cecilia raised hers in response.

“Best friends forever!” Amanda declared.

 “Salut!” Cecilia replied and they began constructing the dinner. With the bottle of wine disappearing quickly, they decided that perhaps the promise of restraint was premature and Cecilia called down to her friend Mark who lived two floors below to bring in some reinforcements. Happily obliging, he arrived with two Beaujolais nouveau and a wonderful smile. Helping them with the settings, he then took the two bottles and proceeded to open one. As he cut the aluminum, he noticed the plant on the sill. “What’s with the Mother in Law Tongue?” he asked. “It’s a Sansevieria.” Cecilia corrected him. “Same thing,” was his response as he uncorked the bottle and the level of the gathering elevated. 

Over the next few hours more people were invited and with that the spirits switched from red to brown. It was about this time of the night when Mark was describing his stepmother while riding a broom between his legs like a pony, that the end of the broom snagged the side of the pot and the new addition went flying away from the window, crashing on the floor. Luckily the pot was a heavy plastic and remained intact and they were able to gather up the soil while Cecilia steadily centered the plant in the middle of the pot. “Don’t worry.” Cecilia kept saying. “You can’t kill it.” to reassure everyone.

A few hours later, the plant’s resolve was once again tested as a friend of Steve’s from down the block tried to balance the plant on his head. Swearing that he had a lineage to circus performers, he aptly showed he didn't carry the gene by allowing the pot to slide off his forehead and crash onto the floor, its fine, dry soil scattering over the area rug in a thin sheet. The clean ultra white roots showed helplessly as Cecilia once again gathered the plant and the pot and tried to reconnect them. In order to get the soil out of the rug, Amanda used a small dustbuster vacuum which cleaned it up, but also collected an abundance of dog hair. Emptying the container into the pot, the new plant was now leaning to one side comfortably nestled in a collection of dirty, long yellow fur, like a green obelisk growing out of Harpo Marx’s wig. The plastic of the pot, which was so resilient before, fared poorly. This time a long crack showed up on one side, which Mark - ‘the engineer’ as he reminded everyone- repaired with some gray duct tape he had found under the sink. Cecilia once again placed it back on the sill, saying aloud as if issuing a command. “You cannot be killed.”

As the evening faded away, the crowd began to thin and an intoxicated Cecilia made her way to her bedroom, where she leaned forward, hoping gravity would do the honorable thing and place her correctly on her pillow. 

She was roused to consciousness by a hot wind blowing on her face in quick bursts. Opening one eye, she turned her head and saw Ollie at the edge of the bed, his mouth lined with soily lipstick. The plant lay helplessly at his feet. 

‘Oh Ollie.” she said softly, the dog now wagging its tail at the sound of its name, stood up and jumped on the edge of the bed, licking her face with his loamy tongue. 

She rose up in defense, only to feel a sudden onrush of blood into her head as the hangover commenced. Pushing the dog off, she reached over and picked up the plant. Many of the roots were broken and crushed by the dog's teeth, so she delicately lifted it from the floor and carried it back into the kitchen. On the way there she saw the pot on the floor. She picked that up with her other hand and carried everything over to the kitchen sink. She was able to collect the hair/soil mixture up again, although she added more duct tape to the pot to repair another crack, and just ignored the huge chip in the pot's edge. Once she had everything back together again, she noticed it was low on soil, so to compensate, she pushed the plant down forcefully to get it deeper into the pot. After two healthy pushes, she pushed hard one more time to make sure the plant would stay upright. In doing so, she felt a huge pop, and almost all of the tall leaves snapped off in her hand. Holding the victims in her palm, she stared at the creation in the sink. With one long leaf straight up in the center, there were now two much smaller leaves remaining on either side. She gazed at the new assembly, which she took to be a statement on her care so far. Equating the center leaf as a middle finger, she nodded. “Ok, I deserve that.” she said out loud. 

Having now completed the reassembly, she placed it back on the window sill, made some coffee and sat in the dining room. She sipped it slowly as her senses began to return. After a few minutes, she heard a buzz on her phone and checked the text message.

‘Coming over in half an hour. Found some stuff you may want. You up?’ Normally after a morning like this one, she wouldn’t have replied, but this was Brian her brother and she knew he was cleaning out some closets in her parents house. ‘Up.’ she texted back, then gathered up the strength to get into the shower and get dressed.

As planned, Brian showed up and although she was still groggy, she was ready for him when he approached the door. As promised, he had with him a box of odds and ends. As he walked through the apartment, he noticed the  plant.

“What’s with the Dracaena?” he asked. 

“It's a Sansevieria.” she replied knowingly. 

“Same thing.” he said as he furrowed his brow upon examining it closer.

“You can’t kill it.” she answered defensely.

His face scrunched together with concern. “That doesn’t mean you have to try. When did you get it?” he asked.

“Yesterday afternoon.” she answered. “Want some coffee?” she asked to change the topic.

“Sure.” Brian slowly poked at the fur. “Did the plant come with some sort of insulation?”

Cecilia ignored him and just continued talking. “What stuff did you bring over?” she asked as she brought him a full cup. She set it on the table and peered into the box.

Regaining his focus, Brian turned to the box. “Oh, uh.. just some books, a few pictures of relatives you may know, because I surely don’t know them and this.” he pulled out a small, white vase with hand painted enamel lettering. “I found this on an upper shelf in the closet.” It said Love you champ! in a mixture of uneven blue and red letters. 

Cecilia stared at the bowl adoringly. She set down her cup and gently took the bowl with her two hands. Sitting down she ran her fingers over the lettering softly. “He made this for me. It was Father’s Day and I think I was like eight. Mom was there too, but she took you with her to get something or other. So he and I slipped into this pottery shop. You know one of those where you buy the pot and then paint whatever you want on it.”

She stopped touching the bowl and looked nostalgically out of the window to the street outside. “I made him a bowl that said Best Dad Ever.! and he made this one for me.” 

They were quiet as she processed the memory, then tears slowly began to trail down her cheeks. “I miss him so much.” she said with a sob. Brian picked up the emotion and reached out to her. She rose and fell into his arms as he held her tightly while she gently cried on his shoulder. After a few moments, she regained her composure and was able to stop crying. 

“I’m sorry,” she said. “Sometimes it just catches me.”

“It’s okay,” he smiled. “It gets to me too.” They hugged for a moment longer, then Brian pulled away and placed his hands on the box. “So um.. go ahead and go through this stuff. Let me know what you want or don’t want.” Then he rubbed the moisture out of his eyes.

He stayed for a while longer, to make sure she was okay. He even took Ollie out for a walk. Then after about an hour, he rose and began to take out his car keys. He looked back at his sister. “Are you going to be alright sis?” 

She nodded her head and offered a weak smile. “I’m alright.” 

He studied her eyes and, satisfied that she was sincere, he gave her one more deep hug and left the apartment. 

She sat there throughout the morning, still in a haze, but optimistic about the weekend as she touched base with friends and did some work. She was mostly in remembrance of the man who made the pot. Suddenly, the obvious struck. She left the apartment for a few hours and when she returned she had purchased a book on indoor plants, fresh potting soil, a grow light and a small packet of liquid fertilizer. Within a half an hour she had transplanted the plant into the new pot, replaced the soil, set up the light and fertilized the plant.  

“I’m not giving up on you.” she remarked as she continued checking it every day and following the care instructions. On the fourth day, she was rewarded. Getting ready to leave for work, she checked the plant before she left only to see a small, thin lime green leaf slowly snaking its way up out of the soil. Two days later, another appeared and a day later a third. 

After two weeks, Amanda stopped by on a Sat. afternoon to see if Cecilia wanted to go out for lunch. Since Amanda hadn’t seen the plant since its initiation ceremony, she was surprised at the change.

“Hello.” Amanda cooed to the plant. “There is less of you, and yet more.”

“Yeah,” Cecelia said. “I snapped off a few leaves by accident, but I took care of it and now look at this. It’s coming up fast.”

“Told you it can’t be killed.” Amanda said. “Cute pot. Where did you get it?”

Cecilia smiled as she slipped her hands into the front pockets of her jeans. “It was from my dad.”

April 29, 2022 20:17

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