“A spider plant,” Ma said when she picked me up from school.
I was disappointed. Kyra and I had been neighbours since kindergarten. And she had left me a plant! Not a pirate headband or a video game or at least one of the many treasures we had dug out together. That too some…
“What plant ma?”
“Spy…der plant.” She drawled as she helped me balance myself on the deck of her scooter.
“Spy…der plant! Spaay…der plant! SPUDRR plant!!” I rolled the sound of it in my mouth as Ma cruised along the curvy road.
“Will you please be quiet and let me ride peacefully…” Ma chided through her helmet.
I held the handlebar with my thumbs and winged out other fingers to the tune that was stuck in my mind- spider plant! spider plant! Friendly neighbourhood spider plant! I did not count the number of red cars that zoomed past us.
Our home was a five minutes ride from school; on arrival, I jumped from the deck. Ma parked the scooter in the garage and opened the door.
I dumped my bag on the console table. Removed my shoes in a hurry and went looking for the plant.
It sat among the giants Ma had placed on the porch overlooking the backyard. A small, pale green plant with cheese-colored streaks. It looked nothing like a spider. It was rooted in a 7-up bottle that had a rectangular strip cut out from its belly. I stared at the unremarkable blades of the plant for some time and decided I was going to give it a glorious future.
Saturday morning, after breakfast, was when I missed Kyra the most. Other kids were still around. But they were not Kyra. I stopped playing after a while and returned home early. Ma was curled up on the sofa with a coffee mug and newspaper.
“Ma, can I get a big pot?”
“What?” a few drops of coffee spilled on her pajamas. Her brows were drawn together. I had got her complete, glaring attention.
“A pot, to put the spider plant in.”
A few more drops of coffee were spilled and I got her wide-eyed scrutiny.
“Ma, I want the spider plant to grow big!” I spread my arms wide to be clear.
Ma studied my face between my strong arms and said,
“Okay, tomorrow I am going to re-pot a few plants. We can do it then.” And went back to her newspaper.
I went to the porch. I had kept my plant on a little stand, away from the giants. My little spider had a spot in the sun. I held the sunlight on its blades between my thumb and index finger and felt its warmth. I watered it and whispered,
“Guess what? Tomorrow you are going to get a big, new room!”
Building a new room for my plant was not just easy. It was so much fun!
First, I put a LOT of water into the 7-up bottle.
Then I checked the terracotta pot Ma had given me. I was a little annoyed with her as she had already drilled a hole at its bottom, without my help.
I placed the little chips of brick and pebbles at the bottom of the pot. Then, I scooped a panful of sand from the sack Ma had kept open. And sprinkled it all over the hills of brick pieces and pebbles. It formed a desert with small dunes in the pot. How was a desert going to feed my spider? I didn’t know, I had to trust Ma on that. I ran to the mound next to the sack that looked like grated chocolate, gathered a handful of it, squished it, and raised it to my nose. It smelt like…ugh... cow dung. Something wiggled in its dampness and tried to come out through my fist. Aaargh! a live slinky spring, an earthworm! I rushed to the pot that was going to house my spider and pushed the moist pink wiggler into it along with the black soil. Ma scooped out the spider plant from the bottle and gave me. I lowered it into the pit I had made and pressed down the dirt on its pouchy, white roots with a trowel. Then I watered it.
Ma said I did a good job.
I knew I had done a splendid job.
I sneaked out to the porch before bedtime to check on my plant. I parted the blades just to see if I could catch a glimpse of the earthworm. But something with bulging eyes and a lot of dots jumped out of it, instead! I ran back to the door and peeped from inside. If Ma or Pa were to catch me, I would be in trouble. But I could not go to sleep till I knew who had come to my spider’s new room. I tiptoed back on the porch again. Someone on the floor was blowing a straw into a glass of water, ribbit, ribbit…It was a plump frog! Ma always said, where there is a frog, a snake can’t be far behind. I tiptoed back into the house and hit the sack.
Kyra and I were sitting on the branch of a guava tree, plucking the tiny, unripe guavas, chipping away at its parrot green skin, and chewing on the white kernel that had a hundred soft seeds in it. We saw a red mushroom with white dots sprouting from the ground beneath us. It ballooned to the size of a hut within seconds. A brown frog jumped out of its open door with a green spider close at its heels followed by a black snake.
Ma found me sleeping under my cot in the morning.
A week later, my plant turned the shade of the frog.
I showed it to Ma. She sighed and patted my head.
After one more week, it turned the shade of the frog with dots. Ma shook her head and said, “I’m sorry Kanna. I think the plant is dead.”
I could not understand. How could it die? I had placed it in a nice, sunny spot. I watered it every day. I had put a small fence around it so that no frogs disturbed it.
Was it because Kyra had not called me? She had promised, she would. But it was already more than two weeks.
I did not want to root out the brown beard-like structure my plant had become. I thought it would become green once again if I waited for some more time.
I stood looking at the brown-black remains of the plant. Ma asked in a cheerful voice she used whenever I was down.
“Kanna, I’m going to the nursery to buy some compost and seeds. Would you like to come?”
I shook my head vigorously in a negative, with tears springing from my eyes. It was dead now. Just like my friendship with Kyra.
“You can pick a new plant to replace it,” Ma said in an encouraging voice.
“But it won’t be the same.”
Ma paused, took my hands in hers, and looked me in the eyes.
“No, it won’t be the same. But it will be a new beginning.”
Today afternoon, I went to the nursery for the first time with Ma. I had never found such a treasure since Kyra had left. After listening to many plants, I brought home a Peace Lily for my pot.
It will have a glorious future!
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Finally getting around to reviewing this, Suma, and I was pleased to read it! I LOVE child narrators - they're very easily my favorite voice to read in fiction, and I think you excelled at this one. Kanna is very sweet, very endearing, and very innocent. Great character. I love the symbolism of the spider plant here as a stand-in for the children's friendship. Especially the imagery when the plant starts dying. The whole story possessed strong imagery (Kanna's dream paragraph was my favorite part of this story, because of how much color you...
Thanks a ton, Zack. You are always so generous with your appreciation and it brightens up the receiver's day :-) I do love to write kids stories every once in a while, as I get to observe a lot of them and this prompt provided an ideal outlet for it. You are being modest about your mad skills, Zack ( but the medals on your profile don't lie). I would give an arm (or two) to gain the felicity you have with the words to extract the exact emotional response you want from your readers. Thanks once again for the lovely comment :-)
A very nice, sweet story, even though it's about the loss of a friendship. Using plants to represent this is a neat idea. "Friendly neighbourhood spider plant!" Heh :) The characters are strong. The narrator particularly sounds like a child, and I like how the mother guides instead of lecturing. Raising her child is yet another parallel to caring for a plant. Lots of layers in this one. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Michal, Apologies for replying so late. Though I read it earlier, somehow I have missed responding to it. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Your comments are insightful as ever and much valued. Looking forward to reading your next story!
Hi Suma! This was so lovely to read, such an adorable story. I felt for the poor child killing not being able to keep the plant alive. I know the feeling, it's truly awful! And I liked how you ended with a hopeful new beginning. On a side note, I'm pretty sure when I googled hard to kill plants, spider plant and peace lily were on the list (I can only be trusted with plants that don't need me at all, haha), so I like that you used a plant that should survive as a symbol of a friendship that the main character thought should have lasted forev...
Thanks Riel, I'm glad you found the story adorable. I do keep oscillating between kids and crime, just goes to show what a madcap I am🤪. Thanks for the read and the comment.
Haha noo, it's fun to try different things! My short stories are all over the place genre wise 🤣 but I love reading different types of stories from everybody here 😁
This is nice. You clearly portray the hopes and disappointments of childhood. I have hope for Kanna’s peace lily, because those have a great desire to survive!
Thanks, Cindy. This week's prompt tempted me to bring together two things I love a lot- kids and plants. Thank you for your read and comment, appreciate it <3
Nobility in gripping simplicity of a child's desire to grow a plant ! Innocence is bliss, the gist of subtle story.
Thank you for your kind words :-)