Friday, June 27, 2008

Living Things

"Living Things"
by Miranda von Salis

It was the last straw, when the plants moved into the den. When the brand new flowerpot, still clinging to its price sticker, appeared on the coffee table in Russell’s den, he knew she had to be stopped. He turned around and went right back out the door. He shouted out the kitchen window to the garden:

“Amy! Get in here!”

“One minute,” she shouted back, but Russell wasn’t waiting. He had waited through thirty years of marriage and he wasn’t waiting one minute more to reclaim his den. He walked back, grabbed the pot that held one very pink and very unhappy looking blossom and tromped back to the back door. He couldn’t see her when he first stepped outside, but knew she was there. He shouted: “They are taking over, you crazy woman. What were you thinking? Where am I supposed to put my coffee?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said as her head popped out from behind a large hibiscus in the corner of the yard. “It’s only one pot, and look at it, it will be so pretty when it gets over the re-potting.”

“I don’t care. I don’t care! That wasn’t the agreement!” He dropped the pot onto the patio, not even looking down when he heard it crack. “You said you’d leave me the den. I put up with this absurd hobby because you said you’d leave me my… Oof!” Russell tripped over a pot of rosemary. That only worsened his mood. Amy just stared at him.

“You knew this is what I did when you married me,” she pointed out.

“That’s why I bought the house with the yard!” he said, furious as he picked himself up and started walking towards her again. Amy backed up and drifted behind the hibiscus again as if he would forget she were there.

“You are getting rid of those plants today!” Russell shouted, “or moving them all out here! I really don’t care what you do as long as I get my damn house back!” He rounded the corner to face Amy.

“Get rid of them? You don’t just get rid of a living thing, Russell, and I won’t do it.”

“Like hell you won’t,” Russell said, reaching for the hibiscus, “I’ll teach you and your awful plants a lesson.” His face was red from shouting. But Amy looked up, rage boiling in her eyes.

“Awful! They’re not awful! They bring beauty and joy to the world! Unlike you! What’s wrong with them? That they take up space? You take up space too, and you don’t see them complaining about you!”

She was alive and screaming and Russell was scared. “Amy never gets mad,” he thought, terrified. “That’s why we are such a great team. I do what I do and she forgives me.” He was beginning to wish he had never bothered about the coffee table. “It was only one plant,” he tried to reason with himself, but then he remembered that the living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathrooms and even the hallways had started with just one pot. “Once they move in…” he thought, enraged.

“They don’t complain about me because they can’t talk!” he yelled, so loud he was sure that the whole neighborhood had heard him. He moved towards her and for an instant he thought he saw her eyes show fear but a second later, they were filled with hatred. She stepped to the side nimbly as he kept coming at her.

A minute later, the only thing he could feel was the moist soil and the pounding on the back of his head. He rolled over onto his back and thought, “She hit me on the head, hard.” He was astonished. He vaguely remembered her going to yoga classes a few years ago but that didn’t help explain his current situation. He tried to look around but everything was out of focus. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the fuzzy outline of his wife, a few feet away, watching him. He watched her shape straighten and move towards him while shifting dizzyingly in and out of focus.

“You can’t try to make me get rid of who I am,” she said quietly.

“Just… just get rid of the ones in the house.” Russell tried to persuade her, but his mouth was too dry. His tongue felt like it had doubled in size. He figured he must have bitten it on his fall because it was also throbbing painfully.

“If that’s what you want,” she responded so quietly that he could barely hear her. “I think we should live our lives separate from each other.”

Russell couldn’t believe it. She wanted to divorce him over some lousy plants? What was her problem?

“I won’t allow it,” he managed to say through his damaged mouth.

“I didn’t think you would,” she said. “You’re too old fashioned for a thing like divorce. Luckily that wasn’t what I was talking about.” Russell was confused but his head hurt too much for him to think too hard. He had no idea what she was talking about, and by the time he saw the blade it was too late.

“I’m going to free myself anyways,” she said as she plunged the metal trowel into his neck.


Careful not to track blood on her freshly mopped kitchen floor, she made her way through the kitchen to wash her hands before she sat down to write a quick note to Russell.

–Please water the hibiscus. A-

After leaving it on the table she headed upstairs to change and pack a bag. “I think I should go on a vacation. I feel as if I am outgrowing this tiny house,” she said to the Thanksgiving cactus on her bedroom windowsill.

“When I come back, I’ll call the police.” And she grabbed her passport and headed out the door. Amy was going to India.