A cactus was placed on my doorstep. The day after you left me. 50 years we had been together. And you decided to leave. I could not tell you why or how it go there, but it reminded me of you. It’s rough and spiky on the outside. Kind of like when you would get gruff when I didn’t make you a fresh pot of coffee. But on the inside, it’s swelling with emotion. It has some feelings to let out, but it’s storing them for later on when the truth needs to come out. I have always wondered what feelings were held inside of you, what feelings you decided to store from me. The inside is also dry like you’re dry sense of humor. Your jokes still quench mine, though. The cactus is also blooming with red, vibrant, blossoms. It uses what it stores to sprout into something beautiful. I wonder if you have ever thought that our life together was beautiful. I did. Occasionally, I will water the cactus when it looks thirsty. I use a spritzer, so it can’t suck in too much water. I read if a cactus gets too much water, it will shrivel up and die. What would happen if I over watered you with emotion? There would be no room to store more. You would have to talk to me. Occasionally, I will bring the cactus in the sun, so it can go through a little bit of drought. When you left me, life felt like a drought. Dry and cracked. Nothing else living. Occasionally, I will bring the cactus in the living room, and put on a record on the turntable. I run my hands through my tuft of cloud-white hair and take off my translucent glasses that I am blind without. I am blind without you, in fact. I dance and sway to the tunes around me. Pretending you are with me, dancing. But you aren’t. The only thing with me is the cactus that was left on my doorstep. The day after you left me.
Story by Carli Mendelow
That one is a piece of fucking work, she thought to herself, but evidently may also have said aloud, as the contemptuous faces of the couple walking past her house seemed to indicate. She just stared at that fucking cactus. He gets drunk and crashes her car (which she had so graciously let him borrow,) and suddenly he’s flat broke (never mind what he was doing at the bars if he had no money,) and she’s left to foot the bill. $700! She and Harold were going to put that money towards a cruise after he finalized his divorce, but instead she was now going to have to use it to fix that piece of shit Sebring. How egregious was this latest transgression? She wasn’t entirely sure; Evan had always been a delinquent, but this was the first time his delinquency had been so severe as to warrant a night in jail or to cause serious property damage. Did she refuse to speak to him? Did she renege on her offer to pay for his trade school? He’d already moved out of his own accord, so her resolution that his departure should be part of the restitution was moot. She found secret momentary pleasure in reminding herself that he wouldn’t have grown up to be such a vandal if Ruth had had better taste in men, if she had picked one who would at least stick around for Christsakes, but then, who’s a girl to learn about men from but her mother? And so the vindictive pleasure quickly faded. And just what kind of apology gift is a fucking cactus? A big, grotesque, alien cactus in a metal pail, with some weird red flowers; the whole thing inexplicably made her think of sex, and she was too mad to think of sex. She spat on the cactus. She got up to go inside; it was getting hot, and she wanted to be in the air conditioning. She wished the pail were filled with cold beers instead of a weird cactus. She slammed the door, leaving the cactus on the sidewalk.
Story by Charles Davis
My grandson took that picture two years ago. I had 30 days sober. He said “grandma, let’s take a picture to celebrate”. The cactus was his idea. He loves that damn plant. Says it hears him thinking that’s why it grows so big. “It’s big because we live in Florida” I always try to tell him but he doesn’t listen. As soon as the picture appears he shouts “we’ll think it to mom! Maybe she’ll come back if she knows you’re not drinking!” “Use your inside voice Ralph!” I yell, even though we’re outside. “Why you gotta talk so loud all the time?” He’s my own flesh and blood so I can say it. He’s weird. He gives me the willies. I take a bottle out of the cupboard and there he is silent as a DT vision, his head leaning forward on his fat little neck, eyes not even blinking. “What the hell are you looking at?” I scream. “I’m thinking my thoughts to you, grandma” he says. “What am I thinking?” “I don’t know! But I’m thinking I’m going to give you a whack with the first thing I lay my hands on if you don’t stop starting like that, and that you should start talking instead of staring, and when you do talk you shouldn’t talk so god damned loud!”
That stare was the first thing I saw when I came to after falling down the back stairs the last time I drank. Tears streaming down his cheeks, snot running from his nose. It hurt me to think of a twelve-year old lifting his grandma off the concrete. “I’m gonna stop drinking, Ralph,” I told him. And there went the waterworks again. “I knew you heard my thoughts grandma,” he pressed his snotty face into my shoulder. “I knew you’d listen!” What could I do? I’m two years sober now. And I still catch him staring at that picture like he’s thinking Gloria, his no good mother will hear him and come back to us. It breaks my heart. What’s gonna happen to him when I’m gone?
Story by T. Giordano