The Secret Life of Plants

Pick three:

Potting soil that moves

The pot leaked all over the parquet floor

An agave cactus four feet tall

Yellow leaves, hot pink leaves

Icicles on the daffodils

Tulip/lily showdown

That little man with the clippers


18 responses to “The Secret Life of Plants

  1. “There was nothing that I could do,” said the little man with the clippers.
    The officer looked sternly at him, took a short breath, and held it between his lips. This wasn’t his first time being busted down to flower-duty. It could be an embarrassment for him, an investigator. Although, the card-house made even the highest of rank a little crazy every now and then.
    He let the breath go slowly and asked, “So, I am to believe that the potting soil moves – all by itself. Then it just lays down around the bed?”
    The little man tried to smile, but failed with a weak smirk.
    “The last time this happened she replaced an entire deck. Didn’t you learn from their mistakes?” The flip pad closed between the officer’s gloved hands. “She lost it over the roses not being red. What do you think with happen when the leaves are yellow and hot pink?”

  2. For deep background on the following story:

    “Who’s the idiot that brought those up here?”

    “Brought what up here, Angus?” asks Francine.

    “Those yellow things over there. Look, they have icicles hanging from them. They’ll be brown by noon.”

    “Oh, yeah, they’re daffodils. Or maybe jonquils. Never could tell the difference. Poor things. I know just how they feel…”

    “Are you going to start that again, Francine? You agreed to come live with me in my homeland.”

    “You didn’t tell me your ‘homeland’ was ten thousand feet up a mountain, Angus.”

    “Volcano, Francine. Haleakala is a volcano. And it’s only ten thousand feet at the rim, not down here in the crater,” Angus replied.

    “Humph. You said ‘Hawaii’, not Haleakala. And it still freezes down here.”

    “No, I told you in the House of the Sun. And what’s wrong with living here in the crater? It’s gorgeous down here.”

    “Well, I suppose if you’re an agave it’s…”

    “I AM NOT AN AGAVE! I’m a Silver sword, and an exceptional one because I am four feet tall. I am very rare and the only place I grow in the whole world is here on Haleakala. You know that.”

    “Exactly, the only place in the world. I thought living in Hawaii would mean sandy beaches and tropical jungles and hot beach boys. I didn’t think we be stuck in the ground in this place. I mean, you can’t see anything, not even the ocean. It’s so boring. Oh, and you’re four feet tall because you’re part agave.”

    “That’s a low blow, Francine. That was way back, and only on my father’s side. You know that. So, what do we do about your unhappiness? Split up?”

    “Well, no… I mean, if only I could see the water and a beach and a hot beach b…”

    “I get it, Francine. You want to leave the crater even though you know I can’t survive anywhere else. Okay, I guess that’s it then. Go ahead.”

    “Annnngus, I don’t want it to be this way. How about we…. Oh, who are those people? And what are they doing with those clippers?”

    “Who? Oh. Oh, no! Hide, Francine. Hide!”

    “Hide? Why?”

    “It’s those do-gooders from the Park Service. They’re here to remove invasive species from the crater. Hide behind me, Francine.”

    “Invasive species? But, I’m not invasive. I came here with you. Does that mean I’m invasive? And what are they going to do to me? They can’t just yank me out by my roots, can they? Angus? Can they? Why won’t you answer me, Angus?”

  3. Cheryl aka Shaddy

    Evicted from its home on account of its size, an agave cactus four feet tall dwarfed the stoop it now occupied. Two years prior, that little man with the clippers had moved into that house at 203 Snips Lane. Eddie stood 4 foot, 8 inches with his shoes on. He resented the towering cactus from day one and vowed he’d somehow be rid of it.

    Small men don’t enjoy being small. Eddie was embarrassed that he needed to stand on a stool to make his living. Nevertheless, he managed well in spite of his handicap and 265 haircuts later, he had the extra cash to hire a mover to haul “that damn monstrosity” across the living room and out the front door. He planned to have it hauled off his porch as soon as he saved some more money.

    Don’t get the wrong impression. Eddie liked plants. He liked small, manageable plants and had no color preference. He imagined having a row of plants with yellow leaves, hot pink leaves, purple flowers and blue flowers in 4 inch pots on his oblong coffee table. He wanted to dominate his home and that meant looking down on his belongings.

    Eddie kept the curtain closed on the front door to keep the overgrown cactus out of sight. The day the cactus was ousted and the pot leaked all over the parquet floor, he swore he would never lay eyes on it again. It may have been out of his sight but it haunted him while he slept. Potting soil that moves, icicles on the daffodils and a tulip/lily showdown were just a few of the freakish nightmares that woke him night after night.

    Eddie moved from Snips Lane to a group home on the other side of town. Neighbors reported to police that he was screaming and stabbing a large cactus on his front porch at 3:00 in the morning. Social workers determined he was a menace and he was committed to a home. Eddie doesn’t remember much of his past and behaves well since he is on medication and is well supervised. If you were to read his chart, you would understand these notes: Eddie loves to water the many plants here but refuses to go near our cactus.

    (Before I realized it, I had used four of Ann’s prompts so I figured ‘what the heck’ and used them all).


    Potting soil that moves… the pot leaked all over the parquet floor
    An agave cactus four feet tall… yellow leaves, hot pink leaves
    Icicles on the daffodils… tulip/lily showdown… that little man with the clippers

    Winter was long and nasty that year
    And although the calendar showed that it was officially over
    Spring, like a woman who takes her time to dress up,
    Was in no hurry to make her big entrance as yet

    Standing in his living room, looking through the bay window,
    The little man with the clippers in his trembling hands,
    Was waiting impatiently for warmer days
    When he could go out to start working in his garden

    He could see icicles still hanging on the daffodils
    And the drops of ice in every needle of the agave cactus
    Now four feet tall and growing,
    That he planted three years ago between some rocks

    He also saw some yellow leaves and some hot pink leaves
    left behind from the autumn season
    now trapped under a thin layer of shinny frost
    Around the rocks and in between the plants and bushes

    He got tired of looking out and turned around
    Away from the window, away from the winter
    He wanted to get busy with his hands
    To do something that could make time go faster.

    Using a small banged watering can
    He poured water on the fern next to the entrance door
    As usual, the pot leaked all over the parquet floor
    But he didn’t care. That was what was supposed to happen

    What wasn’t supposed to have happened
    Was for Mary, his wife for over 58 years,
    To go to Heavens first leaving him behind.
    That wasn’t fair, for he needed her more than she needed him.

    He stopped for a while remembering
    The friendly fights he and Mary used to have
    Every early spring during the tulip/lily showdown
    When each one claimed to have the most beautiful flowers

    After placing the watering can back on the floor
    He took a worn out handkerchief off his pocket
    And with shaking hands, he dried the tears
    That were coming out of his cataract clouded eyes.

    He let his body slumped in his old reclining chair,
    While he was trying to switch on the table lamp
    He pushed the potting soil that moved
    And then fell unto the floor, scattering the dirt all around.

    Who cares, he thought,
    If the pot leaks or the dirt covers the floor
    I will stay sitting here until Mary comes
    On a beautiful Spring day and take me away with her.

  5. Commander Kip Mercer rechecked the spacecraft attitude and made a minor adjustment while he waited for the signal to begin the countdown to retro-fire. As he crossed the Pacific coast, the capsule was again bathed in sunlight. Being in possession of the “right stuff,” he was hardly concerned with the final stages of his flight, which were certainly among the most dangerous. Failure of the retro pack to fire, or to fire with insufficient force, would leave him stranded in orbit. An incorrect trajectory could cause the capsule to burn up on reentry. Ironically though, what consumed the background processes of Commander Mercer’s mind was having to re-do the floor in the hallway back at home. Tammy had bought a tomato plant at the market and set it inside the door to keep it out of the sun. The pot leaked all over the parquet floor, which turned black, and now needed to be replaced.

    “Goddamn little pieces of wood!” he muttered, hoping no one in Mercury Control would hear.

    Directly below the spacecraft, if just for an instant, Lieutenant James Patterson drove his two month old Corvette slowly down a gravel path. He was on a mission to do something he knew he would likely never get a chance to do again. He maneuvered his car around a construction barrier, just missing an agave cactus four feet tall, and onto virgin concrete.

    Next month this would be exit 7 on I34, the latest addition to the national interstate highway system. But today, it was the longest drag strip in the world.

    He dropped the shift lever down into first and buried the accelerator in the carpet.

    “No lines, no signs, no cops!” he shouted as the car accelerated wildly down the nascent highway. There were some advantages, however small, in being the backup pilot.

    Two hundred and thirty seven miles north east of Bermuda, Captain Jack Newton, Commander, Recovery Group A, Atlantic Zone, was handed a small piece of yellow paper.

    “Just off the TELEX Sir,” said the communications mate.

    The captain read the message and immediately crumpled the paper.

    “Damn these space people! We need to move another fifteen miles to the east. That damn spaceship circles the globe in ninety minutes, and we, well we move like potting soil!”

    The image of potting soil that moves triggered a memory in the old man’s brain. He flattened out the TELEX paper, wrote “potting soil” on the back, and slipped it into his pocket. Mrs. Newton could wait until they docked for the two bags she had asked him to pick up before they sailed.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      I wondered how you’d work Ann’s prompts into your story; you reinforced how the mind can jump from important subjects to less significant issues effortlessly. Keeping a woman happy, the most important issue in human history, sometimes takes a back seat to the world’s minor missions.

      Good going, Gary.

  6. It was a tiny kalanchoe with the most amazing leaves, tucked in among a collection of other succulents. My husband had given me a little dish garden for Valentine’s Day, and I immediately fell in love with this plant. The leaves were very large, crisp, and covered with a felt like nap. As often happens, the plants began to grown out of the little pot, and Kal was one of the first to be repotted. I put him in a terra cotta pot and set him in a spot near the sliding door where he’d get just enough sun.

    Kal was not to be contained in that little pot. As the roots expanded, the soil began to move out of the pot, soil and water leaking all over the parquet floor. It became apparent that it was time our burly friend was going to have to be moved outside.

    There was one small issue. The little man with the clippers was set on controlling this plant he’d never seen before. It took some doing to convince him to keep his clippers in his pocket and let me be in charge.

    As years went by, Kal became parent to many offspring, and now he has family all over southern California. He especially loved the beach when we lived there, which surprised me, since most succulents do best in dry climates. However, this guy had a mind of his own, so we just kept putting him in larger and larger pots and watched him thrive.

    Ken gave me this plant in 1975, shortly after we were married. Ken is gone now, and my life has been through many transitions, but Kal is still with me. My little plant is now over four feet tall. His home is just outside my patio door, and he recently helped to hatch a pair of baby hummingbirds, snuggled safely under his big leaves.

    In case you’re wondering, this is a Kalanchoe Beharensis, and with age it becomes almost architectural. It’s one of my old loves.

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