Short Stories

Green: Part 3 – April WordPrompt

Click on the links for Part 1 or Part 2 if you missed them

The job search went better than I expected that morning. I didn’t quite manage to land a job offer on the first day, but I did have a good lead. Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I put out a message on LinkedIn, just letting everyone know I was in the market for a new opportunity.

As it happened, a few friends of mine from college had put together a business venture two years ago. Their endeavor had been much more successful than mine, and they were looking add someone with my skill set to the team. It was better than I could have hoped for. What better way to get back up on the horse? And this time with some backup. I had a lunch date set up with their team in two days.

By the time I’d hammered out the details, I was starting to get more than peckish. I glanced over at the clock. 11 am already?

No great surprise, time does march on. But I was surprised I hadn’t heard anything from downstairs. My sister must be up by now, and yet there had been no exclamations of surprise, or excited phone calls to other botanically-inclined friends. Had she left for work, or errands, without noticing somehow?

That hardly seemed likely, given how excited she was about it yesterday, even before it doubled in size. I didn’t know what to expect when I came downstairs, but if I’d made a list, what I saw would have been at the bottom of it.

My sister sat at the table staring at the orchid with a vacant, sleepy smile. She was petting one of the orchid’s large, fuzzy leaves. As I came closer, I realized to my horror that the hairs on the leaves were embedding themselves in her skin, giving her palm its own fuzzy green-brown coat.

“What are you doing? Stop that.” I grabbed her hand and pushed the orchid away.

She looked startled for a moment, but her face soon reverted to a wide-eyed calm. “It’s really soft. Feel it.”

I’d known my sister to do some kooky things, but this was bizarre. She almost seemed high.

“Um, no thanks. You just say here for a second,” I said. “And I’ll get rid of this.”

I carefully picked up the orchid by the bottom of the cracked mug, careful not to let the leaves touch me, and then hustled out of the room. My sister watched me remove the orchid passively, which was somehow more disturbing than if she’d fought to keep it. The orchid shed dust like pollen or spores all over the place as I carried it through the house. I tried not to jostle it.

What was I going to do? Duct tape, I thought.

They use duct tape like a waxing strip to remove soft hair-like cactus spines. That would probably work. I chucked the orchid, mug and all, into the garbage can in the garage. In one corner of the garage my sister had a disorganized table with a bunch of tools and home-repair type items on it, and I poked around there until I found the duct tape.

My arm was itchy.

I looked at the duct tape and I remembered how for most of my formative years I thought it was called duck tape and didn’t this duct tape actually have yellow ducks on it or was it actually spots? I should probably actually call this duct tape duck tape only it actually didn’t have anything yellow on the tape no spots or ducks or geese or anything. I used to be afraid of geese but they’re actually far too small to back up their threats so I really should have been afraid of swans, because they’re just as aggressive but they’re huge and I think they could kill a person. They’re so beautiful too they would get away with it because no one would believe it a swan could get away with murder so easily plus how would you arrest a swan they don’t have wrists to put handcuffs on?

I blinked.

The orchid was in my hand again. Or maybe I had never dumped it at all?

I threw it away, again or perhaps for the first time, making sure it didn’t touch me. Only it already had. An itchy patch on my arm the size of a silver dollar was studded with those fine hairs. My stomach growled and my feet hurt from standing. How long had I been here?

I laid a strip of duct tape over the patch of hairs, and pulled it away quickly. The irritating, and possibly worse, hairs came with it, bar none. Excellent.

When I went back into the kitchen I found my sister where I’d left her. I used the duct tape to remove the stinging hairs on her hand.

“Does this hurt?” I asked.

“Nope,” she said.

“Why were you doing that?”

“I don’t know. It was soft.”

“Don’t do that again, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Good. I’ll make us brunch.”

She still seemed very out of it, but I was fairly sure that would wear off with time. And that, I hoped, was the end of it.

Short Stories

Green: Part 2 – April WordPrompt

If you missed Part 1, click here.

I couldn’t sleep the first night at my sister’s house, the first night of my exile. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I was the responsible one. I was supposed to be successful, too. That’s how this works. If you work hard and take care to proof-read your homework, you get better grades than your sibling who goofs off all the time and doesn’t take anything seriously. This had held true my entire life up until this point.

Why, in the unforgiving world of adulthood of all places, had the situation suddenly been reversed?

It wasn’t as if my sister was particularly successful either, drifting from one side-hustle to the next while relying on thrift stores and dumpsters to make ends meet. I’ve heard her brag about how little she spends on food or heating in a month. As if living like a peasant is an accomplishment.

And yet there I was, a dependent slug living on her charity after years of schooling, and several more of gainful employment. It was only temporary, of course. Tomorrow I would polish my resume, and start making calls to contacts. Within a month or two, I would be employed again and back in a modern, tastefully-decorated apartment in an up-and-coming area of the city.

The most productive thing I could do right then was get a good night’s sleep. But I couldn’t.

Not uncommon, for the first night in an unfamiliar environment. I should cut myself some slack. Since I couldn’t sleep anyway, maybe I should start going through online job postings, just to get a sense of the market. I grabbed my laptop and crept downstairs. There wasn’t a desk in my sister’s spare bedroom, and using a laptop in bed is terrible for the posture. I plan on having a long, upwardly mobile career and I do not intend to look like a hunched old granny just as I hit my peak.

I settled myself at the kitchen table. Light from my laptop screen irradiated my face and ensured the rest of the room would appear cloaked in darkness despite soft moonlight seeping in from the windows. I pulled up a job search site and began to consider search terms, but my gaze kept drifting to the plant on the table.

Everything about it annoyed me. It had no purpose; it was just clutter. Don’t get me wrong, I like decorative objects if they evoke something useful. Serenity, for example, as most self-respecting orchids do. This thing looked like it might already be rotting, an effect enhanced by the broken mug it was planted in. It didn’t evoke anything in me except disgust, which seldom enhances productivity.

This aesthetic did fit the room, which was both the only remotely positive thing I can say about it, as well as a sad commentary on the state of the kitchen. It wasn’t filthy, just messy and cluttered. Full of herbs hung up to dry and drop dead leaves on everything, and jars of other herbs or peppers left to soak and have their essence extracted like medical specimens in jars.

I considered one jar of herbs and vinegar. It had a considerably higher ratio of vinegar to plant material than the other jars. I picked up the jar, unscrewed the lid, and tipped some of the excess vinegar into the broken mug housing the orchid. I put the jar back exactly where it had been, and wiped up a few drops that fell on the table or slid down the side of the jar.

There. Now the orchid would be put out of its misery, and the herb/vinegar mixture would be more like the others. By any objective standard I was helping.

I packed up my laptop and headed up to the spare bedroom to attempt sleep again. I might not have accomplished much in the way of job searching, but I had done something. What kind of namby-pamby life form could be done in by a salad dressing ingredient anyway? If the orchid did die, it just proved how pointless keeping it around had been in the first place.

The next morning I awoke to the sound of my alarm clock, as I had for as long as I could remember. I’d gotten very little sleep, and the raucous chirping was particularly painful. Technically I could have done without it, as the hour was meant to accommodate a long commute and I had nowhere to go. Still, I saw no reason to dwell on that, and sleeping in would only encourage the kind of laziness that would extend this hiccup in my life. My sister wasn’t awake yet, and wouldn’t be for an hour or two.

I went down into the kitchen to get coffee brewing, hoping that there would be something decent available. My sister had said something alarming about dandelion coffee earlier. I paused as my fuzzy mind detected something wrong on the kitchen table.

The orchid was now at least twice its original size, its wide, furred leaves spilling down onto the tabletop and hiding the mug entirely. I blinked several times, commanding my sleepy mind to make sense of this. It wouldn’t.

I dug a nearly-empty container of instant coffee out of the back of a cupboard, made myself a cup of something tolerable, and hurried upstairs, leaving the orchid to its nonsense.

Short Stories

Green: Part 1 – April WordPrompt

I tried to hide my annoyance as my sister and I made frequent pilgrimages to and from the moving van. It was nice of her, really, to take me in after my bold, but carefully calculated, choice to dive in and start my own business ended in failure. Perhaps it wasn’t so carefully calculated after all.

My sister was thrilled that we’d be living together, or at least she pretended to be. No, she probably was thrilled. There wasn’t any real reason for her not to be. We’d always gotten along well.

But as we aged out of adolescence and became firmly entrenched in our adult years, I felt like I’d grown up. Whereas she…hadn’t.

I mean, her house was proof enough of that. Full to the brim with silly pseudoscience knick-knacks. The essential oil diffusers, the himalayan salt lamp. Enough potted herbs to season an entire banquet. And all the furniture was made of this dark distressed wood that always gave the impression of being sticky.

I knew I was mainly upset about the way my life had gone off the rails, and was projecting those emotions on everything annoying around me, but knowing that didn’t change how I felt. At least my sister had stopped talking about how wonderful this was going to be, and had moved on to blathering about some a-MAZE-ing orchid she’d just bought. It takes much more than some little flower to amaze me, I can promise you. But at least this topic didn’t require much input from me.

Finally all of my stuff was at least moved into the house, if not put away. Most of it was going to have to stay in boxes in the basement for the time being. There just wasn’t anywhere else to put it.

I ducked under an overgrown spider plant hanging in the entryway, heading into the kitchen in search of promised lemonade. A small plant bearing a few lackluster buds, and covered in brownish fuzz sat on the kitchen table. My sister rotated the broken mug it was planted in, examining the plant from every angle.

“That’s not it, is it?” I pointed at the plant, which only served to remind me that I was at least a month overdue for a manicure. Fat chance of that.

She nodded enthusiastically. “Wait until it blooms. They say the fragrance is something else.”

Oh good, now the house would smell like a perfume shop as well as a health food store.

I sipped my lemonade, watching my sister as she stared at the orchid. I didn’t like that plant. Why, I couldn’t have said. But something was wrong with it.