Fiction ยท 09/14/2016

No Es Facil

An enormous cactus grew in Sra. Rosales’ front yard, and it looked exactly like her late husband. She encountered the cactus as she went to throw her husband’s chair to the curb. The bristles formed a little mustache, and under that, a frown. “Oh come on,” Sra. Rosales explained, “I don’t need it, and nobody else is going to sit there.”

The next day Sra. Rosales looked at the cactus as it stood in the wind being pelted by dust. She ran outside with a blanket and threw it over the cactus’ shoulders and sprinted back in.

The wind did not let up, and the blanket blew away. Sra. Rosales tried to dig up the cactus and bring it inside, but the wind kept blowing more dirt over the hole. Rather than see it suffer, she hacked down the cactus, dressed it in her husband’s suits to keep it warm, and set it in a pot in the living room next to the chair.

The spines tore through the suits. “You didn’t like them?” Sra. Rosales asked as she peeled off the last one, several needles remained stuck inside the fabric. “Oh!” she picked up the cactus and carried it to the tailor.

The tailor demonstrated a new lining he’d designed. It was thicker and sturdier and could not be broken by the needles. He originally used it as a material for dresses. In the corner of the shop there was a cactus wearing a fine red dress. Sra. Rosales waited until she’d left the shop before slapping her cactus so hard the spines poked through the back of her hand “Don’t even think about it.”

Sra. Rosales sat on her front step and wept as a fine red dress dropped out of her bedroom window and was carried away by the breeze. She got her gun from the shed and stormed up the stairs and into her bedroom. She took a moment to survey the scene; the two cacti stood in the corner of the room. She tossed the cactus from the tailor’s shop out the window and then shot her cactus six times before storming out the door.

She had barely made it down the street when she thought about the cactus leaking water on her bedroom floor and dying all alone. She ran back home and tried to plug the bullet holes with rags. It wasn’t working. Ignoring the stabbing needles, she wrapped the cactus up in her arms and ran with it back out into the street.

The botanist’s office was full of cacti that had other limbs and parts grafted onto them to replace their own broken and diseased pieces. Sra. Rosales brought hers to the front desk: “please, its urgent.” The receptionist looked at the holes in the middle of the cactus and nodded toward the double doors that led to the greenhouse.

The botanist leaned the cactus up against a table. “I’m sorry. Those holes in the outer skin are going to get infected, and I can’t graft anything onto the main trunk.” Sra. Rosales pushed the botanist away, called him an idiot, and carried the cactus home.

As the cactus wilted, Sra. Rosales spritzed it with a mix of water and plant food every day. She went on long walks through the desert, cutting off limbs from other cacti and bringing them home to graft onto her husband. The original arms rotted away, and each newly grafted set started to wilt almost immediately. They decayed so fast Sra. Rosales didn’t have time to remove the old parts. Each time she had to find more fresh limbs to conceal the dying husk below.

Every morning, Sra. Rosales went out and cut down another cactus and then another and another. She dug up her garden to cover the cactus’ rotting limbs, and then when that was gone she began to dig up her lawn. It was not enough. She resolved to attach more limbs and cover the cactus with more flowers.

Soon, the only way for her to keep ahead of the rot was for her to carry the cactus on her back and continuously add any plants she found onto the original body. Sra. Rosales seemed to shrink as the monstrosity on her back grew larger. She would shuffle down the main street of the town, filling the area with the smell of decay.

One day, when she did not come down the street, the villagers found her crushed under a tangle of rotten limbs, promising that she would rebuild the cactus bigger and more terrible than it had ever been before.

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Michael Somes graduated from Denison University with a degree in English. His story “Ground Rules” has appeared in Gutfire! Magazine.