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