Spines

Think Tom Waits’ voice after a night of sex and booze. Think the corner of Hieronymus Bosch’s brain that even he didn’t know was there. You wouldn’t really be close, but it’s something to work with.

I thought the cat would talk first. He seemed the type. But no, he laid dead mice at my feet like I was his disgusting queen and never uttered a word. The cactus did the talking instead.

There’s nothing wrong with me, you understand. Not the kind of wrong that needs to be whispered about behind my back, sympathetic overtones masking relief that it’s not you, fear that one day it could be. I pay my bills on time and button my coat up correctly. Folly finds me no more or less than it finds everyone else. My parents are neither happy nor sad enough to give me cause for issues beyond the usual childhood wishes of finding out I was secretly adopted and my real family are royalty from a country whose name I can’t pronounce.

The cactus just started talking.

Cacti are members of the Cactaceae family. The flowers are bisexual and, in this particular cactus, only bloom at night. I’d like to say that’s why I bought it—so that when the moon was ripe for milking I could watch flowers bloom in the half-light and be in wonder. But I bought it because I pricked my finger on it and taking home something that had made me bleed by virtue of sitting there doing nothing seemed like the thing to do.

For seven whole months, it didn’t say a word. The cat got a face full of spines in the first week after a failed attempt at domination and refused to look at it again. The seasons happened, as they do, and when spring came around, hitching a ride on winter’s coattails and thickening blades of green, the cactus told me I had nice hair. I said thank you. Manners are a reflex conducive to sanity. If you ever find your houseplant complimenting your hair, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Upon asking the cactus how life was treating it, I discovered that cacti don’t think in terms of life doing anything for them. I discovered this because it laughed at me. I asked it if it planned on creating some kind of cacti army to enslave humanity and it made a noise that sounded what a shrug would sound like if it had a noise. Then it told me I had pretty eyes. I blushed.

When I came home from work the next day, it wolf-whistled at me. I took my hair out of its clasp. It told me the cat sometimes peed behind the television when I wasn’t home. I told it about Louise in accounting’s obsession with counting the staples in the stationary cupboard to make sure nobody was stealing supplies. It tutted at me when I reached for the cookie jar—I lost four whole pounds in a month.

We watched movies and soaps together. I discovered it had a thing for French cinema so I pretended the subtitles didn’t give me tension headaches. I started taking baths instead of showers so it could sit on the windowsill and talk to me whilst I scrubbed.

The first flower grew out of the top of my head four nights ago. It tickled. Now, the spines have begun to form on the tops of my thighs. Louise in accounting told me I looked a little green. I smiled. It’s waiting for me when I get home. Just for me.

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Anna Russell  Anna Russell's website likes to call herself a writer. It's nicer than the things other people call her. She has had work published in Poetry Scotland, Identity Theory, Cause and Effect, Greyling Bay, Thuglit and Diddledog. She firmly stands against flippantly excessive adverb usage and believes Superman could beat Batman in a fight.