They Grow With Love

Jeanne tsk-tsk’d the houseplant, a tiny pout painting her face into a portrait of disapproval.

“Nothing ever grows here, I don’t get it,” she said, spritzing a little water over the shriveled thing on the windowsill. Warm beams of sunlight flooded the space, and a fresh spring breeze blew in from the open sash. The earth in the pot looked dark and loamy. Jeanne didn’t know exactly what ‘loamy’ meant, but she supposed that if she looked it up, she’d see something like the trowelful of dirt before her.

“Maybe you just don’t have that, what’cha call it? Green thumb?” Steven slumped into the kitchen, the very paragon of an unemployed househusband. A week’s worth of patchy beard covered his sullen cheeks, and it was the same dark color as the bags that cascaded three-fold from under his bleary and bloodshot eyeballs. Thick tufts of curly black hair sprouted from between the open lapels of his checkered flannel robe, matched with the slippers that clung to his hairy feet. He fumbled in the washboard for a clean mug, then filled it with coffee from the pot that Jeanne had brewed when she’d woken up an hour earlier.

“Good morning to you, too, mister,” she said, leaning in to peck a kiss onto one of his scruffy cheeks. He reeked of the bed, a warm and sour smell.

He grunted in reply and slurped a hot mouthful from the mug. He leaned against the counter and regarded his wife with dark suspicion. Wiry black tendrils that neither of them could see curled out from behind Steven’s head, almost as though his hair was growing smoky extensions. They slithered down his back and flowed over the Formica countertop, maneuvering between the butter dish and toaster with serpentine caution. They reached the edge of the sink and flowed around it, then up the short distance of wall to the edge of the windowsill. Sensing the feeble life that struggled weakly in the small flowerpot the tendrils swarmed hungrily around it, reaching up and inward until they grasped the tiny stalk, where they constricted, greedily throttling the sprout with a hundred black limbs.

“Well, I’ve got to go to work,” Jeanne said. “Don’t forget to take out the trash, and the cable guy is coming sometime between eleven and five so please be here.” She moved past her husband and left in a cloud of perfume and the whisper of stockings.

“I ain’t going nowhere,” Steven grumbled into his coffee, and took another slurp.

2014.09.09 – 2023.05.05

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