“Succulents are favored for their ease of care,” Lara read aloud from the tag to her mother in a fashion deliberately intended to shame her for having somehow managed to kill this “easily maintained” houseplant that her sister–Lara’s Aunt Camille–had just bequeathed her as one of the residual items from their recently deceased mother, Annette’s, apartment. Though Annette had only adopted the habit of gardening in her later years, she took an especial shine to these succulents, bought from a nursery near her retirement home (a somewhat oxymoronic pairing of words indeed). It was of great sentimental value, of course, and Camille had chosen it as the object to hand over to Faith (an ironic name with hindsight, since no one in the family had any in her) specifically because it was supposed to be foolproof. Impossible to destroy or dismember in some “accidental” fashion like it would have been for Annette’s prized jewelry or fur collection, both of which had to be kept under strict lock and key due to current trends in tarring and feathering the rich and any obscene emblems of their wealth. But even in the face of “tucking her inheritance away,” Faith would have somehow found a way to cock it up. It was just who she was. Something encoded within her DNA that instructed her always to destroy, destroy, destroy. Not just possessions, but relationships, too.
While Lara, as her daughter, had accepted this, it seemed Camille had a long way to go in understanding the inherent nature of her sister even though she had known her longer. Though not lived with her longer. And that makes all the difference in the end. Even if it hadn’t for Jacob, Faith’s only other child, who had seen fit to move as far away as possible from the family’s Washington origins to go to New Zealand, where there could not be any possible risk of Faith somehow ruining any of his things. And he was very sensitive to that plight regardless of being a, for all intents and purposes, vagabond with very minimal possessions to begin with. He wanted to sustain and preserve the few he did, however, and that meant staying as far away from Faith as he was able to. Of course, when she spoke of it to friends or acquaintances, she chalked it up to Jacob’s need to explore the world–his congenitally “adventurous spirit.” Deep down, or maybe just below the surface, she knew it wasn’t true. That her son had run away for the same reason as her husband: she was careless and unbearable to live with in the long-term. Or even the short, some would argue. But Lara had consistently remained faithful to her mother, seeing perhaps too much opportunity to study her as a way not to be. As a cautionary tale of how not to raise her own future children, should she end up having them, which didn’t seem so likely of late based on her recent breakup with Ted, her boyfriend of two years who Lara finally saw for the banal blank space he was. She started to realize that Taylor Swift had actually written that song referring to him. In any event, he wasn’t exactly verklempt, nodding his head along in “quiet understanding” as she delivered the blow that he received as a soft kiss.
When she went over to Faith’s to inform her that she would likely be needing to stay in her old room while she found another place in lieu of the one she had been sharing with Ted but that he could afford on his own anyway (unlike Lara, who would need to go back to the joyous game of roommate musical chairs), she hesitated to tell her the news. For she was hovered above the kitchen table extracting one of the four succulents from the melded together quartet of pots. The knife was positioned in kill mode, Faith was poised to murder and nothing, not even Lara’s light interruption, could stop her from the dismemberment she had in mind for this soon to be even further deceased houseplant.
Lara watched as Faith deliberately ignored her entry into the kitchen from the garage, determined with those eyes that could only equate to pure bloodlust (or would it be aloe lust in this case?) to end this slowly deteriorating succulent that had been taunting her with its threats of death in spite of her so-called best efforts to keep it alive. She couldn’t stand it any longer; it had become like her own tell-tale heart, the plant’s internal watery ooze pulsing at her as some sort of threat that it might stop beating altogether as it browned and sagged in a way that none of the others were. “What do you want from me?” she screamed at it as she severed it from its rootedness in the soil. It was plucked from its family and then swiftly tossed in the backyard to, who knows, maybe somehow revive and start anew in a more natural environment (if a suburban backyard could in any way be classified as such).
Finally bothering to take note of Lara, who she was well-aware had been taking in the sight of her plant guillotine festivities, she asserted, “It had to be done.”
It was then that Lara had approached the generic instructions and information that Camille had very specifically attached to the pot, digging her own figurative knife into Faith with that bit about how succulents were the easiest plant in the world to maintain and that basically only some sort of brain damaged caretaker could ruin them.
Lara added, “They’re also known for being drought-resistant, and can go for long periods of time without being watered, therefore should only be given such nourishment sporadically and not excessively.”
It was then that a lightbulb went off above Faith’s head–one, presumably, that only a cartoonist would be able to see with their special cartoon vision of such metaphorical things happening in real life. As Faith grabbed a magnifying glass to further examine the other remaining three, she could detect hints of decay forming in the brown tips of these as well. “I smothered the fucking thing to death. Go figure. I couldn’t be nurturing enough to the people in my life so I had to make up for it with this goddamn plant.”
“It’s still salvageable. What’s left of Grandma’s legacy.”
Faith chortled. She picked up the ceramic pot, engraved with various etchings of nondescript design and thrust it at Lara. “I’ll leave it to you to salvage. I’m going out to meet a date.”
At the early dinner she was somewhat late to, Faith was haunted by her maiming of the formerly living entity that her mother had managed to keep going for six years as the waiter kept insisting on describing every item on the menu–in addition to every special not on it–as succulent. She opted to skip the food and ran up the bill with the recommended cocktail from the waiter: a gin and cucumber-aloe cocktail. She raised her glass at the ceiling, ignoring her dining companion as he stared at her like she was a madwoman. “To your succulents, Mom. And to sucking all the confidence I had left out of me with them. Well fucking played in getting one final judgment on my competence in.”