I made a lot of enemies in my life, but one of the worst is the plant in the living room.
Minnie brought it home a couple of years ago it was just a little sprout with two leafs comin’ off it, sittin’ in the middle of one of them orangey clay pots.
I’m just gonna put it here for now, she said, and plunked it on the end table beside the TV, clearin’ a little spot out of the 400 or so picture frames she got standin’ on that table.
Of course, it wasn’t too much time passed at all and the damn thing shot up a good foot or so and the leafs turned into little branches, shootin’ out from the sides.
That was probably the first time me and the plant had words. I sat down one night to watch the hockey game and realized the end of one of the branches grew over in front of the TV, and was coverin’ up the edge of the screen. It looked like Montreal pulled its goalie and planted a tree in the ice instead.
Minnie! I said. Get your bush out of the way of the TV!
She comes in from the kitchen and says – It’s not a bush, it’s a rubber plant. And is your arm broke, or what? And all she did was turn the pot a little bit so the branch went down beside the TV. Then she stormed back into the kitchen.
Well it’s a good thing it’s made of rubber, I mumbled after she left. That way it’ll bounce when I throw it out in the yard!
Whatchya say? she yelled back in.
Nothin’, I said.
So then me and the plant had a truce, but it only lasted a couple of months, because the big leaf from the branch on top grew out over the TV and started floppin’ down in front of the screen.
Well, I said right loud one night. I guess this is what it’s like playin’ hockey in Hawaii or somethin’, where the ice is shaded by friggin’ palm trees.
Minnie sticks her head in the door again. I told ya, she said. It’s a rubber tree. For cripessake, just do this, she said, and she nudged the coffee table over a bit, and put the pot down on the floor, with the rubber tree comin’ up in the space between the table and the TV stand.
There, she said. That should shut you up for a while.
And it did, too. Until a couple of months later. By then we were into baseball season. By this time, the plant had to be pushin’ three feet high, and was almost up to the top of the TV stand. For the most part, the plant new to steer clear of me, and it grew most of its leaves over toward the table side, or pressed up against the side of the stand. So I thought we finally came to a bit of an understanding.
But when I started watchin’ the games every night, I seen there was a little nub comin’ off one of the branches. And in no time at tall, the nub turned into a leaf and then the leaf grew in front of the screen and flopped over to block the players.
This thing is out of control, Minnie! I said to her. Every time there’s a pitch, all I see is the pitcher’s arm comin’ out from somewhere behind the plant. I can’t see his legs or anything. Do you know how frustrating that is?
Ahhh, she said, bein’ right smart. So the only reason you watch the ball games is to look at the pitcher’s legs? I didn’t think you were into that kind of thing.
Ha-freakin’-ha, I said.
Here, she said. I’ll fix it for ya. And I couldn’t believe what she did next – she went out to the kitchen, came back with the scissors, grabbed the leaf in front of the screen right down by the stock and snipped it off.
There, she said.
Thank you! I said, pretty impressed that she did it.
Of course, the next night when I sat down to watch the ball game, I went to put my cup of tea on the little table by my chair and I came face to face with my arch enemy: the leaf.
It was sproutin’ out of some dirt in a styrofoam cup.
What in the hell is this?!
I’m startin’ a new rubber plant for Joan, she said. That’s why I cut that leaf off. It’s just startin’ to take root, so don’t disturb it.
And, too bad for me, that little leaf kept growin’ and growin. And so did the one she cut off for her friend Evelyn, and the two for their other friends from club. By the end of the summer the living room was practically a jungle. In protest one day I tied a red dish cloth around my head and pretended to be Rambo. Any time one of the kids walked through the room I’d yell at them – Look out! The Vietnamese are everywhere!
Little Bill dropped to his stomach and did a belly-crawl out to the kitchen, but Rosie put her hand on her hip and scrunched her eyebrows together and said – I’m pretty sure that’s racist, Dad. She’s a lot like her mother, she is.
I noticed even after Minnie gave away the new plants, we were left with three plants, even though I was sure we only started with one. So I’m tellin’ ya, if your wife comes home with a plant, treat it like a Gremlin. Don’t get it wet and don’t feed it after midnight, because them things multiply fast.