Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I googled freelance writing jobs; got sideswiped by AC. "Assignment", they called it. Write about a memory. Fiction. Keywords. Upload an image.

I did it, all at once, obsessively, while my man and babyboy were out chasing trains in the sunshine.

When I stepped back to see where I was tossing my lifeline, I realized the truth of the situation, or at least the most likely suspicion. Times are tough, and who was it said, "We are all whores"?

I'm back to some sense at the moment, and on my way to delete my start at AC.

Here is the story, in all its suddeness, and afterward the drawing. Maybe we'll work on it together one day.


I remember the fresh and bitter smell of the dieffenbachia plant. I remember the acrid taste of cleaning that felt like punishment, the rough and sudsy experience of Lava soap.

My crib was in my parents' room. I could stand in it easily by the time of this story. I figured I could climb right out anytime if I wanted to, but I liked the crib, with a butter-yellow quilt pieced by my mother, soft baby blue sheets, tucked neatly each morning after I was on to breakfast. A goose feather pillow packed with fluff from an auntie's farm. I could see out two windows from my crib. I could see wheat fields, hay bales, grass pastures with Angus cattle grazing, staring, standing in one another's messing range, content.

I could see my mother's daffodils, much-awaited crocuses, purple iris blooms that smelled like grape popsicles.

In the room I could lean over my rails and look down at hardwood floors, across at a dark wood dresser. Near the head of my bed, but previously out of reach, was a dieffenbachia plant. My mother and I called it Deefy. We liked to humanize things, like that.

I had stretched toward Deefy many times when no one was looking. Tiptoes. Straining. Fingers stretched long. She was six feet tall in her redwood pot, 10 inches taller than my mother. As tall as my father. Her leaves curved and swooped, palmlike, reaching. This time I could reach her.

I pulled at her frond, falling on my bottom when a section of leaf broke away. I stared at the broken leaf edge that was weeping pale green. I saw the tiny cells, holding nourishment, supporting Deefy's existence, creating her body.

I pulled and twisted and tore, making the pieces into smaller and smaller pieces, into threads, into moist green confetti.

My mother walked in.

She gasped; her wide and lovely eyes went even wider. A shout must have brought my father, unusually responsive.

They argued. Why was the plant so close to the crib? Why was I in there alone for so long? Why was it only one's responsibility?

Amidst it all they pulled me from the crib and carried me though the living room, the kitchen, the utility room, to the bathroom.

It could make her dumb, they kept saying, dumb cane, the common name of the dieffenbachia plant. I knew I wasn't dumb, and I soon realized this meant, in context, unable to speak. They were washing my mouth, inside it, with Lava soap. The soap sat sink-side everyday for the cleanup from my mother's gardening, my father and brother's farm work, everyone's digging and planting and harvesting, livestock feeding. It was rough and hideous. I arched and screamed, tears streaming. Spit. Flailing.

I had not learned to talk yet, more than a few words: mama, daddy, want some. No.

And I screamed no over and over, no, no, don't want. Don't want, don't wan't, don't want. It was too soon for me to be able to tell them, I had only torn, but not tasted, the dieffenbachia plant.

I fear it is schmaltzy. Cringe-worthy.

Too hard on myself?

We'll work on it together, one day.

1 comment:

  1. I think my mother used to have a dieffenbachia plant when I was young.
    On another note, she has told me of the time I tore apart a Norfolk pine because she wouldn't get off the phone.