By The Pricking

I’ve heard that death by freezing isn’t such a bad way to go. Still, it was hard to watch it happen from the warmth and comfort of my home. It also took a lot longer than I’d anticipated, giving me far too much time for guilty second thoughts as I watched precious life seep slowly away. Later, there was the frozen corpse to deal with – I had to have at it with a hacksaw out there in the back yard, hoping the neighbors wouldn’t notice. It was straight from FARGO.

Look Homeward, Angel.
Look Homeward, Angel.

Husband has been very nice to me since I hauled that heavy hulking cactus outside in a fit of pique and left it to die. He has not been thorny or prickly or sharp or mean, and it’s a damned good thing. He’d likely end up out there in a snowbank, too – it’s been a long winter.

OK, OK, it’s arguably spring now (although we had an inch of snow on Mother’s Day). Winter in May sent me back to these half-finished February thoughts.

It was Husband’s cactus, really, and I had no right to kill it. But it fell on me one time too many as I moved it to sweep the floor. Wedged itself into my neck and back and dumped desert potting soil (read, “hundreds of tiny rocks”) all over the room. And its resident spider ended up down my shirt.

I’d been after that spider for years; squashing him was worth his burrowing in my bra beforehand. He’d spin cobwebs all over the ceiling-high cactus, cobwebs that were impossible to brush away given the inch-long spikes and spines. While I am not a woman who lives to clean, cobwebs draped through the kitchen collecting visible grease and dust got to me.

I am sure that your kitchen is free of grease and dust and cobwebs. You never have to scrub the haze of old bacon fat off the cupboards over your stove. You scour the underside of your range hood every Saturday morning, right after you pull the refrigerator out from its niche to vacuum behind and beneath it with a special attachment you ordered just for that particular cleaning job. Inside that fridge, I bet you’ve never had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes grow half an inch of mold tucked away there on the bottom shelf behind last year’s mostly-empty bottles of BBQ sauce and that weird jam your neighbor made. I bet you never find dark wet unidentifiable produce in your vegetable drawers. You never have chronic dark smudges on kitchen drawers where dirty fingers rub, or lacquered dribbles of unknown origin below the counter where your can opener sits. You probably even clean your can opener. You don’t know what the death throes of a potato smell like, never having had one roll to the back of your cupboard and rot.

Yes, that's a wall of wine corks. And now I've started down the basement staircase.
Yes, that’s a wall of wine corks. And now I’ve started down the basement staircase.

But I digress.

This is a picture of the cactus in his salad days, when he was green in judgment and decided to outgrow the height of his kitchen. For ten or twelve years, we hauled him outside every spring and back inside every fall. He’d put out tall brave shoots during the summer which I had to heartlessly amputate in order to fit him back into the house for the winter. We’ve no room for a large unfriendly cactus indoors. He blocked the kitchen heating duct and threatened passersby and started encroaching on the back entrance. It was very bad Feng Shui.

I seem to have become more-than-usually prickly of late. Perhaps the cactus is haunting me (next time I see that dermatologist, she’ll be pulling out thorns).   Husband, if he were feeling brave, would no doubt agree, especially after the fight we had last night.

Husband meant well, without a doubt. His intentions were good – or not so good, since the fight involved ordering me some lingerie. I know, I know — every gray-haired middle-aged matron should be so lucky as to have a husband of thirty years who still wants to buy her lingerie. Since catalogs of ladies’ undergarments tend to be fussy and complicated things, he warily approached me waving the size chart.

Goldie Hawn I ain't.
Goldie Hawn I ain’t.

A perfectly reasonable and even admirable course of action, say all you males. The horror, the horror! say all you females — at least those of you who carry around an extra 15 or 20 pounds. I died a thousand deaths at a work wellness event lately when a perky young size 4 nurse came at me with a tape measure; I am certainly not going to report those results to Husband. My hope is always that he thinks of me as I was at 25. That is how I think of him, after all. Reality and the harsh light of day are overrated. Tape measures are overrated, too.

So I will take a lesson from the murdered cactus, lest I too be pitched summarily out into the cold. I will watch my barbed tongue and my prickly temper and my thorny disposition. I will not bristle at Husband, at least when he is most vulnerable and trying to be kind. I may even finally lose the fifteen or twenty pounds and eliminate that sharp and needling source of pain (but that’s far too straightforward a solution).

2 thoughts on “By The Pricking

  1. Hmmm. Three days and not a single comment. Was it the thought of me in lingerie that turned you all away, aghast? Too much information, surely.

  2. mary

    Sorry! I don’t know whether to offer condolences or congratulations.

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