007. The Good Bargain

by crfricke

*This post is part of A Grimm Project, a series of short fiction pieces using each of the Brothers Grimms’ Nursery and Household Tales as writing prompts. For more information about the project, click here. For more about the story which inspired this freewrite, click here.*

Your mother brings a plant with her from the farmer’s market when she arrives, with purple leaves and angular, elbowed vines. “It’s a Wandering Jew,” she says, setting it on the kitchen counter.

“It’s not really called that,” you say quickly, though you know no other names for it because, to be honest, you know nothing about this plant. You say it because you want to rise above, to be more kind and fair to the world; so full of vague, inherited guilt that you would re-do all the hand-written signs at the Catskill Nursery’s booth if only they would hand you the pen.

“That’s what the man said,” is her answer. “It’s just a plant,” is what is hidden behind this response.

“Eight bucks, with the hanging planter included,” she continues. “That’s a good bargain if I do say so myself.”

As you suspend the Wandering Jew in the corner of the dining room which receives the most indirect light, you think to yourself about the strange insistence of time that first creates a myth and a crooked figure to inhabit it, then turns both into something so unremarkable as a houseplant. You hold this thought before you like a chipped marble you’ve found in the couch cushions, examine it, then tuck it away in a drawer. You water the plant along with all the rest, but each week a few more leaves from the top of the plant, closest to the roots, dry up and fall to the stained wooden floors like ash, or the first snowflakes of a storm.

You refuse to read too much into these dried leaves. The world does not feel any different, more healed, or more joyful, whether you find metaphorical meaning in a molting plant or not—and if you allow yourself to think so for even a moment, you’re a fool. You sweep the leaves up and into the trash bin before the cat can pounce on them, eat them with crunching glee, and regurgitate them on the front throw rug, as she is so eager, every time, to do.

Cate Fricke
October 2013