Please Don’t Die On Me—A Short Story

by Gregory B. Gonzalez

Michael was exhausted from his flight home. Ten hours in coach, flying back from Europe was like being sealed in an iron maiden without the spikes. All he wanted to do was get home and sleep.

He had been gone for six weeks, backpacking through the continent. He didn’t really want to go, but his Mother insisted. She wanted him to get away after his father died from cancer three months ago.

As much as he hated to admit it, she was right, he needed the break. After caring for his father until he died and having to deal with all the immediate fallout, he had been on the verge of a breakdown. The trip had allowed him the opportunity to get it together. The solitude was healing.

Now that he was back though, he was eager to reclaim his life. He just wanted a nice, hot shower and some sleep first.

An Uber driver picked him up from the airport and dropped him off at his apartment in Silverlake. As he walked up the two flights of stairs to his second floor apartment, he pulled out his keys and then opened the door.

Of course, it was an unholy mess. Without him around, his roommate Andy, lived like a college frat boy- nothing but pizza boxes and dirty laundry covering every inch of the floor. There’s no point in getting angry, he thought, it’s not like I expected him to clean up after himself.

The only favor Michael had begged from Andy was to water and care for his beloved philodendron- a gift from his Dad. He called it Arthur. Michael’s father had treated Arthur like it was an actual person; he liked to talk to it and listen to music with it. He loved listening to the band, Queen. Michael’s father always used to say that Arthur looked greener after hearing Freddie Mercury’s voice. It was his company when Michael and his mother weren’t around.

Michael thought it was kind of silly, but as his father used to say, “Arthur is a lousy conversationalist, but he’s a great listener!” Michael’s father insisted that it even be with him while he was in the hospital.

When his father died, Michael’s mother wanted to give Arthur away because having it around was too painful for her, so Michael kept it for himself. It was a part of his Dad.

Michael didn’t talk to Arthur, though. That was just way too weird for him. The most he did was play music from Arthur’s favorite band. According to his Dad, anyway.

Even though Michael knew Andy to be a complete screw up, he didn’t think Andy could screw up caring for Arthur. All he had to do was make sure to mist his leaves and make sure he got a little sun. How hard was that?

When he opened the door to his room, he dumped his baggage and glanced at Arthur. He seemed none the worse for wear. He was hanging in the macrame holder as always. Michael said, “Arthur, I’m so glad to be home I’m even talking to you!”

That’s when Michael noticed something odd about Arthur. He picked up the philodendron pot and stomped over to Andy’s room. In a fury, he opened the door and screamed, “DUDE! WHAT THE HELL?!”

Wasted and half-asleep, Andy rolled over in his bed and his eyes lit up as though someone had blown an air-horn in his ear. He grumbled, “Michael, did you just get home? What’s wrong? If you’re mad about the mess, I’ll clean it up tomorrow!”

Michael yelled, “I don’t care about that! What did you do with Arthur?!”

Annoyed and still sleepy, Andy snapped, “What are you talking about? Who’s Arthur?”

“My plant, you asshole! What did you do with it?”

Andy leaned back on his bed. “You’re holding it, dumbass!”

Shaking with rage, Michael shouted, “This is not my plant! Arthur was in a clay pot! This plant is in a plastic green pot!”

His pillow covering his face, Andy shot back, “A plant’s a plant! What’s the difference?”

“That was my father’s plant, you moron!” Michael was so angry he threw the fake against the wall. The plastic pot cracked, spilling the dirt and leaves everywhere.

Michael ran from the room. He decided to check the overflowing garbage. With luck, maybe his idiot roommate hadn’t thrown Arthur out in the dumpster. If he had, it was over. Littering the floor with refuse, Michael had found his plant.

Arthur was still intact for the most part, but his leaves were dry and brown. Taking him to the living room sofa, Michael stuck a finger in the soil. It was still moist. He cleared a little bit of it to see if the roots were dead. He couldn’t tell for sure.

Andy had come out of his bedroom, covered by his blanket. “Michael,” his tone conciliatory, said, “I’m totally sorry, man. I had no idea that plant was your father’s.”

On the verge of tears, Michael said, “What were you thinking?”

Andy said, “When you told me to give it some sun, I left the blinds open. I guess I let in too much. When I finally watered it, it was all brown. I thought it was dead.”

Sobbing, Michael rubbed one of Arthur’s dry leaves between his fingers. “So you thought you’d replace it like it was a parakeet? I’m not four years old.”

“I didn’t know it belonged to your Dad, Michael. I honestly didn’t think you’d notice.”

“You obviously thought wrong. Just get out of my face and leave me alone.”

“Mike…”

“Leave me alone!”

Andy put on a t-shirt and jeans and left the apartment. Michael went out to buy some soil and a pair of scissors. He repacked Arthur’s roots, watered the soil, and trimmed the brown leaves off. After that was done, he put him back in his holder and hoped for the best.

For the next few days, he misted the stems and made sure Arthur got the required amount of sunlight he needed. Just for good measure, Michael played every song in the Queen catalogue, including the FLASH GORDON soundtrack.

A week had passed, and nothing seemed to be happening. Michael’s father’s prized possession was seemingly gone.

As he lay in his bed, Arthur’s lifeless pot beside him, he whispered, “Arthur, I don’t know if you can hear me or even understand what I’m saying, but I need for you to come back to life. You are the only part of my Dad that I have left, and if you go, then everything that he loved will be gone, too.” Tears started flowing from his eyes. “I thought I was gonna be okay. I thought I was ready to start moving on, but I’m not. I’m not ready to let him go. Please don’t die on me.”

Michael drifted off to sleep, his last memory was hearing Queen’s, “Keep Yourself Alive”.

When he awoke the next morning, he looked into Arthur’s pot only to find a newly green bud sticking out of the soil.

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Posted by on April 11, 2019. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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9 Responses to Please Don’t Die On Me—A Short Story

  1. Michael John Scott Reply

    April 11, 2019 at 10:43 am

    A very nice story indeed Greg. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  2. Gregory B. Gonzalez Reply

    April 11, 2019 at 11:49 am

    Thanks, boss!

  3. Virginia Gonzalez Reply

    April 11, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    I truly enjoyed this story. Made me cry because it brought back memories of your Dad. The only thing I kept was his sweater he always wore and his license which I will never throw away.

  4. Gregory B. Gonzalez Reply

    April 11, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks, Mom. I miss Dad, too. I think about him every day, and he’s the reason I do this.

  5. jess Reply

    April 11, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    Made me cry because my dad was the greenfingers in our house too.

  6. Gregory B. Gonzalez Reply

    April 11, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    I’m sorry, Jess. Didn’t mean to make you cry. 😞

    • jess Reply

      April 11, 2019 at 4:20 pm

      It’s okay, truly okay. I am very fortunate that I even knew the guy, let alone he is the one that chose me to be his daughter. I have lived a life others could only dream of and happy tears are the very best of tears, they are just hurts way of leaving the body is what my dad used to tell me when I was upset and crying over something.

  7. Gregory B. Gonzalez Reply

    April 11, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Well, I at least hope they were happy tears born of fond memories. ❤

  8. Glenn Geist Reply

    April 13, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Editing the contacts list on my phone
    A pang as though I were erasing each,
    One by one from some phone book of life.
    An urge to touch the screen one more time
    As though they’d be there and answer.
    Still alive until I hit ‘delete’
    Consigning each memory in turn to oblivion.

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