Plant Bath

by Lydia Mae 

My father told me I kill everything I touch, so I’ve placed a plant in his bathtub. It is an obstruction to his regular life, but it has not died, and I did touch it. I did not read the tag on the plant when I bought it, so I’m unsure of what it is. I accepted bags of soil from my neighbor. She is an old woman, and I wouldn’t say she is wise, but I think maybe she would like to be. She is generous which is better anyhow. It took me an hour to carry the bags of soil up his few cement steps, through the house, and into his claw-footed sanctuary. I left a trail of soil prints.

He never removed the plant, and I’ve come to water it only a few times, but now vines have eaten his bathtub. In some places between the vines I can still see the porcelain poking through but the tub has nearly been swallowed. Cleaning this up is beyond my father’s willingness to participate in housework. He takes sink showers and doesn’t say hello when I come to tend the plant.

The vines just keep growing. He eats dinner in his chair in the living room, same as always, and tendrils curl around his ankles. He asked me not to kill the plant because he has found some strange company in it, and I fear I may have given him a gift.

Today, my father is asleep in the bathtub on top of the mass—having pried the bathroom door open this morning. He said she keeps him warm, and I fear I have given him a wife. I told him it was time to get rid of the plant, and he slapped me across the face. I left with tears forcing their way out.

When I arrived there again this evening to check on his new relationship, he was happily dead. The plant wrapped round his limbs, and the few hairs left in his head had been plucked out carefully and laid beside him.

When the police arrived, I explained I did not touch my father; he touched me, yes, but I did not touch him, so I could not have killed him. In the autopsy, they found vines in his abdomen.

Lydia Mae (she/her/hers) resides in Northern California where she spends time writing, reading, playing with her cats, and watching terrible films. Asimov and Austen share her favorite shelf, and she sits comfortably in speculative fiction, drinking at tables in liminal spaces with zombies and entomologists.
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