July 30, 2015 03:35:40 PM





Title: Gwendolyn

The sun rose and everything fell. The dam that had kept his emotions pent up for so long collapsed in the mind of Alexander Q., unleashing a tidal wave of desire. He made his decision that morning: he would finally propose to Gwendolyn. The only problem was that Gwendolyn was a houseplant.

It had all started a week earlier at Dr. Xavier’s Defective Furniture Emporium. Short on funds, Alex could only afford cheap, defective furniture and had his eye on a coffee table made out of warped plywood and a kind of glue the United States government had labeled a biohazard.

“Hi there, Dr. Xavier!” said Alex to a cardboard cutout of Dr. Xavier on his way into the store. “Lovely weather we’re having,” he continued, as thunder roared overhead and basketball sized hail fell and crushed half of the store.

Just then, the real Dr. Xavier appeared. “A customer!” he boomed so loudly that every remaining window shattered. “Welcome to my store! The store itself, like its contents, is also defective,” Dr. Xavier said proudly.

“You don’t say,” replied Alex, as bricks and shards of glass collapsed around him.

Alex entered the half of the store that was still standing and eagerly picked up the plywood coffee table. As he went to pay for it, he noticed the saleswoman. She was beautiful with sparkling green eyes and a smile that said “Thank God my break is in five minutes.” Alex was single, but there was no way he would ever ask her out. He hadn’t been too lucky with the ladies in his life. He was still scarred by the day his high school girlfriend had broken up with him.

“It’s over, Alex,” she had said. “I’m just not into you anymore.”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s your hair, or your clothes, or your strange addiction to gherkins.”
“Well, I can get better clothes! I won’t wear Hawaiian shirts anymore…or Hawaiian pants.”
“I’m sorry, Alex.”

That night, Alex drowned his sorrows with a jar of gherkins and vowed never to get involved with another woman again. He would spend every night home alone where nothing bad could happen to him.

As Alex proceeded to the cash register, something hit his arm. “Only the bravest of souls would dare mess with Alex!” said Alex, annoyed, and turned around to give his assailant the beating of his life. But what he saw made him drop the defective coffee table in disbelief. What had brushed his arm was merely a leaf, belonging to the most beautiful fern Alex had ever seen.

The fern was a houseplant who had seen better days. Dehydrated, wilting, and riddled with pests, the fern instantly snatched Alex’s heart. She was perfect for him. After all, a fern couldn’t hurt his feelings like a real woman, Alex figured.

“How much for the fern?” asked Alex, his voice filling with desire.
“16 dollars,” said Stacy the saleswoman.
“I can’t afford that! Please, I love her!” exclaimed Alex.
“Aw,” replied the saleswoman. “How sweet. The plant’s all yours.”

And Alex scampered off with the fern as happy as a lark, if the lark were, in reality, a man leaving a store with a free plant. As the saleswoman watched him go, she couldn’t help smiling at how touching it was for a man to be that taken with a plant, even if it was borderline disturbing. Then again, not everyone can be as normal as I am, she mused, as she playfully smeared her name in pudding on the counter.

Just then another costumer approached the saleswoman. “I’ll take the nightstand, the armchair, and the refrigerator.”
“38 dollars.”
“But I love them.”
“Aw, how sweet.”
Dr. Xavier immediately fired the saleswoman.

Alex returned to his apartment and carried the fern across the threshold. “Welcome to my home, beloved Gwendolyn,” he said. “By the way, from now on I’m calling you Gwendolyn. Would you like a drink?” Gwendolyn didn’t answer, but luckily, Alex knew a thing or two about plants. Her brown, desiccated appearance told him that she was desperately thirsty for a non-fat caramel macchiato.

Alex also knew that plants liked the sun. He left her on his patio while he sat by himself ten feet away, but soon came to miss her. This is why long distance relationships never work, Alex realized.

Enchanted by her very presence, Alex often stared at Gwendolyn, lost in the green of her fronds. “I’m so lucky to have you, Gwendolyn,” he whispered. But Gwendolyn responded by gently ruffling in the breeze, as if uneasy about something. What could be troubling her? wondered Alex.

Alex tried everything to win Gwendolyn’s love. He took her to the movies, but two hours in a dark theater left Gwendolyn even more withered than before. He gave her a bouquet of flowers, but suddenly realized that she might think he was a plant serial killer. What if one of the begonias was her Uncle Larry? he feared. Gwendolyn was a classy girl and he took her to classy places: the opera, the ballet, Duke’s Bowlarama. But all the while she seemed quiet, disinterested, aloof. What could be going on in her mind? Was she playing hard to get? Or was she just an unbelievable moron? Either way, Alex loved her unconditionally.
* * *
As the sun rose on that balmy morning, Alex knew he couldn’t wait any longer. Whether it was because of the impulsive mind of a lover or the horrible carbon monoxide leak in his bedroom, Alex decided to marry Gwendolyn that very day. He knew it was the right decision. After all, Gwendolyn could never break his heart like a real woman could. So Alex set out to get a ring for Gwendolyn the only way he knew how: with courage, integrity, and a frying pan.

Barney, the purveyor of Barney’s Jewelry Store, was having a mediocre day, to say the least. His wife had packed him a terrible lunch. The tuna sandwich wasn’t so bad, but the note that said “I’m leaving you for my tai kwon do instructor” was. It’s easy to understand why he was quite peeved when Alex burst in wearing a plastic bag over his head in broad daylight.

“Give me the shiniest ring you have!” yelled Alex, brandishing his frying pan and on the verge of suffocating under the plastic.

“Can you come back later?” grumbled Barney. “I’m already having a bad day.”

“Of course. My bad,” Alex said amicably, stepping out the door. Yet Alex’s motives for backing down were in fact ulterior in nature. Besides desperately needing oxygen, he had a plan. When Barney closed the store six hours later, Alex broke in and swiped a ring from a display case.

“The perfect crime,” uttered Alex as a surveillance camera captured his image and sirens blared throughout the store.

Alex raced home, his heart thumping with anticipation. He regretted absolutely nothing. He loved Gwendolyn, and giving a fern a stolen ring was clearly the only way to prove his love. The bond he felt with her was so strong it reminded him of the time he Krazy Glued his fingers together.

As soon as he saw the stunning fern in his apartment window, he flew upstairs as fast as his Crocs would carry him and immediately approached Gwendolyn. This was it: the most romantic moment of his life. Naturally, he would have to back it up with the most romantic line he could think of.

“Gwendolyn,” he began, his upper lip quivering with emotion, “will you promise never to leaf my side?”

He had been sitting on that pun forever and was slightly disheartened that no one else was around to hear it. Regardless, he presented Gwendolyn with the diamond ring. Yet Fate is a fickle thing. As Alex placed the ring upon one of Gwendolyn’s fronds, the sun aligned with the diamond, and Gwendolyn instantly erupted in flames!

Horrified, Alex rushed to fetch the fire extinguisher, but it jammed and refused to spew its revitalizing froth. Gwendolyn lay a mere pile of ash before the eyes of the distraught Alex, causing him to pour forth an exclamation, the vulgarity of which might have caused an English dowager to faint. Being that there were no English dowagers around, however, it’s hard to say for sure.

“Damned extinguisher!” exclaimed Alex. “The only thing you have extinguished is my one true love! For that, I will defenestrate you! But I don’t know what that means so I’ll just throw you out the window.”

Grief-stricken and flailing about like a beached flounder, Alex failed to recognize the peril building around him. The fire that had consumed Gwendolyn had now spread and was quickly consuming the rest of his apartment. The terrified phytophiliac had scorched his way into a dilemma: he didn’t know whether to try to escape or to stand nobly and join his dear Gwendolyn amidst the ashes. To be the Romeo to her Juliet, as a literature major might put it, although this is hard to say for sure, being that there were no literature majors around. All Alex knew was that the burning sensation in his foot was probably not arthritis.

If suicide is the coward’s way out, then Alex was the bravest man ever to propose to a plant. He totally bailed on Gwendolyn and took off, saving himself but leaving the remains of his dear fern and his apartment forever lost to the ages. He was homeless, and worse, single again.

* * *
After killing Gwendolyn, Alex felt that he must pay his debt to society, but to his disappointment, the police wouldn’t arrest him for involuntary plant-slaughter. They would, however, arrest a man who had robbed a jewelry store. “Finally I caught a break,” said Alex as he was dragged off to the slammer.

But Alex wasn’t the only one who felt imprisoned that day. Stacy, the recently fired saleswoman of Dr. Xavier’s Furniture Emporium, felt imprisoned in her home, unemployed and alone. While looking through the want ads in the newspaper, she saw an article about Alex’s fate. I remember him, thought Stacy. It was so sweet how he loved that plant. Realizing that his love for Gwendolyn had landed him in prison, the sparkling green of Stacy’s eye was moistened with a single teardrop. I guess you could say she felt sad. But it was also a hot day, so she might just have been sweating through her eyes.

When Alex was let out of prison six months later, Stacy decided to send him an email. Unfortunately, Stacy wasn’t the best typist, and autocorrect ended up doing most of the typing. Her email read as follows:

Hi Alex ten ever me well I Thund then plant thing is desert is studs how se eying in prison I hope you’re doing Faldo gjfeiorhgioewhgoewqihoeiwhjfdssdhdjsjssjhehjuif sorry my cat just walked over the keyboard.

Alex was thrilled to receive this email. He was deeply touched by her kind words, especially the part about Faldo, whoever that was. He wrote her back and the two began regular a correspondence.

But one day, Alex received a noticeably longer email from Stacy. “I feel I must be honest with you. I was drawn to you the minute I saw how much you cared about that plant at the defective furniture store. Would you like to come over for dinner tonight?” the email read. Well, not really, since most of it had been autocorrected. But Alex still got the gist of it.

Still scarred by his terrible romantic luck in high school, he didn’t know what to do. Sure, Stacy’s invitation was tempting, but he didn’t want to get hurt again. Besides, he was starting to have feelings for some mold he found growing on a loaf of bread in his refrigerator.

Torn between Stacy and Moldina the bread mold, Alex decided to make a list of pros and cons.

Stacy is muy caliente in the looks department.

Moldina is also quite a looker.

Dating a human is more socially acceptable.

I am a special snowflake who doesn’t need to fit in.

Stacy’s not flammable.

But my heart is.

Mentally exhausted from thinking of six whole things, Alex still remained indecisive. Maybe he should give up romance altogether and focus on something simpler. After all, he still needed a new coffee table. Maybe he should pay another visit to Dr. Xavier’s Defective Furniture Emporium.

And then it hit him.

“Maybe Dr. Xavier’s furniture isn’t the only thing that’s defective. Maybe I’m defective too,” he realized. “And it might take something more than bread mold to fix that.”

“Forgive me, Moldina,” he whispered into where he thought the fungus’ ear was. “It’s not you, it’s me. And I have to move on.” He got in his car and drove over to Stacy’s house.

“Come on in, the door’s open!” called Stacy, chewing on a mouthful of gherkins.

Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.