Kathy Harrison bursts through the Green Lovelies entrance. Cocobolo beads rattle against the glass door. The steely-eyed clerk is dressed head to toe in selvedge denim. She stares Kathy down, inhaling imperceptibly. She knows what’s coming. The woman’s going to start yelling.
“Everyone just stop!” Kathy hollers once fully inside the plant shop’s showroom floor. A few Green Lovelies shoppers freeze in their tracks. The clerk eyes her from beyond the small forest of hanging macramé plants in the middle of the retail space. She’s got everyone’s attention. Part one of her mission successful. Now for part two…
“Citizens of Long Beach, I am warning you as a fellow neighbor, not to buy any of these plants! None of the succulents! None of the pathos! No tropical dwarfs at all! Because you know why?!”
The full crazy of Kathy comes out. She skews karenesque. But perhaps she may be sincere in her point.
The clerk leers on, waiting for this act of protest to play out. If it’s not Kathy, it’s Kandace, or Khloe. She’s been in this rodeo before.
“These plants will brainwash you!” Kathy screams at the top of her lungs, swinging her arms out toward the stragglers stuck shopping. “They’re genetically modified! Mutants! I’m telling you people, mutant plants sold to brainwash you!”
An androgenous couple sidles out the door, careful of the chattery cocobolo beads. A man with an unironic mullet ushers his shivering whippet out after them, the neon orange of his shitbag holster catching the acid-bright Long Beach daylight. Once all the shoppers have been scared out the store, Kathy turns to the clerk. The look on her face is pure scorn.
The look in return is impassive, laconic. The clerk stands stiff in her untreated selvedge.
“You know, it’s very brave of you to crash your way into my store,” she says, confronting Kathy from the fringes of her macramé forest. “But whatever this theory of yours is about our plants… brainwashing people… Well. It’s just silly. These plants here are merely products of our love. That’s all we have here, just love.”
“To hell with that,” Kathy barks, removing her garish off-the-rack JC Penny’s sunglasses. The viscous sheen of entitled furor drips down her face. Her voice remains defiant. She knows she’s on to something.
“I don’t know what it is about these plants, but you’re going to fucking pay for what you’re doing to people,” she shrieks. Kathy tugs at one of the hanging macramé plants, yanking the whole net off the ceiling. She hurls the pot at the clerk, who deftly sidesteps the attack. “These plants are your minions! They’re poison!”
The Green Lovelies proprietor saunters forward, sticky in fresh indigo. She gently unwraps a similar potted plant, careful not to tug another hook off the ceiling. She holds it up, a devious smile finally spreading across her stoic lips. She blinks, her eyes shuttering sideways.
Kathy doesn’t have the chance to run.
The clerk hoists the potted plant up and over her head and smashes it down on the floor as hard as possible.
“You don’t have to be alarmed,” she warns, brushing away the thick cloud of spores wafting around her. “All we want here is love. You must let go of the hate in your heart. Just breathe.”
Kathy smashes through the cocobolo beads framing her exit, and stumbles out onto the busy Long Beach street. She coughs haggardly above the throaty gurgle of her Vespa. She straps her bulbous helmet on and guns it away from Green Lovelies.
A couple blocks down and a couple twists and turns later, she pulls up in a frantic rush to the storefront of fellow houseplant proprietor Rainey + Camilla.
But Kathy’s too late. The real futility of her actions is setting in. Rainey + Camilla and Green Lovelies have already won, along with the dozen other local houseplant stores that have popped up within the last year. The entire population is getting brainwashed, and all her efforts seem so suddenly vain. And plus, she’s feeling funny…
She falls to her knees before she can even make it to the front door. A buttoned-up young man pops out of the store with a large pot lacquered in a gorgeous maroon. The look of joy on his face quickly fades as he sees the woman collapse before him.
“Ma’am…” His voice drifts off, the shock of such a jarring social situation getting the best of him. “Are you… are you okay?”
Her innards feel desiccated. Her vision has narrowed, and her heartrate flutters in excitement. When she blinks, her eyes shutter sideways.
Her tears send the glaring Long Beach sun streaking. The stranger’s silhouette burns at the edges as the light shines through.
“Oh…” Kathy answers, shakily. “Well, why yes, darling, I believe I am.”
I am a beer vendor by day, and speculative fiction author by night. My writing credits stem from a career in journalism, where I reported for a host of college, local, and metro newspapers in the LA metro area. I have fiction in Pulp Modern and Etherea Magazine, and upcoming Antipodean SF, Selcouth Station Press, and Gutslut Press’s alien anthology.
Some of my flash and short fiction can be found on my website, Stygian Space.
Details of how to submit your own flash piece for Showcase can be found on our Submissions page.