The Cactus Man

He was a cactus. His skin was too thin for the real world; he had begun to grow spikes. He could feel the needles forming—first subconsciously, then on the outer lining of his forearms, up his spine, and on the nape of his neck. They had expanded down his legs, these new additions making him groan with distress. 

The first growths had become infected, piercing his skin and oozing pus, forming painful bulbs like ingrown hairs. They lined his neck and chest, his legs and arms, so that he resembled something similar to a puffer fish. It made sleeping hard. Which made waking up hard. Which made performing well at work hard, which of course made getting along with his wife hard. Which made him hard–but not manly.  

The doctor had explained that it had been his desire for tougher and thicker skin that had resulted in causing his sudden-onset metamorphosis. His craving for a defense mechanism against his wife, which he too often mentioned during his regular check ups, had manifested in his new cacti-like traits. But his wife simply ignored his symptoms. When he became more cactus than husband, she badgered him, pushing at him and pricking herself on the barbs of his skin, yelping in pain, then blaming him for it. The barbs, which the doctor elucidated were his new “survival mechanisms,” only further annoyed his wife. He couldn’t help but take pleasure in the fact that now, she was forced to see clearly the misery she put him through. He hadn’t realized until then, that suffering could be so sweet. When the prodding grew too painful, she belittled his cries, dismissing them as whines. Are you really a man? She would ask him in that twisted, belittling way. Are you really? Are you? 

“Stand up! Sit down! Stand up! Sit down!” she commanded, and he went up, and down, and up, and down, and up, and down. That was exactly it! Exactly! He thought. 

The worst part—it ran in the family. His daughter had started to sprout orchids in her digestive tract. Orchids! He avoided her youthful glee, annoyed at how it managed to shelter her from the reality of her transformation. But most of all he hated the pervasive way she took pleasure in herself, as if she were mocking his pathetic attitude.  The orchids seemed to embellish her spirit with a certain kind of entitlement he could not stand. The air in the house became perfumed with her scent and stifling. Why couldn’t he be growing flowers instead? Anything but these painful, ugly spikes! 

He had been sure though, that becoming a cactus would prove his manhood. An unknowing act of protest, everything he kept inside finally surfacing. But it hurt so bad! Why was he the only one hurting? Fucking Orchids!

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