by Robert Knox
i. [A cool day in November]
I know it’s cold, Azalea.
I don’t like the cold either.
But you’re not going to spend the winter indoors this year spooning with your buddy, electric heater.
Not this year.
He’ll miss me! You think you’re the reason he gets hot!
The only reason, you must know, why I brought you indoors the last two winters was you were looking peaked.
Have you taken a good look at me lately?
Really, Azalea, it’s about time you cut the cord –
Why don’t you cut the cord, Mr. Natural? Where have you been lately? Don’t like the good old shorter days? Temps overnight in the low forties? Take a look at the mirror, Bud. Five minutes out here and you beat it back indoors wicked pronto. It’s as if somebody’s just wrung the dinner bell! Bet you can make it for a quarter hour under that bare-assed Norwegian Maple. TRY SIX MONTHS!
– and learn to live outdoors where you’re supposed to, because, Azalea, frankly… you’re a plant. A flowering shrub.
But we were so happy together, Bud, you and me, inside your toasty warm study! I have such memories!
Well, to be frank, Azalea, you do take up a lot of space.
Me? Have you looked at yourself, Mr. Natural? Ever?
[Sighs. Shakes head. Walks indoors.]
ii. [Later, in the garden, once more…]
Really, Azalea, you are being a little ridiculous over what’s really a very natural stage in our relationship. I’m the gardener. You’re the flowering plant… Now I’ve picked out a very nice spot for your new home –
I’m not talking to you.
–It’s right here behind the transplanted Iris and right next to where the tomatoes will be planted next spring.
Tomatoes? Those pathetic overrated annuals. Here today, gone tomorrow… I hate tomatoes! Nasty viny things! They’ll crawl all over me!
I thought you weren’t talking to me?… Really, Azalea, it won’t be like that at all. You’ll see next spring.
That’s if I’m even here next spring! What makes you think I’ll survive six months in this outdoor refrigerator?
You are a perennial plant, Azalea.
Perennial millennial! I’m me!
You survived those first couple of years outdoors – you remember? when I planted you next to the driveway? – just fine.
Oh yeah? ‘Fine?’ Then why did you bring me indoors?
Well, I confess, I thought you had more to give… I was hoping for a whole new unfolding of beauty.
That is just so selfish! So you, Bud. You used me! And what happened?
Wasn’t I beautiful enough for you indoors?
…[hesitation]… Well, maybe not quite so spectacular as I hoped.
Beauty is as beauty does, Bud. And what you’re doing to me now, man, is positively ugly.
Azalea, we’ve been through this before.
Yeah. We have. And you brought me indoors!
Well, this time I think you can make it on your own. You’ve grown. You’ve matured. You’ll show the world you can produce beautiful flowers next spring right out here in the garden!… Where you belong!
Easy for you to say, Bud!… I bet you say that to all the flowering perennials!
You do, Bud, don’t you?
You’re forgetting who you are, Azalea. You’re Azalea Ericaceae.
A popular medium-sized shrub…
And you, Bud, pure and simple, are a scrub.
Robert Knox is a novelist, short story writer, poet, and freelance journalist. His stories have been published by The Tishman Review, Lunch Ticket, and Eunoia Review, among other journals. He is a contributing editor for the poetry journal Verse-Virtual and his poems have appeared there and in other journals.