Of all the plants mom could have chosen, why this ugly one? I pick up her list of plant-sitting instructions and groan. The long stems twist like vines over a movable fence mom set up to hold the drooping plant. She asked me to care for this overgrown mess while she’s away at a gardening convention. I just don’t get it.
Please put the night-blooming cereus on the porch around eleven o’clock, facing southeast. As the sun gets stronger, slide it toward the corner under the Maple tree’s shadow so sunlight can filter through without overpowering my sweet cereus. It should get about eight hours of indirect sunlight.
If the soil feels dry in the morning, you can water it just enough to feel moist. Overwatering the cereus will cause the roots to rot and the plant to die. Please don’t kill my cereus. I’ve been waiting three years for it to bloom. I’ve noticed the buds are beginning to grow, but I’ll be back in three days—in plenty of time to watch them bloom.
At midnight—I know you’ll still be up—take a picture of the buds so I can track their progress.
Thanks a bunch.
Don’t leave cereus in Dad’s care. He doesn’t like it. I’m trusting you.
I slapped a ladybug magnet on it to hang so I’d read her instructions every time I opened the refrigerator. I’m babysitting a plant Dad and I nicknamed “The Thing.” Of course it’s eleven thirty, so I’m running late with cereus’s daily dose of sunlight.
Sliding open the patio door, I maneuver the clay pot and mini-fence outside as the gangly stems seek another direction. If it were possible, I’d swear the thing was trying to wrestle me. I’m glad Mom didn’t grow a Venus flytrap.
I gather a book and tall glass of iced tea and lay back on a lounge chair. Might as well enjoy the sun too. Ahhh… plant-sitting is easier than watching J.T. and Max, the four year-old twins next door. Eventually I doze off and dream that a growing vine is creeping up my leg toward my neck about to strangle me to death like a boa constrictor. I wake startled and sweaty. The Thing looks like a wilted old lady so I move her by the Maple tree.
“You are a drama queen.”
Dad lifts his head over the bushes he’s trimming. “Did you say something, Em?”
“No, just telling…I mean…nothing. It’s very hot.”
“You think I should trim The Thing while your mom’s not around.”
“Don’t. I promised to guard The Thing with my life.” I stand in front of it stretching out my arms and Dad laughs.
“Okay. Relax. I’ll be good.”
Suddenly we hear a bark and footsteps running and out of nowhere, a terrier, then J.T and Max running past me, and I tumble backwards onto The Thing…and smash! I can’t look, but I do. The clay pot is broken into a fifty piece puzzle, and Cereus is sprawled out like a dead octopus with extra tentacles.
“Oh no!” I dash inside to find a bucket and some of Mom’s potting soil and try to patch The Thing back together. Somehow we get her standing again and draped over the fence. She looks grateful to be off the ground.
“Do you think Mom will be mad?”
“She’ll forgive you…at least before Christmas.”
“That’s four months away.”
“You’re right…make that by Easter.”
Three nights later . . .
Dad and I sit by the fire reading mystery books when I decide I’m tired and ready to sleep. It is midnight, an early night for me and late for Dad. As I say goodnight, I walk pass The Thing and stop. “Look, Dad. The Thing is blooming!”
“Wow.” Five cereus flowers stretch open like white stars, petals glowing and each at least twelve inches in diameter.
As we stare at the shy flowers who have suddenly burst into a stage performance, the door opens.
“I’m home,” calls Mom.
“We’re in the plant room. Come here, hon. Fast!” Dad answers.
Mom drops her bag and her mouth hangs open. “My Lord, how beautiful!”
“You were right, Mom. She is an amazing plant.”
Mom takes a hundred photos to download. It takes her about ten minutes to notice cereus has a new home. “What’s with the bucket guys?”
Plant fact: after the night-blooming cereus finally blooms at night, it wilts and dies by the morning.
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