I’ve been in love with Stoneslide Corrective since they published my Pushcart Prize-nominated short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” what seems like a bazillion years ago. Ever hopeful, I entered their 2015 writing contest and was gleefully bewildered when my story, “The Saguaro Apocalypse” won “striking use of wit” (which allows me to walk up to strangers and say, “I’m officially funny,” because Stoneslide said so).
Their new issue came out yesterday, so head on over and read my completely ridiculous imagining of what might happen if saguaro cacti suddenly came alive in Arizona and developed a taste for human flesh. Inspired, strangely, by my mother.
The Saguaro Apocalypse (excerpt)
by Sara Dobie Bauer
From Stoneslide Corrective
The night of the Waldendorfhouse Meteor Shower, my idiot boyfriend forgot to meet me at the Star Tower. Nine PM. I told him: “Tommmmm, be there by nine PM, because the meteor shower will only be visible from 8:30 to 9:30 and then it’s gone forever.”
I called him “Tommmmm” because he hates when I call him Tom, which, in hindsight, may have pissed him off to the point of ignoring our date at the Star Tower, where crowds were out in throngs to watch little lights flicker across the sky. I didn’t stay long, just long enough to “oooh” and “awww” a few times with a bunch of strangers, surrounded by the spiny saguaro cacti that grow in the deserts of Arizona.
I went home and found Thomas on our front patio in the dark because we kept forgetting to replace the porch light. I avoided tripping over him because of the small, orange glow from his pipe. The night smelled of burning pine.
“Where have you been? I forgot my keys and I’ve been sitting out here for half an hour.” He choked on a heavy hit and handed me the bowl.
“You were supposed to meet me at nine. Remember? Meteor shower? Now, it’s almost over. Congratulations.”
“Oh, shit.” He stood and brushed his hands against his jeans. He wasn’t that tall, but people assumed we were tall: Thomas because he had the thin stretchiness of Gumby and me because I always wore heels. “I’m sorry, Kylie.”
I hit the bowl hard until my throat burned but held in the dingy smoke, the flavor of which reminded me we needed to clean our pipe. “Save the apologies for your mother,” I exhaled, which was a low blow, since Thomas was always apologizing to his Christian mum who once told me my work as a sex columnist would land me in Hell.
She just loved me.
“Don’t be a bitch. I forgot.”
“You always forget.” I shoved the pipe at him and unlocked our front door. The foyer was its usual disaster of kicked-off shoes, dust, and unopened mail.
Thomas slumped inside. “I do not always forget things. You just do too much.”
“And you do nothing but smoke weed and play video games.” I threw my purse on the second-hand sofa we bought at Goodwill. If you stuck your nose in it, you could still smell senior citizen.
I heard him kick off his black high tops. “It’s my job, Kylie.”
To be clear: not the smoking weed part, the video game part. He was a video game designer, which meant whenever he talked about his job, I visited a la-la land where Colin Farrell sang me Irish lullabies.
I went for the fridge, which was… yeah, empty except for pickles. I bit a pickle. Thomas came up behind me and stole the half-eaten pickle from my hand. “Dude!”
He slumped into one of three chairs that surrounded a kitchen table we never used because we always ate dinner on the couch to get a better view of Jeopardy!
“You need a haircut,” I said. “Your head looks like a mushroom.”
“You’re always picking at me.” He finished my pickle with a satisfied hum.
I headed to the bedroom to put on PJs when I heard a thumping knock-knock against our front door. “If that’s one of your good-for-nothing gamer friends, no.”
Thomas didn’t stand up but instead dug into a bag of potato chips he’d apparently been hiding behind the couch. “Tell ’em yourself.”
I sort of hoped it was some late-night Jehovah’s Witness to tell me the Waldendorfhouse Meteor Shower meant the end of the world. I liked to tell them I was a stripper who worshipped Lord Voldemort.
I looked out the peephole, but since our porch light didn’t work, I saw nothing. Thomas and I lived in a safe neighborhood in southwest Phoenix, so I doubted it would be a robber. Plus, robbers don’t knock. I opened the door. At first I thought it was some really tall, skinny dude with short arms.
Then, I realized it was a saguaro cactus. Must have been a young one, since its limbs were only about two feet long, but they were long enough to swipe at my face. I had the momentary thought: What the hell was in that weed? I tried to slam the door, but a wily, green arm got in the way and swung the door back open. The cactus kept brandishing its T-Rex arms at me.
“What now?” I heard the shuffling of his sock-clad feet.
By the time Thomas reached me, the cactus was banging its rounded top against the doorframe; guess it couldn’t figure how to duck. I glanced down in the darkness. Roots spread like a floor-length ball gown, which I assumed was how it walked to my house.
The measly T-Rex arms spun with more fervor.
Read the rest of “The Saguaro Apocalypse” at Stoneslide Corrective.