Saturday, March 12, 2011


Prompt: Write a short piece, either fiction or non-fiction, about something ugly – and find the beauty in it.

"That has to be the ugliest cactus I have ever seen," my new husband told me as we were moving into our new home.

"I don't know," I shrugged. "It's not that bad."

The cactus was hideous; it was three feet tall, awkward, and narrow, with a couple of stubby outgrowths that couldn't really be called branches. It was covered with so many spines that it looked a mottled gray instead of green. I had tried improving the look by placing the cactus in a brillantly scarlet pot, with no success. It was now ugly in a pretty pot. I had taken to calling the cactus Jezebel.

Jezebel weighed more than I could lift by myself, so I asked my husband to help me move it from the truck to our patio. Larry put his back into the job and was covered in spines before he was able to put the obnoxious plant down. I knew from many firsthand experiences that those spines were painful; they were so fine that they were almost impossible to see and therefore difficult to remove from the skin. Larry complained loudly as he went into the house to change out of the sticker-infected clothing. I resigned myself to spending our first evening in our new house with tweezers instead of a cabernet. I stared at Jezebel sitting on my new patio.

The cactus was ugly, no doubt. I remembered pulling it from a bargain bin at a nursery. I'd nurtured it from a small gangly twig smaller than its spines. I bought it special cactus soil and special cactus food. I talked to it. I did not overwater. I brought it inside when the weather turned freezing. That this particular plant had made it this long was a testament to the will to survive that exists in all things. Still, I had had many opportunities to rid myself of Jezebel over the years.

"Why are you here, Jezebel?" I said aloud. I went back inside the house to finish some more unpacking and take care of my husband.

The morning after an exceptional benevolent spring rainstorm, Jezebel greeted me one morning completely decked out in tiny, bright, purple flowers. I was struck silent by how intensely beautiful it appeared. Within a month, Jezebel was dead. It seemed to me, at that point, that the cactus had only been waiting for the right opportunity to let its true beauty shine forth.


  1. Funny how things work out, isn't it? I loved this post. Poor, beautiful Jezebel.

  2. Haha, I see that YOUR OCD about correckting speling.

    Just kidding. I love that quality.

    I've never been a fan of cacti. They are ugly; every type, every color, any height. But, I guess we need to see the beauty in all things, right?

  3. This is going to sound weird, but I got goosebumps over a cactus flowering.

    That has never happened. I'm usually fairly neutral when it comes to cacti.

    In other words...I loved this post. :)

  4. Wonderfully described. Great job!

  5. What a cool post, I love how the beauty came from this cactus and how you held onto it despite its ugliness.

  6. Poor Jezebel. Your poor husband with the spines. But at least there were the flowers and the pretty red pot! :)

  7. That actually gave me chills. It's almost as if this determined cactus had a purpose. What a twist! Great story.

  8. As someone lacking a green thumb, I enjoyed your story. I love that it flowered up for you finally, going out in a blaze of glory.

    Thank you for commenting on my Reign of Fire post. The book is still in its editing stages, so I have no idea when it will be published. There is a tab at the top of the page linking you to other parts of the story if you are interested. It's called The Unlikely Hero.

  9. I love that you chose that cactus, talked to it, nurtured it, and even named it.

    Loved this!

  10. I can't believe Jezebel DIED.

    It's so mythic, bursting into flower just before it's death, like a swan song.

    Such a great response!


I welcome comments, but reserve the right to correct your spelling because I am OCD about it!