What with my wife and daughter vegans now, I bought myself a meat-eater to keep me company. You know the kind—a Venus flytrap, one with some evil-looking pods just waiting to take on flies and the lousy stink bugs that buzz around and seem to wait for a swat from the nearest magazine. At $9.99 from Walmart, a bargain.
I named it, too. It goes by “Delicatessen,” “Deli” for short and for obvious reasons. The girls refuse to call it anything but creepy. They watched it for fifteen minutes and put in a prayer for it to die, but I told them the store clerk had said these things have an excellent shelf life if properly cared for.
I let them know I knew what needed to be done, straight away leaving the side door open for fifteen minutes as if I were going shopping. “One hour,” my wife said when she assessed the damage, “and then I get the swatter.”
I sat back in the living room and waited, giving Deli all the room it needed to seduce a meal. It looked alert, comfortable in its peat and perlite, the artificial bog it was supposed to thrive in.
Just under the one-hour limit, as if Deli could tell time, one fly settled and was trapped just like the ones in the video I’d watched at the store. I let out a whoop, and my wife dashed in as if she thought maybe I’d laid a finger on one of Deli’s pods and gotten a little nip for my trouble.
“Good,” she said, and took to swatting while I moved Deli onto a bookcase shelf, taking a set of Dan Brown novels down to the basement bookshelf. It had space. It had the recommended plastic pot. When dinner was served, I ate my vegetables and berries with a smile, leaving my stash of red meat in the refrigerator for a night.
Right after dinner, Deli closed on a gnat my wife had missed, but a few seconds later, the gnat scooted out from between Deli’s teeth and flew away like a miracle. “That thing needs a dentist,” my daughter said, but I reminded her how smart Deli was.
“It only wants bugs that are worth the effort. It knows not to bother with the small stuff.”
And sure enough, within the hour, Deli closed a pod on another fat fly. I went to bed a happy man.
In the morning, though, those two successful pods had turned black, an ominous sign for a plant that feasted on meat. “What was it eating at the store?” my wife said. “It looks like it has a plant’s version of colon cancer from all that meat.”
“Paleo,” my daughter said. “We talked about that in health class last month.”
It seemed to have lost its appetite, too. It began to shrivel, like it was shrinking within itself in a way that made me think it was depressed.
I moved it to the bedroom. I cleared a space by taking down three years of my daughter’s school photos. “There’s still K through 4 plus eighth,” I said.
“That keeps the cute and the present.”
“That filth isn’t coming into this bedroom,” she answered, setting Deli back on the living room bookshelf and restoring grades 5-7. “And from now on, go to the store and buy some ready-to-eat bugs for that horror.”
I checked on Deli twice during the night. I moistened the soil and whispered encouragement and comfort.
In the morning, Deli’s remaining pods looked crippled, like it couldn’t feed itself even if I laid a fly right in the middle of one of its tongues. I Googled what I could about wilt and shrivel, and there was a reminder that if Deli lived outside and winter was coming, that condition would be normal.
Inside and wilted pretty much meant Deli was doomed. By dinner time, the entire plant had collapsed onto the peat.
My wife said, “Well, you tried. Those things belong outside.” She swatted one last fly and shouted, “Yes!” in triumph.
She carried the pot downstairs, but she didn’t bring up the Dan Brown books. “Good riddance,” she said. “He’s such a bad writer.”
When I fried myself a couple of hamburgers for dinner and opened a bag of chips, my daughter said, “Remember the Deli” and laughed. She cackled so exactly like Miss Gulch I expected her face to turn green and her nose to grow and narrow.