Ben Fitts

The Cactus

Dirty Joe was in love with a cactus. He knew he loved the cactus from the moment he saw her in the barren Arizona desert. The cactus was the only living thing in sight, and Dirty Joe was all alone with her, the sand, and the brutal afternoon sun. 

Dirty Joe slammed the breaks of his Jeep and fished around in its backseat. He withdrew some plastic flowers that wouldn’t wilt in the cruel desert and his beat-up old Martin guitar. He sheepishly approached the cactus and laid the plastic flowers at the base of her stem. He got his old Martin in tune and strummed it as he sang the cactus a pair of Hank Williams songs. Sensing that his opening move was complete, Dirty Joe tipped the brim of his Stetson to the cactus and returned to his Jeep. 

He waited two days, as is appropriate after a first date, then drove his Jeep back to the cactus. He brought a six-pack of Coronas and a pair of beef burritos for himself, and a bucket of rainwater and some fertilizer for her. And of course, his old Martin guitar. After they finished eating and drinking and conversing, Dirty Joe picked up the Martin and sang the cactus another Hank Williams tune. 

The cactus was a shy and quiet girl, but Dirty Joe was pretty sure he was getting the signal from her. Dirty Joe asked if he could kiss her, and the cactus nodded gently in the desert breeze. He leaned in and planted his lips on her spiky green hide. Dirty Joe eventually broke off the kiss and grinned as he plucked the needles out of his face and wiped away the blood. Considering the second date a success, Dirty Joe returned to his Jeep and drove off through the Arizona desert.

Dirty Joe continued to date the cactus. He’d drive to her lonesome spot in the desert and bring food and drinks and his Martin. At the end of each date, Dirty Joe would lean in for another prickly kiss and would withdraw cut and bleeding and overjoyed. The cactus was a traditionally minded girl who wouldn’t surrender her virtue until she felt their relationship had developed to a certain point, and Dirty Joe respected that. He was satisfied with their bloody kisses for the time being.

On the night that the cactus finally let Dirty Joe inside of her, he found that the wait made the experience all the more special. He spent the night thrusting into the cactus, his Wrangler jeans and flannel shirt and briefs and cowboy boots and Martin guitar in a pile beside them on the sand. The frigid desert air goose-pimpled his bare flesh and the cactus’s needles dug deep into the entire front of his body, but Dirty Joe didn’t mind. He was in love. 

Dirty Joe awoke the next morning naked on the desert sand. He had one arm wrapped around the base of the cactus and he was covered in needles. A pool of his own blood had formed beneath him and he was pallid as a vampire’s victim, but none of this bothered him. He stood up, wiped the sand off his ass, pulled the needles out of his body, and squirmed back into his clothes. He leaned in and kissed his lover goodbye, causing a fresh injury as a needle pierced his upper lip. 

Dirty Joe drove off in his Jeep and whistled along with every song on the classic country station. He went about his day unable to think about anything other than the love he and the cactus shared. Nothing else mattered. There was only him and the cactus.

Unable to play it cool any longer, Dirty Joe drove back out into the desert the following day. He slammed on his breaks as he reached the cactus’s spot, and stared ahead of him in disbelief. He crawled out of his Jeep and rubbed his eyes, but nothing changed. The cactus was gone. 

There was a little indent in the sand where the cactus’s roots had been. A trail of soft footprints lead away from that indent, but Dirty Joe was no tracker. And even if he was, it was beside the point. The cactus didn’t want Dirty Joe to follow her. If she wanted to be with him, the cactus would have stayed rooted where she was. Dirty Joe fell to his denim-clad knees and wept. Once he had cried all the tears he could spare, Dirty Joe got up and went back to his Jeep. 

He pulled his Martin out of the backseat and tuned it. Leaning against the side of his Jeep, Dirty Joe sang his favorite Hank Williams song, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. 

The sounds of Dirty Joe’s singing echoed through the Arizona desert but fell short of reaching a beach on the coast of Australia, where a woman was at the end of a third date with box jellyfish. It didn’t matter how much the jellyfish stung as she took him inside of her or the damage his venom did to her body. She was in love.

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