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Margaret heard Charlie’s screams of terror and she knew that the plants had something to do with it, but she set out to look for him anyway.

-¡I’m on fire! -Charlie screamed.

And then it came to her, little by little: she had always told Charlie, since he was just a little creature, to scream that he was on fire whenever he was in peril.

And now it was all coming back to haunt her.

-¡Charlie! ¡You’d better fucking be on fire!

-¿Huh? -His voice was elevated various octaves higher than its usual chocolate-covered tone-. ¿What are you tobogganing about?

-¡Listen! -Margaret said, sounding like the walking dead-. This may sound stupid, but, I’ve decided to swap spit with you.

-¡Oh, my! -Charlie said, and the color drained from his already pallid pallor-. Ummm... ¿Why don’t you do that... with one of the plants?

-Yeah, you’re right. All right, plants, ¡pucker up! -Margaret now had succulents sprouting from her ears, and latent violence filling her heart-. Tell me which plant you’d kiss, Charlie.

The hatred that Charlie had felt for the plants had returned, and it sent patent leather shoes, with mirrors attached, up and down his trembling, deepening, and seething anger.

-¿Where am I going to store this anger? -Charlie asked-. Not to mention these keen, leather shoes.

Margaret knew that she didn’t understand the male psycho.

-¡Hey! ¿Which part of your sad ass is on fire? -She responded-. ¿The part that does the poodle dance?

-¡Shit! -Charlie said when he realized that he actually was on fire. He started dancing around. The cold, moist bathroom air did nothing except fan the flames, and the plants did nothing except laugh-. ¡Shut up! ¡Put me out! ¡Shut up! -Charlie screamed.

The terrorization of Charlie continued-: ¡Sal! ¡Sal’s here! ¡It’s Sal!

But there was no “Sal” anywhere near Charlie, only plants doing rodeo tricks around the fire. Then, in the far distance of the bathroom, Charlie saw a carton of cigarettes get up and move toward him.

“¡Yes!” Charlie thought, “Finally, someone who gives two fucks...”

But the carton of cigarettes just used Charlie for a quick light and went back to the toilet.

Fortunately, Charlie was wearing flame-proof pajamas and the fire soon smoldered out. He sat down and looked out the bathroom window.

Margaret knew that Charlie was already on the express escalator to hell, but she couldn’t resist getting in one last dig before the escalator arrived.

-Charlie... ¡Hey! ¿Are you listening to me? -She looked at her brother, but it was too late, he had already joined the gruesome plant cult-. ¿Charlie?

-Yeah, I’m listening -He responded, but only when he could no longer see the vapid vixen-. Leave a message at the beep.

The fire had also gone out in Margaret’s estimation of her brother. It was like she had gulped down a pair of 3’s on the way to an Ace-high pair of 3’s.

-Charlie, I see what you’re doing -She said.

The obtuse wretch didn’t respond, and the snub set her estimation of Charlie on fire.

¿Why didn’t he respond? No smart-ass remark, not even a lame-ass remark.

-¡Charlie! ¿Where aren’t you? -Margaret was always disagreeable-. My estimation of you has rocketed.

Margaret was sizing up the plants as she called out to her brother. “These plants aren’t so tough”, She thought. “I’ve had tomato soup that was tougher. And these plants aren’t full of MSG”.

It was getting freaking hot, and Charlie was giving her the cold shoulder.


-Margaret, I’m right here. I’ve encountered... a little difficulty -Charlie said finally. He sounded insecure, preoccupied, and nutty - in other words, he sounded normal.

The book on murderous plants was to apply pressure on their Scritti Politti, and then lay into them with the kitchen sink. Repeat as necessary.

-Charlie, ¿what is your secret? ¿How do you stay so stupid? -Margaret regained her rascallyness.

-Look, jackass -Her brother said, opening his hand to reveal three bullets-. I’ve got this. I don’t have a gun, but I’ve got a shadow.

-¿And where does all that leave you? -Margaret asked and then answered-: Nowhere - as usual.

Charlie was dumbfounded - as usual. It was his raison d’être cycle. Ever since he was a toddler, the light was on, but it was just because no one closed the door.

-It’s that cheap fuck, Mr. Martinez -Charlie said, understanding for the first time that he was wearing his jacket on his hands-. I’m wearing my jacket on my sleeve.

Margaret contemplated a comeback.

-¿Can you say anything that isn’t so obviously stupid?

-Yes. Last year I did. ¿Why don’t you join our plant cult and write for the cult newsletter? -Charlie asked.

Margaret quickly lit Charlie’s jacket and hand, passing her hands over the resulting fire to stay warm.

-¿What part does Martinez play in this two-act? -Charlie asked.

-None -Margaret responded-. But you go on thinking he does. Your car isn’t running on all seven cylinders.

-He doesn’t drive a car, ¿do you hear me? I’m tellin’ Dad that his friend is a traitor.

Margaret lifted her eyes to the great Chimichanga in the sky, until she remembered that she was dealing with her idiot brother.

-Charlie, ¿what the fuck are you talking about? ¿What do you mean Mr. Martinez is a cheap fuck? ¿Haven’t the plants eaten you yet? ¡This is ridiculous!

-¿Then why did you set my jacket and my hand on fire? -Charlie insisted on talking nonsense.

Margaret didn’t take the opportunity to respond.

Instead, she took the opportunity to light Charlie’s other hand (his matching vest hand) on fire, and to jump on the escalator.

She was babbling before her feet hit the escalator stairs.

-¡I’m joining the cult! -Margaret cackled.

-¿Where? -Charlie asked, leaning righteously on the panic button.

      -- on to chapter 15   or   back to the Bathroom --