Dreams in a Hothouse
by Steve Carr
Rain splattered on the cracked glass roof and ran in rivulets down the square panes that made up the walls of the abandoned hothouse. Watching from the kitchen, Macy Melrose sipped hot chocolate from a chipped blue porcelain cup. The cup was the last remaining of a set of four she had bought at Goodwill. The other three she had broken by throwing them against various walls in the kitchen. Their shattered remains were kept in a shoebox under her bed along with numerous other shoe boxes filled with broken plates, saucers, glasses and pottery. Macy wasn’t a hoarder. Her true intention was to one day glue the objects back together again.
With her nostrils full of the scent of rich chocolate, Macy imagined that one day she would actually try growing something in the hothouse. In the six years since moving into the house, nothing had grown in the hothouse other than weeds that sprouted in the dirt floor or vines that crept in through the cracks in the glass. She had a drawer full of index cards in her writing desk that had notes written on them on what kinds of plants could be grown. Going back and forth to the library to get ideas from old dusty books used up whatever energy she once had to undertake growing anything. The librarian’s frosty response to frequent questions had sealed the doomed the whole endeavor.
With just the dark mud-like undissolved chocolate remaining in the bottom, she held the cup to her lips and tried to envision sitting in the hothouse with it filled with blooming gardenias. Fantasies of having a business selling gardenia corsages occupied her thoughts.
When her husband, Cliff, came into the kitchen, he said “I think my hair is falling out.”
“Why do you think that?” she asked, not turning her gaze from the hothouse.
“There’s hair all over my pillow,” he said. “Maybe I need to get some of that stuff that stops hair from falling out.”
“It’ll do no good in the long run,” she said. “Getting old can’t be stopped.”
“I’m going to look into it anyway,” he said. He turned and left the kitchen.
* * *
Fog filled the backyard blanketing the hothouse in a hazy glow cast by the light of a white shinning moon. Macy sat in the window seat of her bedroom with her nose pressed against the window. She had the threadbare pillow with the face of an infant embroidered on it cradled in her arms. The neighbor’s large tabby cat came in and out of view as it went in and out of the open door of the hothouse. The door hadn’t been able to be closed in years and the cat used the floor of the hothouse as a litter box.
“I’d like to make love tonight,” her husband said from the bed.
“Good for you,” Macy said.
As he changed the television channels Macy turned away from the window and watched a moment of the evening news. “It’s a wonder that all of our hair isn’t falling out,” she said.
She turned back to looking outside. The cat had caught something small and was batting it with its paws, playing with or preparing to eat it, or both.
* * *
After dragging several of the shoe boxes from under the bed, Macy lifted the lids and looked at the glass and china fragments in each. She sat back on her heels thinking about the colors and patterns on each broken piece. She was putting to use her years as an art student in college. Dipping her hand into the box with broken pottery she mixed the pieces around then put the lid on and carried it out to the hothouse. Taking a tube of super glue from her apron pocket she went into the hothouse and glued the pieces of pottery to several panes.
Once back inside she sat in the kitchen and observed what she had done. She was still sitting there when Cliff came home.
“Did you accomplish anything today?” he asked.
“Define accomplish,” she said.
* * *
The whistle from a distant train echoed through the night. Macy lay in bed and stared up at the dark covering the ceiling. She raised her hand and pointed her index finger, tracing from memory the hairline crack that ran from corner to corner.
Cliff stopped snoring. “What are you doing?”
“Remembering,” she said.
“Cut it out,” he said. “I’m trying to sleep.” He rolled over onto his side and quickly resumed snoring.
Macy stealthily climbed out of bed and went down to the kitchen. In the darkness she fixed a cup of hot chocolate and drank it while staring at moonlight gleaming on the hothouse glass. When finished she threw the cup against a wall.
* * *
Sunlight streamed through the hothouse glass. Flies buzzed around a mound in the dirt. Macy placed a shoebox on top of the others and wiped the sweat from her forehead with her sleeve. She leaned against the door frame and took a drink from a large bottled water. Beginning with the top box she removed the lids, then super glued the cup fragments that each one contained onto the walls. When the boxes were empty she threw them into the garbage cans and went into her house.
Sitting in her kitchen she watched the shadows of the tree branches dance across the designs of flowers she had made from the fragments.
When Cliff came home he asked, “did you have a busy day?”
“Define busy,” she said.
* * *
Holding the embroidered pillow cradled in her arms, Macy sat in the dirt and rocked back and forth.
The back porch light came on and Cliff came out. Macy heard his footsteps as he neared the hothouse.
“What are you doing out here this time of night?” he asked from the doorway.
“Smelling the flowers,” she said.
Steve Carr began his writing career as a military journalist and has had over eighty short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals and anthologies. His plays have been produced in several American states. He was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. He lives in Richmond, Virginia and writes full time.