Once a cactus went for the record in lifetime achievements by a succulent. It couldn’t see any reason not to go for the record, being as it had long since surpassed every other cactus around for size and for the wealth of water it could hold. To say nothing of the bountiful flowers it boasted every spring. If it enjoyed the good fortune to have grown this large and impressive, that must be how things were meant to turn out. If it was the biggest and best-endowed cactus around, didn’t that mean it deserved to be? Its own glorious attainment must confirm the inevitable workings of nature. What was, in brief, was for the best. Admittedly, setting a record would require the cactus to gather and hold more water than ever before. Since there was only so much water available in the desert, however, and since other, lesser cacti thought they were entitled to a share of it, some tough decisions would have to be made. If the cactus was indeed destined for unimagined size and substance, then it must not flinch at any test of its resolve. It must show a boldness of action unconstrained by the slightest qualms or concerns of fair play. Why should lesser succulents, not in a position to set records themselves, have the same right to the limited water supply that it did? They would never have a reach equal to its own arms nor ever produce flowers to vie, even remotely, with those it already scattered in excess. Even if all other cacti faded, shriveled, and died away while it alone thrived, what would that matter against the one simple calculation of worth: if it had become the most successful cactus around, the hope for the future of all cactdom, then whatever water it required to fulfill that hope must surely be its due. And in truth, as the cactus spread its roots and drew to itself water that might otherwise have been shared by so many others, lesser cacti withered to the same degree it prospered. The more water it claimed, the more it swelled. And the more it swelled, the more water it could hold. In this way, growth fed upon growth without limit, until the firm lines of its original shape disappeared in a tumid crush of blossoms and thorns. It was clearly reaching new heights all the time, no doubt about that. Yet as it towered ever larger over the landscape, as it sucked the earth dry to satisfy its burgeoning needs, something else was happening as well. Beneath its resplendent flowers, the cactus was steadily turning to mush inside, producing a top-heavy, distended monstrosity in danger of falling from its own unequal weight. If that happened, if the whole Brobdingnagian mass began to sway and sag and finally toppled into the shadow of its own success, what would its prospects for unsurpassed triumph be then? Stretched out upon the parched wasteland it had created far and wide, would the cactus be able to claim anything more than an asterisk and a footnote of failure in the record books? Such a fate was simply unfair! But wait, the cactus thought in desperation, might there be some record for spectacular collapses it could still set on its way down?
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans