The lead singer of my indie-punk band Fellow Creatures is a potted plant called Flapjack.
He is a standard green crassula ovata with the signature plump, fleshy leaves jutting out in every direction. He’s decidedly unremarkable in plant terms, no unique physical features unless you leave him on the window sill on a cold night and his leaves begin to wilt, but the fact that he’s the lead singer of a band gives him an edge over the other flora. He isn’t a technically good singer; his lack of vocal cords gets in the way. We’re not even exactly sure how he sings, all we know is people hear him in a soft tenor and they always want more. Even so, his voice is only secondary. I think it’s his lyrics that really draw in the crowds and the ladies. There’s a lot more in common between plants and humans than I previously knew; including but not limited to experiencing love, loss, and loneliness.
I know that I’m a plant
But that doesn’t mean I can’t
Learn to love, learn to love
Someone like you.
The band was a three-piece for almost a year before Flapjack came along. Teddy on rhythm, Andromeda on drums, and me on bass and vocals. We met in a GE punk rock class and bonded over our shared experience of wanting to die. The transition from high school to college was particularly rough for me so it was nice to finally find my people. We practiced every Tuesday and Thursday and hung out every weekend.
One day after a late-night snack run we found Flapjack stranded and overturned in the Kroger parking lot. We all agreed that he probably fell out of some scatterbrain’s cart and it was our responsibility to have and to hold him. Andromeda kept him in her parents’ garage where we practiced and he became our de facto mascot. It wasn’t even until months later that he was comfortable enough to let us hear him sing, but once we heard him we knew immediately that he was that “something special” we were missing. He wasn’t any bigger than a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and he was in a flimsy tan plastic container.
Teddy was bigger than the rest of us by about forty pounds and Andromeda was apathetic.
We all had our own defining quirks. Teddy had a habit of taking pictures of himself smoking in front of “No Smoking” signs—it was funny and it became his brand even at the cost of us being banned from playing Joe’s Steakhouse. Andromeda took Judo. Flapjack and I watched Little Shop of Horrors and browsed eBay for new pots. We also designed stickers that said “This Plant Kills Fascists” to put on his pot.
The four of us traveled around Southern Wisconsin for three years, ruining green rooms and sleeping on couches and raising hell wherever we went. We became a hot act—the one with the plant—and garnered quite the following in the tri-state area. Then Teddy and Andromeda married each other and moved to Central Ohio, leaving Flapjack and me to take care of Fellow Creatures ourselves. We pretended we didn’t care that our best friends had abandoned us like that and we continued to play shows without them. I picked up a job at Best Buy to pay for tour.
What I like about Flapjack the most is that the only thing that changes about him is the pot that he’s planted in.
One time Flapjack fell off his stool while the two of us were performing. We were reaching the climax of our song “Real Friends Don’t Move to Central Ohio.” I had just hit the overdrive on my bass amp. Suddenly he was off the stool, his ceramic pot shattered on the stage of Clarks, a dive bar in Dubuque.
“Who the hell did this?” I screamed at the fans.
“Nobody, man,” they screamed back. I called 911 but they told me that they couldn’t help because he was a plant. I emptied out a nearby pitcher of beer and scooped him and his dirt inside of it. They told me that he’d been too close to the edge and it was probably the sound waves that had knocked him down, that it was just a freak accident, nobody had tried to hurt my plant. Maybe he was trying to stage dive they joked. With my guitar in one arm and Flapjack in the other, I left. Roger, the bar owner guy who booked us there, chased after us.
“Yo. What’s up dude? Where are you going?” He said.
“We’re leaving, dude. There’s no respect in there.”
“Come on, that was an accident. Come finish your set or you’re not getting paid.”
“Screw you and your shitty bar.” I rooted around in my pockets for the van keys.
“You know it’s actually fucking weird, right? You and that plant?” He yelled.
I stopped. He continued.
“Everyone thinks it’s fucking weird. That’s why you got booked here tonight. Everyone thinks it’s a fucking art piece or joke or something. But you think it’s all real, don’t you?”
I didn’t say anything. I got in the van, buckled Flapjack in, and we drove to a nearly vacant Kroger parking lot nearby to settle down for the night. We agreed to never play a show for Roger ever again.
That night I asked Flapjack if he was real. He had no comment. But I think that sometimes silence is the loudest answer, because I got the same response when I asked myself if I was real.
We visited them—our old band mates—once, six years after they’d left. The plan was to surprise them and convince them to do a reunion tour. We thought it would work because they’d see us and remember the good times. The voicemails never worked but maybe seeing our faces would do the trick. I packed up my bass and we took a fifty-dollar Greyhound out of Madison and into Columbus because we were afraid the old van wouldn’t make the trip. We found their address in the White Pages. They had a suburban house that looked just like the rest of them—one story, an extra-large front door, a decent yard to mow, and a small plastic basketball hoop in the driveway. It was the first time we’d seen them since they’d moved away. Teddy got a little fatter, Andromeda had grown her hair out and stopped coloring it pink. They had two kids, Teddy Junior and Alfonso. They asked why I was there and I told them I was thinking about the good times and they let us in. Teddy grilled burgers and Andromeda flicked through a scrapbook she’d made from the touring days. The four of us posing for an album cover in an alley. Teddy pouring a beer into Flapjack’s soil. Teddy completely naked, smoking in front of a “No Smoking” sign. She finally acknowledged Flapjack sitting on her coffee table and picked him up.
“Is this really the same plant?” said Andromeda.
“Of course he’s the same plant. It’s Flapjack. Can’t you tell?” I crossed my arms. How could she forget him?
“It’s just gotten so big. That’s amazing. You’ve taken care of it for this long all to keep up the joke?” she said.
“Well some of us don’t let good things end. And it’s not a joke.” I tossed the scrapbook into her lap.
“Garrett, we were twenty-three. It was time for us to grow up.” She put her hand on my shoulder. I shrugged it off.
“I was twenty-three too. I was twenty-three and alone in Wisconsin.” I took Flapjack from her and paced to the other side of the room. “Where’s your kit? I need to bang around on it.”
“My kit? I sold it when Teddy Junior was on the way.”
“Are you serious? How are we supposed to get the band back together if you don’t have a kit?”
“Get the band back together?” She popped her knuckles. No rhythm. “Garrett, we can’t get the band back together. Teddy and I have a family.”
“Then why the hell am I here?”
“Well, we were kind of wondering the same thing. You haven’t talked to us in forever and you just show up at our house? I mean, you’re welcome to visit us anytime, but we can’t get the band back together.“
I stormed out through their extra-large front door and slammed it for good measure. We left and didn’t look back.
They still send us postcards. They send them to my parents’ place. The postcards don’t come often. I think Flapjack wants me to write back but I can’t force myself to do that. Why would I write them back? If they want to make a difference they can drive back to Wisconsin and pretend like nothing ever changes. They can come back and we pick up where we left off with the good times. But until then, they can fuck off.
Flapjack is big now. He’s so big he’s in a five-gallon bucket that I found by a dumpster. We exclusively play house shows—there’s more respect—and we are alone. Nobody else can understand us because neither of us is real. We happen in a stasis between the plane of existence and the alternative, unable to find a place in this world to root before it fundamentally changes. We don’t belong here. We don’t belong anywhere. We belong to the past and that’s where we will remain.
RG Barton is a third-year at The Ohio State University studying Psychology and minoring in Creative Writing. He is the Editor-in- Chief of The Sundial Humor Magazine and the President of Backburner Sketch Comedy.