We were young. We were in love. We were rollicking in those sublime early days
of marriage when life seems about as good as life can get. We could not leave
well enough alone. And so on a January evening in 1991, my wife of fifteen
months and I ate a quick dinner together and headed off to answer a classified
ad in the Palm Beach Post.
Why we were doing this, I wasn't quite sure. A few weeks earlier I had awoken
just after dawn to find the bed beside me empty. I got up and found Jenny
sitting in her bathrobe at the glass table on the screened porch of our little
bungalow, bent over the newspaper with a pen in her hand.
There was nothing unusual about the scene. Not only was the Palm Beach
Post our local paper, it was also the source of half of our household
income. We were a two-newspaper-career couple. Jenny worked as a feature writer
in the Post's "Accent" section; I was a news reporter at the competing
paper in the area, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, based an hour south in
Fort Lauderdale. We began every morning poring over the newspapers, seeing how
our stories were played and how they stacked up to the competition. We circled,
underlined, and clipped with abandon.
But on this morning, Jenny's nose was not in the news pages but in the
classified section. When I stepped closer, I saw she was feverishly circling
beneath the heading "Pets -- Dogs."
"Uh," I said in that new-husband, still-treading-gently voice. "Is there
something I should know?"
She did not answer.
"It's the plant," she finally said, her voice carrying a slight edge of
"The plant?" I asked.
"That dumb plant," she said. "The one we killed."
The one we killed? I wasn't about to press the point, but for the
record it was the plant that I bought and she killed. I had surprised her with
it one night, a lovely large dieffenbachia with emerald-and-cream variegated
leaves. "What's the occasion?" she'd asked. But there was none. I'd given it to
her for no reason other than to say, "Damn, isn't married life great?"
She had adored both the gesture and the plant and thanked me by throwing her
arms around my neck and kissing me on the lips. Then she promptly went on to
kill my gift to her with an assassin's coldhearted efficiency. Not that she was
trying to; if anything, she nurtured the poor thing to death. Jenny didn't
exactly have a green thumb. Working on the assumption that all living things
require water, but apparently forgetting that they also need air, she began
flooding the dieffenbachia on a daily basis.
"Be careful not to overwater it," I had warned.
"Okay," she had replied, and then dumped on another gallon.
The sicker the plant got, the more she doused it, until finally it just kind
of melted into an oozing heap. I looked at its limp skeleton in the pot by the
window and thought, Man, someone who believes in omens could have a field day
with this one.
Now here she was, somehow making the cosmic leap of logic from dead flora in
a pot to living fauna in the pet classifieds. Kill a plant, buy a
puppy. Well, of course it made perfect sense.
I looked more closely at the newspaper in front of her and saw that one ad in
particular seemed to have caught her fancy. She had drawn three fat red stars
beside it. It read: "Lab puppies, yellow. AKC purebred. All shots. Parents on
"So," I said, "can you run this plant-pet thing by me one more time?"
"You know," she said, looking up. "I tried so hard and look what happened. I
can't even keep a stupid houseplant alive. I mean, how hard is that? All
you need to do is water the damn thing."
The foregoing is excerpted from Marley & Me by John Grogan. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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