The Cactus Cup
In 1998 Brandon’s great aunt Dorothy passed away. Dorothy left behind a legacy of hideous, granny square afghans she had crocheted over the course of her 80 years and a sprawling collection of coffee mugs. Dorothy always said she found them at thrift stores. She liked to go to the Goodwill on Senior Wednesdays and pick up a few cups each week. She had them in every room of her house. She made great use of them, not just to drink from. As decoration, she potted plants in them, stored buttons and other notions. They were everywhere.
Dorothy was a woman of meager means. She lived a modest life, a widow for the last twenty years of her own existence. She rented a small bungalow on the edge of a major metropolitan area. She drove the only car she had ever bought new, a massive Coup de Ville from the late 70’s, until the day she died.
She was also a practical woman and knew that someone would have to take care of her humble but none the less interesting estate when she passed. That dubious honor fell to young Brandon. He was always her favorite, sitting with her after family dinners working on stitching together another in a long line of visually offensive afghans. Brandon was a quiet boy, prone to introspection but quick to laugh with Aunt Dorothy. Dorothy had a raunchy sense of humor and had the unique ability to bring out liveliness in Brandon that wasn’t often seen by other family members.
Brandon was a tender 17 when his favorite eccentric Aunt passed away. Still wrapped in grief when the letter arrived in the mail detailing what he was to do with the cups and blankets she had left behind. The letter came on her signature Garfield stationary, scrawled in purple ball point pen. It read:
My dearest Brandon,
If you are reading this it means I have gone beyond the veil. Please don’t be sad. We’ll sit together again in a hundred years when you’ve made the move too, I promise. You’re a good boy and I know you’ll live a good life.
You are the only person I trusts with the cups. I need to tell you their secret though, so you can make sure they find new homes that are appropriate.
Every single cup in my house I stole. I hate the Goodwill. The only time I go to the Goodwill is to steal cups. I haven’t bought a damn thing from there since 1965 when I needed a new spatula and didn’t want to pay retail.
Most of the cups where stolen from people though. I’m not sure why but whenever I went to visit someone and had a cup of coffee or tea, I would put the cup in my purse before leaving. Sometimes I even raided their cabinets when they went to the bathroom and took more than one.
What can I say, I just really like coffee cups.
The cream colored one with the cactus on it is especially dear to me. I stole that one from the gentleman I made time with in the 80’s after your Uncle passed. I was already an old woman by then but that doesn’t mean I didn’t deserve to do some canoodling in my old age. The cactus cup is my most prized acquisition. It always reminded me of living dangerously even when people thought you were too old or too stupid to be interesting anymore.
I want you to find a home for every cup I ever stole, but you must keep their secret. If anyone asks, I was just a silly old lady who bought a lot of 49 cent cups from the thrift shop.
You’ll find a ledger under my mattress with a brief description of the cup and where I stole it from. I want you to find someone you think deserves that cup and gift it to them. This may take time.
As for the cactus cup, that one is yours. Never let anyone underestimate you. You may be quiet, but I know you have great things ahead of you. Live dangerously but keep a low profile. That’s the secret to a happy life. Oh! And whiskey. I always had whiskey in my coffee cup. That makes life pretty happy too.
I love you. See you in Paradise.
p.s. you can burn the afghans for all I care. They’re really ugly, aren’t they?
Brandon retrieved the ledger, the cups and the ugly afghans. He bought a few book cases and developed an organizational system for the mugs. On one shelf lived cups for people with a great sense of humor, on another cups for people who needed a swift kick to the shins. It was a complex system but one that Dorothy would have been proud of.
By his 30th birthday Brandon had given away all of Aunt Dorothy’s cups except his prized cactus cup. He had grown into a confident, if not still quiet man, who had created a home for himself full of things he loved. He cultivated a reputation for being shy and reserved and most of his family still thought of him as a sweet boy who lived a boring life.
Little did they know that Brandon was the reigning Queen of West Texas, the best known drag persona west of the Mississippi. And his stage name was Dorothy Seguaro. He never took the stage without first taking a shot of whiskey out of his beloved cactus cup.
To Great Aunt Dorothy, may she inspire many more quiet children to live dangerously in their own way.
Yesterday I asked you guys to give me something to write a story about. The first one was about the first socks I ever knit, an autobiographical story. This one is fiction, based on my friend imaginarymagpie asking why he loved his coffee cup so much. For you, the reigning queen of West Texas, my love.