Last Saturday I went on a creative writing course at Milton Keynes Art Centre in Great Linford and lead by Deborah Fielding. As part of the course I wrote the following which was inspired by the above painting, which is called "Nancy and the Rubber Plant" by Alice Neel.
The rubber plant had been a present. It took up almost half the room, which made things worse. To say it was unwanted would be stating the obvious. But how do you dispose of an unwanted present, particularly one which seemed to dominate the sitting room so obviously?
It had come from Steven's mother, but Nancy hadn't got on too well with her, which didn't help matters. She thought Steven was being controlled by the woman, and he was pretty well terrified of her. Shat she said had to be adhered to totally. So when she had arrived ove afternoon with the wretched rubber plant, Nancy's face had turned ashen. She'd hated the thing from the start. She had stuck it in the corner of the room and shoved the armchair in front of it, as if hiding it would somehow make it disappear. But Steven had looked after it, as if it were a child, watered it, cleaned it, suing a special rubber-plant leaf-cleaning fluid he'd managed to discover in a garden centre and generally fussed over the horrid plant. As a result it had just grown and grown. Nancy had hoped that it would just die, but it didn't. It seemed to her that it had a life of it's own, that if she sat in the chair in front of it, it would somehow attempt to strangle her, or poison her, perhaps wrapping a branch round her neck until she was gasping for breath, or it stuck a poisoned thorn into her arm, which was absurd, as the plant had no such thorns. All this was in her imagination. But Steven just shrugged all this nonsense off, telling Nancy she was becoming paranoid.
Steven's mother had never really liked Nancy. She's told him that he could have done much better than to marry beneath him, which was why she'd imagined such awful things of his mother and her wretched present. Perhaps next time she'd bring them a venus fly trap, so that would DEFINITELY seal the deal!
She'd been watching far too many late-night horror movies, particularly those directed by Roger Corman, and especially the sort which had carnivorous plants in them, the one which came from outer space, or the one where humans get turned into cactuses or something and end up having ridiculous green faces with prickles sticking out all over the place, or that one where pods keep appearing in peoples gardens, rather like huge pea-pods and people get taken over by yet another alien race from the planet Zog.
Perhaps she could chop bits off the rubber plant, so Steven wouldn't notice, so eventually the horrid plant shriveled up and died. But, unfortunately, Steven spent too much time fussing over the awful plant, so he'd see immediately if a leaf or a branch was removed. Just to keep his MOTHER quiet, because when she came to visit, which was quite often and on the least pretext, she'd look at the plant to see how it was doing. So Nancy was stuck with it and it seemed that there was no way on Earth could she think of to get rid of the evil thing.