Thorns and Sand : Herman The Cactus


P R O L O G U E

I, Herman the Cactus, am on my deathbed. I am dictating my life story to my last friend still alive, Daniel Goldlist. I have no regrets about leaving this life, as I have lived a full one. I would just like that the things that I have learned be passed on to other people and cacti that might need my wisdom.


B I R T H

I was born (seeded) in the Sahara Desert, several years ago. We talking cacti (as humans call us) live a solitary life, so I never even knew who my parents were. I have a clue about who they might be, but it is irrelevant to my story. For a few years I lived a peaceful life, until one fateful day that has now changed the lives of thousands of people.


U P H E A V A L

One day, several people (who I was later to learn were cactus hunters) arrived in the desert. I had an uneasy feeling about them but as young as I was, I feigned unconsciousness. These people, however, instead of leaving me alone, uprooted me and several of my fellow cacti, and put us in big burlap sacks. I must confess that at this time I must have blacked out. This experience has given me the saying; feigning unconsciousness only works in special cases, cactus hunters not being one of them.


J O U R N E Y

When I came to, I was still in the burlap sack, and there was a muffled roar all around me. (I now know that I was on an airplane, and the roar was the engine). After several harrowing hours, there was a big bump. Then, after a few more hours, an even bigger bump. The bump shook me out of the sack and out of a portal in the side of the plane. I was flying! Not for long, however. After some agonising seconds hurtling through the air, I landed in water!


U N D E R W A T E R

Before I continue my story, I must say that I am a special breed of cactus.I am able to survive almost all climates, including seawater almost indefinitely.Needless to say however, after living in the desert for my whole life, I was unused to water! Back to the story. As soon as I hit the water, I started to sink. As cacti aren't very mobile, swimming wasn't much of an option.After awhile, I hit bottom. My pot had broken, so I sent my roots into the ocean sand.


C O N F R O N T A T I O N

I lived for several years on the ocean floor. I learned to adapt to ocean life, and made friends with some of the coral. This was where I learned to never chew on a poisonous jellyfish, its bad for your health. After all it has been discovered that people who eat poison seldom live as long as people who don't. I also learned that patience is a drop of water in a rapidly draining ocean. This bliss was not to last. One day, an octopus swam towards me. Now, I had never seen an octopus before, so I didn't know what to expect.Being naive, I extended a leaf in friendship. The octopus extended a tentacle as well. Here, however, I must take the blame. I did not realise that most living creatures think my touch is painful. When the octopus' tentacle touched my leaf, it reared back in pain. I, however, thought that this was its way of thanking me. I smiled. Immediately the octopus sent a jet of black ink at me and swam away. Words of wisdom, never smile at an octopus, or any other large sea mollusc for that matter.


D I S E A S E

After the confrontation with the octopus, I was left dizzy and confused. The ink hurt my leaves, and made it very hard for me to see or smell. I asked the coral what was wrong and they told me. It seemed that the octopus was poisonous, and that I would die, unless I reached the surface of the ocean. Now, that explained much, yet simplified little. I asked them how I could get to the surface. The coral told me to get a tow from a whale. Before I could ask how, they told me, "Don't ask, just applaud."I can understand the first part, but to this day, I can't understand the last part.


W H A L E R I D E

Not one to give up hope, I began to grow out my leaves in the hope that a whale might pass by. I would then latch on with my thorns and get towed. After a couple of days, I got lucky. A whale passed by. After a few tries, I finally got my leaves to hook on to the whale's skin. What I hadn't counted on, however, was the whale's reaction after he had been pierced by my thorns. I was thrashed around so violently I thought I was going to die. But I held on. After awhile, the whale gave up. I now know that riding whale back is often hazardous. The whale swam around for awhile, and I soon despaired of ever reaching the surface, as the whale didn't seem to be going that way. Eventually, however, the whale had to breathe, so it surfaced.


R I V E R

I had been living at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, very near the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The whale surfaced practically in the gulf, so it was not much of a problem to be towed by a salmon into the St. Lawrence River. I was making good time until all of a sudden; I was snagged in a big dam made of various pieces of wood. Swimming around me were two smiling beasts (who I now know to be beavers). I hailed them, and they seemed to be friendly. However, I was betrayed. The beavers banged into me and obviously meant to add me to their dam, but my thorns saved me. After feeling my thorns, they hurled me down the river. Now I tell you to beware smiling beavers, they will never mean you well!


F I G H T

After a harrowing ride in the river, I was washed up on land. After a period of reorientation, I found myself near one of my arch enemies, a wild mushroom! However, this mushroom appeared to be comatose. If I attacked quickly, I could destroy it. I used the cactus proverb, "step softly over covered ground" and leapt at the mushroom. With one swipe, I had blasted it to bits. What I forgot about was the mushroom's awesome reaction timing. It blasted me with all its dying energy. I was covered in fungus! That shows that you should never let down your guard when attacking a wild mushroom.


S A V E D

I was now stranded on the river bank, covered in fungus. I realised that I would soon perish. All of a sudden a huge humanoid dressed entirely in black with a black cape, jumped in front of me. He took pity on me and placed me in a compartment in his belt. After much struggling, I managed to find a peephole to see through as the compartment was almost entirely dark. I soon realised that my rescuer was the world famous Batman. As we all know, no superhero was ever mightier than the immortal Batman.


E N C O U N T E R

After a few minutes, Batman entered his Batmobile. We were driving very quickly when we were forced to slow down because of a driver with a Pedro hat. Never trust a driver in a Pedro hat! We almost crashed as Batman had to avoid the horrible driver. Eventually we arrived at a field. Batman just stood in the middle of it for awhile until a flying saucer landed in front of us! Batman immediately asked the occupants who they were (as soon as the saucer landed). They responded that they were Martians, but they actually came from the planet Yinfrithy. It is now known that most Martians donít come from Mars. I found this slightly surprising, but Batman didnít seem perturbed in the least. Batman then asked the "Martians", "Would it not be interesting to see a hamster eat a lion?" The "Martians" nodded and said, "It never ceases to amaze me that a lion can not be a mongoose." Batman than said, "Ooshkey Badushky nevla didooshky dooshkey." The "Martians" cried out, "The forbidden tongue!!" They immediately ran back to their saucer and flew away.


S E P A R A T I O N

Batman then bolted back to his Batmobile. Unfortunately, in his haste, I fell out of his belt. I called out to him, but he had already driven away. I called again very loudly but I started an avalanche. I have now learned to avoid falling rocks, they tend to hurt. I hoped that Batman could survive on his own, as no man is an island but there are several male peninsulas.


U N C O N S C I O U S

The avalanche knocked me unconscious rather quickly. I suffered hallucinations. For awhile I thought I saw a Batwinged Lizard but I know that the Batwinged Lizard is seldom found outside Utopia, for obvious reasons. Rather miraculously, I somehow survived the avalanche. However, it had taken me several miles away from the St. Lawrence.


H U M A N S

After wandering around the countryside for awhile, I was encountered by two humans. They obviously did not recognise me as a talking cactus and I did nothing to disillusion them. They took me to their home, put me into a pot, fed and watered me, then put me on a windowsill and ignored me. I soon realised that I would just be left there unless I talked to them.


C O M M U N I C A T I O N

As soon as I said my first word, the humans were completely shocked. It was as if they had never heard of a talking cactus! After their initial shock, however, we quickly became friends. I did my best to tell them some of my wisdom, but they continually imparted some of theirs instead. Have you ever thought the saying "put a sock in it" misleading? I have. They then realised (after much of my subtle prodding) that I wished to wash the travel dirt from my person. I was then introduced to the Q-tip. Never have I received more comfort than from a Q-tip. I learned many things from these humans, including "never poke holes in someone else's meat loaf.Ē and "When swallowing a handful of pins, make sure the pointy ends arefacing up." I also discovered spaghetti, the greatest food in the world.

S O L D

 

After many happy years, the humans told me one day that they were broke. After explaining to me what this meant, they said that the only way they could survive would be to sell me to a plant store. I was shocked, but I realised that the humans didn't really have a choice, and if they didnít, I didn't. Even so, it still rankled to be sold! So, the next day, the humans wrapped me up, and took me to a store. After awhile, (where I was careful not to talk) I was sold for the paltry sum of $1345.32! What a disgrace! I was then shipped southwest to the city of Toronto where I was put on display for several weeks.

 

B O U G H T

 

One day, after I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be bought, another human came into the store. He gave me a look, obviously admiring me, and promptly bought me for $3499.99! I was so pleased, that I didn't pay attention to the fact that the human had recognised me. He knew that I was a talking cactus! As soon as he got home, he asked my name. I had never been named and I told him so. He said that would never do and immediately named me Herman the Cactus. He told me his name was Daniel Goldlist. We then lived together for several enjoyable years.

 

D E A T H

 

One day, I realised that I was dying. I told Daniel and he took it badly. After the initial shock, however, he told me to write my autobiography so that my wisdom would never be lost. I agreed only if I could dictate to him, as I can not write. This is my story. Make of my wisdom what you will and take these last words of wisdom, "Life stinks, play hard, eat spaghetti."

 

E P I L OG U E

 

After Herman's death, I realised that some of his points needed a little explanation. First of all, Herman's concept of time is a little off. He says that he lived with me for "several years". In truth he only lived with me for about five or six months. His grasp of money is off as well. I actually bought him for $3.49. When he said $3499.99, I did not correct him for fear of breaking his heart. Some of his deep thoughts might seem a bit obscure, but most of them make sense if thought about for long enough. I have published separately, a copy of Herman's more famous quotes, most of which are included in this essay.

 

D A N I E L G O L D LI S T

November 29, 1993

 


D E E P T H O U G H T S

    • Feigning unconsciousness only works in special cases, cactus hunters not being one of them.
    • As cacti aren't very mobile, swimming isn't an option.
    • Never chew on a poisonous jellyfish, its bad for your health.
    • It has been discovered that people who eat poison seldom live as long as people who don't.
    • Patience is a drop of water in a rapidly draining ocean.
    • Never smile at an octopus, or any other large sea mollusc.
    • That explains much, yet simplifies little.
    • Don't ask, just applaud.
    • Riding whale back is often hazardous.
    • Beware smiling beavers, they will never mean you well.
    • Step softly over covered ground.
    • Never let down your guard when attacking a wild mushroom.
    • No superhero was ever mightier than the immortal Batman.
    • Never trust a driver in a Pedro hat.
    • It is now known that most Martians don't come from Mars.
    • Would it not be interesting to see a hamster eat a lion?
    • It never ceases to amaze me that a lion can not be a mongoose.
    • Ooshkey Badushky nevla didooshky dooshkey. (Universal language)
    • Avoid falling rocks, they tend to hurt.
    • No man is an island, but there are several male peninsulas.
    • The Batwinged Lizard is seldom found outside Utopia, for obvious reasons.
    • It was as if they had never heard of a talking cactus!
    • Have you ever thought the saying "put a sock in it!" misleading? I have.
    • Never have I received more comfort then from a Q-tip.
    • Never poke holes in someone else's meatloaf.
    • When swallowing a handful of pins, make sure the pointy ends are facing up.
    • Life stinks, play hard, eat spaghetti.
    • Es-tu dingue? (French edition)



E D I T O R ' S N O T E


All of these thoughts were quoted from the book "Thorns and SandĒ by the late Herman the Cactus. This book is sold in better book stores everywhere. You may have noticed that some quotes are in different languages. Herman was a scholar and spoke several languages fluently. Some of these quotes will not be found in the English version.