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THE CACTUS

    Once a cactus went for the record in achievements by a succulent.
    It couldn’t see any reason not to go for the record, being as it had long since surpassed all other cacti for size and for the wealth of water it could hold. To say nothing of the lavish blooms it boasted around the middle of April every year.  
    The cactus would take admiring stock of itself at this time and ask if there’d ever been anything like it for luxuriant display. The only rival it could think of was itself in the last flowering season, and what it recalled was as nothing beside what it could claim now.
    If it enjoyed the good fortune to have grown this large and impressive, that must be how things were meant to turn out. If it was the biggest and best-endowed cactus around, didn’t that mean it deserved to be?  Its own success must confirm the inevitable workings of nature. What was, in brief, was for the best.
    Admittedly, setting a record would require the cactus to absorb and hold more water than ever before. Since there was only so much water available in the desert, however, and since other, lesser cacti thought they were entitled to part of it, some tough decisions would have to be made. If the cactus was indeed destined for unimagined size and substance, then it must not flinch at any test of its resolve. It must show a boldness of vision unmarred by the slightest qualms.
    The first order of business would be the claims of these lesser succulents. Why should they, not in a position to set records themselves, have the same right to the limited water supply it did? They would never have a reach equal to its own nor ever produce flowers to vie, even remotely, with those it already scattered in excess. Even if these others faded, shriveled, and died away while it alone thrived, what would that matter against the one simple reckoning of worth: if it had become the biggest cactus around, the hope for the future of cactdom, then whatever water it required was surely its due.
    And in truth, as the cactus spread its roots and drew to itself water that might have been shared with so many others, they withered to the same degree it prospered. The more water it claimed, the more it swelled. And the more it swelled, the more water it could hold. In this way, growth fed upon growth without limit, until the firm lines of its original shape disappeared in a tumid crush of blossoms and thorns.  
    It was clearly reaching new heights all the time, no doubt about that. Yet as it towered ever larger over the landscape, as it sucked the earth dry to satisfy its burgeoning needs, something else was happening as well. Beneath its resplendent flowers, the cactus was turning to mush inside, producing a top-heavy, distended monstrosity in danger of falling from its own unequal weight. 
    If that happened, if the whole Brobdingnagian mass began to sway and sag and finally toppled into the shadow of its own success, what would its prospects for unsurpassed triumph be then? Stretched out upon the parched wastes it had created far and wide, would the cactus be able to claim anything more than an asterisk and a footnote in the record books? No, such a fate was inconceivable! Such a calamitous plunge from—but wait—
    Might there be some record for spectacular collapses the cactus could still set on its way down?