Short Stories

The Predator In The Garden

Bug Ridley loved her garden. At ninety-one, she was still planting flowers around her two-story split leveled home in Steilacoom, Washington. Bug’s green thumb brought magic to her colorful garden. There were roses, daffodils, pansies, and marigolds planted along the periphery of her home. She could grow anything. 

One crisp, sunny morning, she decided to go early to the grocery store. Buddle up in a light green jacket with her favorite floppy hat on top of fiery red curls, she used her cane to navigate the flight of stairs leading to the garage. She opened the garage door and slid inside her blue “Back to the Future” Oldsmobile. As she cleared the garage and backed out, she noticed a plant about six inches tall in the garden. 

Not your typical plant, the leaves had a silver-gray color, and it appeared to be sprouting tiny white flowers. The mysterious plant sways ever so lightly in the crisp sixty-nine degreed weather.  Intrigued, Bug turned off the ignition and got out.

Using her cane, Bug strolled over to the plant. For a moment, she stood there looking at it, admiring it. She poked it gently with her cane, reluctant to touch it. She wasn’t quite sure if the plant was safe to touch. After all, she didn’t plant it. ”Whatever this is…it’s a beautiful little thing,” she muttered to herself. Giving no thought into how the plant came to be in her garden, Bug strolled back to her car and opened the door. She eased in the driver’s seat and secured her seatbelt. Then she turned on the ignition and drove off.

Later in the afternoon, Chris, one of her daughters, came home from work. Like a creature of habit, Chris parked her Toyota Prius on the left side of the driveway. When she eased out of her car and noticed the plant in her mother’s garden, she immediately determined it was a weed. Making a mental note to bring it to her mother’s attention, Chris locked her car and went inside the house.

 Chris found her mother sitting in her favorite recliner, watching a Lifetime movie on television. “Mom,” she loudly called out. Chris knew Bug had hearing problems. “A weed is growing in your garden. Do you want me to pull it out?”  Chris also was aware of Bug’s overprotectiveness of her garden, and she thought it better to ask permission before pulling the weed out. She had no interest in making her mother angry.

Bug leaned forward and turned up her hearing aid. Her big hazel-green eyes bore into her daughter. “What are you babbling about over there?”

“There’s a weed out there in the garden…” Chris trailed off. By the looks of her mother’s scarlet face, she knew the conversation was going to be challenging. “Leave my plant alone! It’s not bothering anybody out there!” Bug quipped. Chris groaned, rolling her hazel-green eyes, a trait she inherited from Bug. “Mom, it’s not a plant! It’s a weed!” She insisted.

Bug fell back in her recliner and armed herself with the TV remote. She turned up the volume gritting her teeth. “I repeat, leave my plant alone.”

Chris stiffened then she rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. She pulled her brown braids into a rubber band and shook her head in defeat. Chris decided to leave the matter alone. She hated being at odds with her mother. Bug had gotten stubborn in her old age and Chris knew how futile it could be to argue with Bug. So, she gave up and went to her room.

When Chris came home the next evening, the color drained from her face. The weed captured her attention in the worst kind of way setting off a creepy chill within her. It had grown two feet tall since she last laid eyes on it, and the weed’s silver-gray leaves crept into the driveway. Stunned, Chris recognized the creepy plant must go but convincing her obstinate mother of this would be a difficult task. She ran inside the house and tried talking to Bug again, but she soon realized she was getting nowhere. Instead, Bug became onery and yelled at her. “Stop pestering me!  It’s my garden, and I want it to stay there.”

Frustrated and beside herself, Chris decided to call her sister, Cheryl. She needed support in a big way, and her sister had  the gift of persuasion. Grabbing her cell phone, Chris hurriedly dialed Cheryl’s number. She heard Cheryl’s voice no sooner than she completed the call. “Sis, what’s up?” Cheryl answered on the first ring as if expecting her call.

“Girl, you didn’t give the telephone a chance to ring good,” Chris chuckled.

“Oh, I thought it was the office calling me…so, what’s going on?”

“It’s Mom…”

“Did something happen?” Cheryl asked with her voice shooting up two octaves. 

“No, no, no, nothing serious,” Chris quickly reassured her. She heard Cheryl sigh with relief. “Then what is it?”

“There’s a big ass weed growing in Mom’s garden. She refuses to remove it because she thinks it’s a plant.”

Cheryl belched out a series of loud giggles. “You called me for this?” She asked after regaining her composure.

“Yes, sister, I did. You should see it. It looks creepy.”

 “How big is it?” 

“At least three feet,” Chris embellished, hoping to sound the alarm. “And it’s getting bigger and bigger by the minute!”

“Come on, sis. Stop exaggerating and get real!”

“No, I mean it! This thing is creepy! It has grown three feet overnight! Like it’s got a growth hormone in it or something!”

“How do you know?”

“I just know!”

Cheryl laughed again. “Girl just pulled the thing up!  What’s the problem?”

Chris held the phone away from her ear and stared at it like a big starry-eyed raccoon. Then she pressed the receiver to her ear and with a strain voice, she said. “No way, I’m not touching that weed! Besides, Mom told me to leave it alone.”

“So, what do you want me to do about it?”

“Talked some sense into her. That thing has to go!”

“Okay, Sis,” Cheryl giggled. “I’ll do my best.”

“Please do.” And with that, Chris disconnected the call. Exhausted, she took a quick shower and crawled into bed. Within thirty minutes, she was fast asleep.

The next morning, around dawn, a loud rumbling noise came from the yard across the street, jolting Chris awake. She sat straight up, hyperventilating and sweat beaded on her forehead. She rolled out of bed and peered out the window. Big Boy was in his truck racing the engine. Her eyes drifted to the garden and she gasped with sheer exasperation almost peeing on herself. “Oh, I can’t stay here! I got to move! That damn weed has taken over!”

 The weed was bushy and taller than the day before, and another one just like it was growing from behind. Chris fell on the bed and immediately texted her sister. “Cheryl, Help! Come quick! The weed snatchers have invaded Mom’s garden!”

Her phone ranged two minutes later, and when Chris answered, she heard Cheryl cackling in hysterics on the line. “Girl, have you lost your cotton-picking mind? What are you talking about?” She managed to ask after getting her words together.

“Look that thing has grown another two feet, and now it’s brother or wife is growing behind it,” Chris whispered.

“Did you say there are two now, are you serious?” Cheryl asked with angst in her voice.

“Yep, there’s two, and they’re big as shit!”

“I’m coming right over.” Cheryl hung up before Chris could say another word. After Chris showered and dressed, she went outside on the porch and checked out the weeds. She stared at the plants for a while, and she swore the white buds look like teeth, itching to gobble her up. An icy chill shot up her spine and Chris jumped up. She started pacing, and she wondered why Cheryl was taking so long. Her sister lived in Puyallup and she had a forty-minute drive, but for the moment, she didn’t care. Chris needed her right now. Hell, she was scared. 

Antsy with a desire to calm her nerves, Chris left the porch and walked behind the house. She screamed, slapping her hand over her mouth. Across the yard, growing through her mother’s fence was another one of those menacing weeds. It was just as bushy and creepy, and the weed’s silver-gray leaf-like tentacles crept along the lawn heading to the house. When Chris saw this, she had enough. She ran to the porch and stayed there until Cheryl showed up.

 Cheryl’s black Baby Cadillac flew in the driveway with tires screeching. She parked and got out, ready for battle in her burgundy-gray sweatsuit. Her hair was wild with big brown curls, and she briefly looked across the driveway. With her hands on her hips, she calmly said, “You’re right; this weed has become a monster!” 

Chris ran to her side. “There’s one in the back growing through the fence.”

“You’re kidding?”

“No, dear. I’m not.”  Cheryl stepped back, and her hazel-green eyes, a trait she also inherited from Bug, scanned the area again. “Do you know where these suckers are coming from?”

“No, I wish I knew,” Chris said, looking worried. Then she pointed out, “No one else in the neighborhood has these weeds as far as I can tell.”

Cheryl tilted her head and placed a finger on her chin. “Mmmmm…What about the abandoned house next door? It’s been weeks since Mister Purdy got evicted.” 

“What’s your point?” Chris asked with big eyes.

“Maybe we should check it out.” Cheryl took off before Chris could blurt out an answer. She strolled into the yard of the abandoned home with Chris on her heels. With her stomach in knots, Chris was amazed by her sister’s tenacity and inquisitiveness. “Sis, you’re crazy!”

“Probably,” Cheryl replied as she stopped in the middle of the yard. 

The two women stood there, staring at the empty house. The outside paint looked like it might have been a shade of dark brown at one time but had since faded into a dingy pale color. The lawn was overgrown and filled with little dandelion weeds. On the right side of the house was a badly worn wooden fence. “I’m going over here to look in the backyard,” Cheryl said, running off.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Chris hollered after her. But Cheryl ignored her. Instead, she stood on her tiptoes and peered over the fence. Braving it, Cheryl sucked in a deep breath and clicked open the latch. She plunged ahead inside, and her mouth flew open. The entire yard covered with weeds looked like the ones in her mother’s yard. They stood at least twenty feet tall, and one weed’s branches wrapped around the balcony.  The leaves covered the sliding glass door. “Chris, you got to see this!  Come back here!” Cheryl shouted.

“Uh, no…I don’t think so. I’m going to stay right here!” Chris wasn’t about to venture into that yard. It was safer where she stood.  Finally, Cheryl emerged from the back yard, shaking her head. “Girl, those weeds are huge, and they’re everywhere. I think they tend to spread.  I believe that’s why Mom is having a problem.”

Chris snatched her cell phone from her back pocket. “Let’s google it,” she suggested. Cheryl came over and stood over her while Chris looked up the weed on the internet. The image of the plant came up on her screen, and Chris eagerly showed it to Cheryl. “This is it!” Chris said, getting excited. 

“What sort of weed is it?”

“An English Ivy,” Chris replied. She groaned as she read over the description. “What does it say?” Cheryl asked.

“This weed is an invasive species with the potential to wreak havoc on vegetation. They can grow up to forty feet, and they are banned.” Chris relayed.

“Get out of here!”

“Girlfriend, I know. This thing reminds me of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an evil predator!”

Cheryl snickered. “I don’t know about an evil predator, but I’ll think we need to pressure Mom to get rid of this weed before it takes over her yard.” 

“And her house!” Chris added.

They walked back to the house and found Bug in her pajamas sitting with her legs crossed at the dining room table. She was drinking a cup of Starbucks Coffee, and her face automatically turned scarlet. “I saw you two sneaking around outside being nosy. So, did you find what you’re looking for?” She asked, beating them to the punch.

“Mom, the house next door has those weeds all over the yard and balcony. Some of them are twenty feet tall,” Cheryl excitedly explained.

Bug looked Cheryl squared in the eye and dismissively waved her hand. “Mister Purdy must have planted them before he was kicked out.”

“Mom, you can’t be serious!” Chris grumbled out loud, rolling her eyes. “Those weeds are invasive, and the birds help spread them by dropping seeds on the ground. Washington State’s Forestry Department has banned them. There’s a number to call for someone to come by and get rid of them. Do you know, these weeds can crawl up your house, and get in the gutters and block the windows?”

“Well, if they do, I hope they crawl in your window and grab you, so you can stop pestering the hell out of me!” Bug deadpanned with a gleam in her eye.

Cheryl giggled hard from the pit of her stomach. Chris hung her head in disgust. “Mom, I’m serious, that’s not funny,” she pouted.

Bug stood on her feet and huffed. “My goodness, give me the damn phone number? If I call those people today, will you leave me alone?” 

 Finally, her mother saw the light, and Chris was delighted sighing with relief. She wiped the sweat from her brow, and said. “Mother, you got a deal! Thank the Lord!” Until Next Time, Thank You For Reading. Comments Welcome. My novel, Whiskey And Merlot A Love Story is available on Amazon. Click on the link below and take advantage of the disocunted retail price.

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B06XBDKBYC

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