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.

Chickens, Cats, Howling Dogs, and Fireworks: Elaine’s July 4th Weekend

This story is dedicated to my sister, Cheryl. Enjoy!

One hot, sunny July fourth afternoon in the year of two thousand and ten, Elaine just left Seattle in her brand new black Cadillac Seville. She cruised down Interstate 90, weaving in and out of heavy traffic on her way to see her new man Greg. She met him online a few months earlier, and he had invited her to Spokane for the holiday weekend. She was to meet his daughter, Lisa who lived in Spokane, and the drive there would take her four hours.

Although, Elaine looked calm, her stomach rattled like an old washing machine. Even after she gulped down a banana pineapple smoothie, her stomach churned in knots. Annoyed, Elaine sighed as she glanced at her rolex watch. Time seemed to tick by slow, it was only two o’clock. Greg wasn’t expecting her until seven so she leaned back in her seat and settled in for the boring drive.

Interstate 90 stretched for hundreds of miles. On each side of the highway, cattle grazed lazily in the hot grassy fields. Elaine took off her Raybun sunglasses and rubbed her hazel-green eyes. She yawned, stretching her mouth wide feeling tired from the long drive. She kept her eye on the road as she reached over, turned on the radio, and repeatedly tapped the tune button on the dashboard stereo. Finally she found her gospel station, and Kirk Franklin’s hit song, “Smile” boomed from the car speakers. Emotionally moved, Elaine bopped her head like a ping pong ball to the rhymthic beat then the song went off and the disc jockey came on.

Elaine squirmed in her seat, and sweat trickled down her face. She reached up with one hand and swiped the straw hat she was wearing off her head. With long cinnamon brown fingers, she raked through her curly red auburn hair, and with the other hand she steadied the car keeping it straight on the road. Elaine was full figured, attractive with expressive hazel-green eyes. Despite her plumb figure, she wore dresses, and big hats with style.

However, her friend, Greg was completely opposite. His idea of style was casual. He often wore loafers with faded jeans, and he would throw on his favorite corduroy sports jacket over a plain white shirt. Hardly Elaine’s idea of a stylish, well-dressed man. She was spoiled. Her deceased husband, a pastor, used to wear silk doubled breasted suits to work or church. Needless to say, she missed his impeccable style.

Before long, Elaine saw the sign to Spokane, Washington. She had fifty miles to go, and again, she glanced at her watch. It was now six o’clock in the evening, and the sun was morphing into an orange ball of fire. Dusk was settling on the horizon so Elaine pulled over. She parked on the side of the road and turned on her GPS. She typed in Lisa’s address then she pulled out onto the highway.

Thirty minutes later, she was on Chicken Coup Road. Beautiful red brick homes on manicured lawns decorated the newly paved street. Elaine searched for Lisa’s house looking for the number 455. As the paved street narrowed into a dusky dead end, Elaine’s face contorted into a gremlin-like frown. Straight ahead she noticed a barb wired fence wrapped loosely around an old wood shabby house. The house tilted to the side was propped up on cement blocks. Elaine parked her Cadillac and turned off the ignition. She blinked her hazel-green eyes in amazement and shook her head.

“Surely this isn’t it,” as she tried to convince herself. “This can’t be it. I better call Lisa. Maybe I passed the house by mistake.”

Elaine snatched her cell phone out of her Coach Handbag and dialed Lisa’s number. The phone rang for several seconds and the ringing vibrated like a buzzing bee. Finally a woman anwsered. “Hello, this is Lisa.”

Lisa sounded warm and inviting, and Elaine breathe a sigh of relief. “Hi Lisa, this is Elaine. I’m on your street, but I can’t find your house. Where are you?”

“At the end of the road,” Lisa chuckled.

“You mean the brown wood house with the barb wire fence?”

“That’s right,” Lisa clarified. Elaine’s heart sank. She couldn’t believe it. She drew in a deep breath and used her musical voice to tried to sound cheerful. “I’m right out front. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Great, I can’t wait to see you!”

“Likewise.” Elaine hung up and started up her car. She drove up the dusky road to Lisa’s home. On her right, five rusty cars in need of repair were parked alongside the road. There were two red Toyotas, two copper brown mustangs, and a four-door silver gray Honda. Little brown and black chickens raced hither and yond up and down the road. Elaine noticed chickens scurrying back and forth on the porch.

Elaine scowled and shook her head. “This place is full of chickens! I can’t do chickens!”

Elaine parked her vehicle, shoved the door open, and gradually eased out. With her handbag on her shoulder, she smoothed out her white cotton dress. She reached in her car and grabbed her suitcase. She dropped it on the ground breathing heavily. She slammed the car door and locked it. Then grabbed her suitcase and started toward the house. Her eyes watered from the smelly white chicken poop splashed on the ground before her. She gagged, almost fainting from the putrid, rotten smell.

Suddenly Greg emerged from the house. Chickens scattered everywhere trying to get out of his way. He ran down the stairs. When Elaine laid eyes on him, she cringed at the sight of him. He wore a plaid red short-sleeved shirt tucked in dirty brown dungarees and his bulky orange rubber boots were caked with dried mud. Strands of salt and peppered hair peeked from underneath his Mariner’s baseball cap, and his piercing blue eyes looked like large buttons on his dusky face.

Excited to see Elaine, Greg broke out into a wide grin. He snatched her suitcase out of her hand and dropped it on the ground. He wrapped his thick arms around her shoulders, squeezing her tight. “You’re so dirty!” She cried out, wrinkling up her nose. She pushed him away. He smelled like an old musky towel.

“I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “I was doing repairs around the house. I know I smell bad.”

“That’s an understatement,” Elaine flippantly mumbled under her breath. Ignoring her comment, Greg grabbed her hand.”Come on, let’s go inside,” he said.

“Okay,” Elaine replied looking wide-eyed. As they walked up the stairs, the wood creaked and moaned. Once they reached the door, two howling dogs greeted them. One was a white toy poodle and the other a brown lab retriever. The canines took turns out doing each other with their loud howling. Irritated by the noise, Elaine slapped her hands on her plumb hips and violently cursed. “You two bitches shut the hell up, right now!”

The dogs immediately stopped howling. Startled, they took off down the stairs, whimpering to themselves, as they disappeared across the yard behind the chicken coup. Greg roared with laughter. “Elaine, I think you hurt their little feelings.”

“They were making too much damn noise! I couldn’t hear myself think,” Elaine giggled getting tickled. Greg laughed and opened the door. He motioned for Elaine to follow him in. She did so with great caution taking one step and then peeking shyly around the door. Greg grinned wide looking like a Cheshire Cat. “Don’t worry, it’s safe,” he assured her waving her in.

Elaine walked inside and to her dismay, three black cats ran up to her. They whined and cried which grated on Elaine’s nerves. Her nostrils itched and she sneezed. One cat edged closer and rubbed his head against her bare leg. Elaine’s eyes begin to itch and tear up. She sneezed repeatedly, scaring off the cat. The cat screeched and leaped in the air. It landed in a nearby chair, and stared at her with glaring yellow eyes. “Creepy,” she mused. Elaine looked at Greg. “I’m allergic to cats. I can’t be around them,” she informed him.

“Oh dear, I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I’ll get rid of them.”

“Thank you,” Elaine coughed. He scooped up the cats and disappeared down the hall. Elaine sneezed repeatedly and her eyes itched like hell. She rubbed them hard until they turned tomato red. Now fighting an allergic reaction, Elaine grabbed her Benadryl from her handbag. She twisted off the cap and popped four pills into her mouth. Then she grabbed her inhaler, screwed off the cap and took three puffs.

A few minutes later, she was feeling better. Elaine found a chair in a corner in the hallway and sat. While she rested, Greg’s daughter, Lisa showed up in the hall. She was barefooted with her red hair tangled into a messy mop, and she looked trampy in her see-through yellow top and ripped jean shorts. When she smiled, her grill was missing two front teeth, and her voice was dry and raspy from smoking. “So you’re the special lady in my dad’s life. Glad to finally meet you.”

“I’m happy to meet you too,” Elaine sneezed. ” Thanks for inviting me to your home.”

“You’re quite welcome. Are you all right?”

Elaine dismissively waved her off. “Oh, it’s allergies. “I’m allergic to cats.”

“Oh too bad,” Lisa pouted, poking out her bottom lip. She ran across the hall to the closet, and swung the door open. She grabbed a box of tissue, tossing it to Elaine. “Here take one.”

Barely catching the box before it landed on the floor, Elaine grabbed a tissue, and blew her nose like a fog horn. Lisa’s violet eyes stared back at her with amusement, and Elaine felt her cheeks getting warm. She quickly apologized. “I’m so embarrassed! Please excuse me. My behavior is horrible.”

Lisa cracked up laughing. “No worries. I hope you feel better soon.”

“I will.” Elaine said with a flushed face.

Greg stood in the hall, giving Lisa an icy glare.”You should’ve dressed better! You looked sloppy!”

Lisa rolled her eyes heavenward and whirled around. With her back to her father, she sashayed down the hall. “Elaine, come with me,” she hollered back. “Let me show you where you’re staying.”

Elaine hesitated. She eyeballed Greg looking to him for permission to follow Lisa. He looked perturbed as he watched Lisa walked away from him. He threw one hand up and gestured.”Go ahead. I’ll deal with her later,” he said.

Elaine didn’t say a word. Instead she inhaled deeply and reached for her suitcase. She went after Lisa and caught up with her in the living room. Eaine checked the place out. It was spotless. A pleasant surprise that Elaine didn’t expect. However, Lisa’s decorating taste left alot to be desire. Elaine didn’t care for her country-styled taste or out-dated gray furniture. As they moved throughout the house, Elaine secretly admired Lisa’s chestnut hardwood floors.

When the two women arrived in the guest room, Lisa hurled her petite body through the wood door. Once inside, she waved for Elaine to follow her in. The room, smelling like fresh lemons, was roomy and quaint. The room was painted in a bright fluorescent pink, and oil paintings of farm animals hung on the walls. Against the far wall, sat a queen sized maghoney wood framed bed draped in a red comforter with fluffy black pillows scattered on top.

Elaine dropped her suitcase in the middle of the floor and sat on the bed. She squinted from the bright pink paint while rubbing her hands over the cushiony comforter. Taking note of the soft texture, she mumbled. “This is so nice, thank you.”

“I’m glad you like it,” Lisa warmly smiled. “In the bathroom, you’ll find towels in the vanity closet.”

“Thank you,” Elaine said as she continued to checked out the room. Elaine gasped, stiffening up when she noticed a dead beetle on its back in the far corner. She wondered if Lisa had a problem with bugs. “Any issues with bugs?” Elaine innocently asked.

“No, not really,” Lisa said looking down at the floor.

Elaine sighed deeply and Lisa studied Elaine’s face. She folded her arms, and scoffed. “If you happen to see bugs, the spray is in the closet.”

“Thanks,” Elaine said taking note of her scornful tone. Lisa turned and went for the door. “Why don’t you freshen yourself up for dinner. We’re eating at eight and fireworks begin at nine,” she said.

“Will do.” Elaine sternly replied, feeling irritated. She didn’t like being told what to do. Lisa left the room, slamming the door behind her. Elaine made a face and slid off the bed. She gave the room a quick once over. She lifted the comforter and looked underneath the bed. Except for a few dust balls, she didn’t see any bugs. Then she ran to the bathroom and inspected the bathtub along with the shower. Satisfied she didn’t see any dead little creatures lurking around, she blew out her cheeks in a sigh of relief.

She went back to the room and tossed her suitcase on the bed. She flopped down with her plumb bottom sinking down into the mattress, and she began unpacking her suitcase. Then out of the blue she heard, pop, pop, pop and she scrambled off the bed, ducking to the floor. Her heart pounded like a drum in her chest as she sat crouched on her knees beside the bed. Scared out of her wits, she was afraid to move. A moment later, she heard Greg shouting outside her window. “You critters get the hell out of my yard with those firecrackers! You come here in again, I’m calling the police!”

There was loud husky laughter and stomping of feet. Then a few seconds later, there was complete silence. Realizing she wasn’t in any danger, Elaine took a deep breath and stood up. “This place is crazy! What have I gotten myself into?” she grumbled shaking her head. Then she unzipped her suitcase and sat on the bed. “I might as well make the best of this. It’s going to be a very long weekend.” Thank you For Reading And Have A Happy Fourth Of July!