Carl Dahlgren drove his Porsche up the tree-lined drive, marveling at his two acres of lush green lawn. The flowerbeds were in full bloom, a virtual rainbow of colors - reds and yellows, violets and blues and creamy-whites. He had always had a green thumb, even as a child. On his twelfth birthday, he had wished for and received gardening equipment in lieu of a twelve-speed bike. At thirteen, his Leila Verde-Floribunda Rose had won first prize in the national 4-H fair.
He suddenly slammed on the brake, his eyes squinting into the distance. Was that a weed, way over there, next to his azaleas? Leaping out of the car, he slowly approached the spot, eyes narrowing, lips set in a grim line. He stopped short of the multi-leafed aberration, circling it slowly, much like a lion would its prey. Round and round he went, muttering under his breath, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. This was impossible, unacceptable! Only yesterday, he had smothered his entire lawn with a new, ultra-powerful weed killer - "success guaranteed or your money happily refunded."
The front door opened, moments later, and his wife rushed onto the porch.
"Look at this, Charlotte! Come over here and just look at this!"
Frowning, his wife hurried over and directed her attention
to where he was pointing.
"Damn near it! Just look at this monstrosity, screwing up my whole lawn! It's like a ----- it's like a big, juicy zit on the tip of Julia Robert's nose!"
"Oh, for heavens-sake, Carl." Charlotte dropped to her knees, dug her fingers around the weed and yanked it out by its roots. "See how simple it is?" She shot her arm out toward her husband, growling, as if the weed was a rabid animal about to bite him.
Carl jumped back, nearly loosing his balance. "Why did God create such things?"
"If you haven't noticed, he also created poison
ivy, sumac and skunk cabbage. Not to mention lice and maggots and spiders
"This is a new house and an even newer lawn. Give things a chance, nothing is ever perfect." Charlotte rolled her eyes, letting out a weary hiss of breath. "It was only one itsy-bitsy, little weed and an unhealthy one at that. Park the Porsche and come on in to eat. I've prepared your favorite - prime rib, baked sweet potatoes and asparagus. That should improve your mood a bit."
"One weed will breed others. It's like a bad family, moving into a good neighborhood."
That evening, Carl sprayed the entire lawn with an extra-strong dosage of weed killer, completely saturating the spot where he had found the lone culprit. Charlotte watched from her rocking chair on the front porch, wondering, a bit uneasily, what had ever given her husband such a fear of weeds or, for that matter, anything that even came close to resembling a weed. To call it a "phobia" would be an understatement.
"Charlotte!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. "Charlotte!"
His wife rushed onto the porch, nearly breaking her neck on the welcome mat. "Carl, what in the world is it? What's wrong?"
"What's wrong? Just look at this lawn, woman, just look at it!"
Charlotte could only stare, her eyes growing as big as saucers.
"How could you ever let this happen? What the hell were you doing - watching soap operas all day?"
"And what do you propose I could have done, Carl?
Maybe I should have patrolled the lawn, whacking the little stinkers as
soon as they showed their heads."
"It's just one of those problems we're going to have to deal with. Maybe we have inferior soil."
Weeds kept popping up as they watched, like the heads of cobras darting from the underbrush.
"Come on in to eat and we can discuss our options. Maybe we can hire a professional lawn service."
"Have you gone mad? No strangers are going to touch my lawn! And how can I possibly eat with this mess?"
An hour later, Charlotte parted the curtains and watched as Carl tackled the multiplying infestation with his weed-whacker. He looked completely foolish, having donned a pair of her latex dishwashing gloves, as well as the rubber waders that he used for trout fishing. Good Lord, you would have thought that the weeds were carrying some sort of lethal virus. He crazily went about his work, chopping weeds down as quickly as they sprouted, his lips moving with a stream of muted curses. When it turned dark, he continued by the outside spotlights - back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. She began to fret over his sanity. When she got into bed at one in the morning, he was still hard at work.
Carl started out for home late the next afternoon, his Porsche riding low under a trunk loaded with a new type of weed killer. When he rounded the last corner of the drive, he stared at his house in horror, the Porsche plowing down a whole row of his prize rose bushes. His house, his entire house - from the cellar clear to the roof - was completely green! The weeds in the front yard had spread like a fungus and joined by creepers and ivy and all sorts of other horrendous plant life, had infested every square inch of the two-storied brick house! He could only stare in disbelief, heart drumming, his mouth flapping like a fish out of water. This was impossible, frigging impossible - an episode from The Twilight Zone!
He snatched up his cell phone, his hands shaking so badly he could barely hold onto it. His mind raced, dizzily, and he had to think for a few moments, before remembering the number.
"Charlotte! Are you all right?"
"Well, of course I am, Carl. Why would you think otherwise? Where are you calling from?"
"I'm right out front."
"Why are you calling me from out front? Supper's getting cold, you're late."
"Have you ----- have you -----?"
"Calm down for heavens-sake. Get in here so we can eat."
"Are you nuts? I'm not going into that ----- that jungle!"
Carl's head started to spin faster and faster, eyes blurring. He paused for a few seconds to clear his vision and catch his breath.
"Are you still there, Carl?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm still here. Charlotte, get your ass out here, right now! Have you seen the outside of the house? It's ----- it's completely overgrown with creepers and ivy - weeds, dandelions ----- God only knows what else! It's a goddamn rain forest. It's the house in Amityville!"
"Honestly, Carl; why must you always have to make such a big fuss over things? Maybe you should go to a shrink and get some valium or something. You really have to learn to calm down."
"Calm down? How the hell can I calm down?" Carl started to pace, cursing, stomping on his rose bushes and crushing them underfoot. "I'm coming in there and getting you out, even if I have to sling you over my shoulder."
"Over my dead body, you will."
"Keep it up and I might oblige you!"
Carl took a deep breath to stoke his nerve and started out for the house, walking gingerly over the weeds as though they were a bed of hot coals. He was biting down on his lips so hard, he tasted blood. "Calm down, Carl!" his brain screamed. "Relax, man, relax - slow and easy, slow and easy." Reaching the front door, he tore away a thick growth of creepers and ivy, and cautiously entered the house, his heart pounding so hard that he thought it might burst.
Every light was on. It was unbearably hot, feeling as though his wife had jacked the thermostat up to a hundred. Creepers and vines, ivy and moss and all sorts of strange-looking lichens covered the walls, and weeds and dandelions, by the hundreds, were sprouting from the floor! How, in the name of Jehovah, could they be flourishing and multiplying on wood? The moist air smelled pf chlorophyll and decaying undergrowth, as though he was winding his way through some tropical jungle. The floor felt soft and cushiony under his feet and he looked down to see a carpet of moss that resembled broccoli florets. A butterfly flitted under his nose.
"Charlotte! Charlotte, where are you?"
"I'm in here," called his wife from the direction of the kitchen. "And don't even think about slinging me over your shoulder."
"One way or the other, I'm getting you out of here!"
A vine fell, dangling over his shoulder, and he yelped, brushing it off.
Charlotte appeared in the doorway, beaming from ear-to-ear, a piece of crystal stemware in her hand. "Well, Carl, how do you like my little garden of Eden? I bet you can find a snake or two if you looked hard enough."
"Have you gone mad? Are you totally out of your gourd?" Carl whirled in a complete circle, waving his arms. "Look at these aberrations, this ----- this junk growth!"
The plant life started to stir, as though he had injured their feelings. The heat was suffocating, his shirt feeling like wet tissue paper. The moss began to shift restlessly under his feet.
"What the hell do you have the heat up to?"
"Ninety degrees. My little garden needs heat and moisture in order to survive, especially some of the Amazonian growth." Charlotte raised high her crystal glass. "I've opened up that bottle of dandelion wine your father made for us. It's quite befitting, don't you think?" She took a sip, smacking her lips with relish. "Would you care for some, Carl?"
"I would not!" he shouted, rushing forward and reaching for her. "And you think that I need a shrink? Come on, I'm getting you out of this hellhole!"
"You most certainly are not,' she responded, yanking her arm free of his grasp. "It's time to water some of my babies."
Cursing, he made a grab for her again, but she squealed with delight, scampering out of reach and pausing to stroke the fronds of a giant fern.
"I will not leave these premises without you! And the first phone call I'm going to make is to the Department of Environmental Protection!"
"You will not!"
"Oh yes I will!"
As he prepared to make another rush for her, a creeper shot out, wrapping its leafy tentacles around his chest and yanking him back, hard, against the wall. Before he could realize or react to what was happening, another creeper reached down, coiled itself around his neck and lifted him clear off the floor as though he was nothing more than a rag doll. Tighter and tighter it squeezed, causing his eyes to bulge, his lungs struggling for precious air.
Charlotte watched, unconcerned, taking another sip of the dandelion wine. "Now see, Carl, you got my babies all upset. You really need that psychiatrist, you know." She giggled. "Or, maybe, I should say 'botanist.'"
Carl tried desperately to claw the creeper from around his neck, but it was much too strong. After a good minute of wiggling and twisting and kicking, he finally grew still, his face a sickly shade of blue, his eyes looking as though they were about to pop from their sockets. He hung, there, swaying gently, his leg giving one last jerk, like a cattle thief at the end of a hangman's rope.