A long time ago and far, far away…well, a week ago at least, and further away than you or I can comfortably walk, like at least 3 postcodes away…anyway, that’s not important. The important part is that this is the beginning of a story and that’s how you do beginnings. Establish time and place. Gives people a point of reference. Helps make sense of what happened.
Though that may well be a futile hope, the making sense part I mean. Sometimes stuff happens that doesn’t make sense no matter how hard you try and stuff it into a sensible shape.
So when I tell you that there was a monster growing in the garden at 10 Murdoch Lane and that it was all Gemma’s fault you’ll just have to believe me. Because, really, it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t easily lend itself to being stuffed into any sort of shape, sensible or otherwise.
I’m told the whole thing started with a pot plant bought at the local school fete. An odd, scraggly thing that was sitting on the ground in front of the stall looking lonely when Gemma wandered past with fairy floss in her hair and a bag full of plastic dinosaurs from the secondhand stall tucked under her arm. She told her dad it was actually a baby Groot and insisted on adopting it and it was only three dollars and it had been a very long, very hot and very trying day and it was easier to hand over the coins and nestle the pot into the basket with the orange and poppy seed cake from the cake stall and accept that his arm was going to be three inches longer by the time they’d walked home than it would have been to argue.
Gemma wanted to keep the pot plant in her bedroom where it would be able to hear her music but after she’d watered it a little too enthusiastically for the third time and Mum sort of lost her temper over the soggy patch on the carpet it was agreed that it would probably do better out on the back patio instead.
I think everything would have been ok if the pot had stayed on the patio. I mean, things can only grow so big if they’ve only got access to about an ice cream container’s worth of soil, right? And it was doubly unfortunate that when Cleo bolted across the back yard with her tail poofed up like a feather duster and Harry barking and bounding after her with his usual misplaced optimism about the chances of a proper friendly game of interspecies chasings, she was rather surprised to discover her usual escape route obstructed by a pottery vessel and a mass of twigs. Harry wasn’t any quicker on the uptake and matters were complicated by the after effects of yet another bout of enthusiastic watering. So dog, cat and pot plant all together slid hilariously across the paving, over the edge of the patio and into the compost heap.
By the time Mum and Gemma had got home from the drama workshop, via a quick trip to the supermarket to pick up dinner supplies, it was dark outside, Harry and Cleo had settled back into a studied indifference to each other, and the rustlings from the compost heap went unheard under the night chorus of cicadas and frogs.
The next day everyone was in a bit of a hurry to leave the house and no one noticed the mass of greenery creeping across the patio and sending tendrils searching around the window sill and along the wall towards the back door. By the time Mum got home and headed into the kitchen with the intention of standing in front of the open fridge waiting for lunch inspiration to hit, the back of the house was a dim cave bathed in a sickly green glow coming from the vine covered windows and Harry was standing in the kitchen doorway with his hackles raised and a low growl coming from deep in his chest.
Mum, being the sort of person who can’t watch horror movies because she spends the whole time yelling “No! Don’t go in there! Why are you splitting up?! Leave now and come back in the daylight you idiots!” at the screen, immediately scooped up the cat, called Harry to follow her and made a beeline for the car. The back door splintered and caved in under the weight of vegetation and the questing vines were left to explore the empty house.
Cleo was not at all amused to find herself in close quarters with Harry, especially when those close quarters began growling and then moving and the world was rushing by outside. The consequent kerfuffle made the phone conversation Mum was having with Dad even more confusing than you might have expected it to be, but in the end Mum was able to convey the magnitude of the botanical problem the family faced.
I haven’t the faintest idea where Dad learned about the sort of extreme gardening techniques required to deal with such a monstrous vegetative incursion, but he turned out to be surprisingly competent in their execution. Between the deployment of the neighbour’s soaker hose and slip’n’slide to create a perimeter of weedkiller spray and the repurposing of several leaf-blowers and a couple of gas BBQs to keep the indoor growth at bay with a stream of hot dry air he was able to contain the beast for long enough to allow the team from IFON LY (Investigative Force of Otherworldy Nuisances, Lake Yarrunga div.) to arrive and get stuck in with some flame throwers, chainsaws, super-charged hedge clippers and an industrial grade mulcher that fed the pulverised remains directly into a portable furnace.
Once the back yard had been cleared, and the flame throwers were getting a little too close to the timbers of the patio roof for comfort, Dad insisted that the assault be down-graded to less home-threatening techniques. Several of the IFON LY team were reluctant to go hand to hand with even the subdued remains of the monster but they happily handed over one of their hazmat suits and assured Dad and their more adventurous team-mates that they’d be ready with the flame throwers should the voracious plant get the better of any of the intrepid exterminators.
Mum arrived back home during these negotiations, with Gemma in the car. Gemma and Harry were both sporting bleeding scratches on their noses and Cleo was sulking under a shopping bag on the floor behind the passenger seat. Mum was not overly pleased to hear that the proposed solution to Dad falling into the clutches of the ghastly growth was to incinerate without discretion but whatever it was that he whispered into her ear must have been persuasive because she nodded grimly and returned to the car to keep Gemma company.
Clearing the inside of the house was a little trickier, especially as by the time they got around to that stage Mum had been converted to team NO FLAME THROWERS and the rest of the IFON LY team decided they’d prefer to sit the last stage out as well.
I can’t actually tell you much about what went on inside the house other than that there was a lot of colourful grow-up language involved and one of Mum’s favourite vases was a casualty in the process of dragging heavy duty garbage bags of furiously animated vegetation down the front hall and out to the street.
But in the end Dad eventually managed to wrestle the last of the writhing greenery into the mulcher, cheered along by Gemma and Mum as they watched from their vantage point on the roof of the car. The IFON LY team manned the perimeter, vigilant against any errant twigs trying to creep away from the scene and just as the sun touched the horizon they were able to declare the site secure and clean.
The back yard was left devoid of any vegetation and I hear rumours that Dad has been seen browsing the paving stone displays at the garden centre down the road.