Sep 23 • 8M

The Murder

Newsletter 2022-09-23

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Family comedy one disaster at a time.
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There was a murder at my house.

In my yard, actually. This time, I can’t even blame the pigs. The murderer was me.

How would you spend your last day with two hands? I dedicated mine to yardwork. My transformation into an insufferable suburban dad is officially complete. With a scheduled wrist surgery looming before me, I made a list of all the things I needed to take care of before I had to go through life one-handed for several weeks. The lawn was at the top of those priorities. It was time sensitive. If I didn’t get to it now, the ground would be a winter mud pit before I had a chance to do something about it. I don’t care what my backyard looks like, but I do care if my urban swine herd tracks in sludge from November through March. I couldn’t leave the task to the rest of the family because they don’t even remember the yard exists. Or maybe, after my two million failed attempts to save it, they simply know it’s not worth trying. I’m always the last one to catch on.

I was further motivated by the great source of all lies: social media. This time, the person who deceived me was me. My cloud storage provider showed me a picture from the same date the prior year. In it, my backyard was covered with lush, green grass. It looked like the battlefields of Naboo. That analogy would have been more relatable if I had instead said Wisconsin pastures or the Emerald Isle, but my mind immediately went to The Phantom Menace because George Lucas ruined my childhood. At least the sacrifice of all those poorly-animated Gungan warriors gave me a greater appreciation for lawn care. I knew the grass in my old pictures didn’t last. I was there as the pigs predictably tore it up with their hooves and snouts. Also, I stopped watering it. It’s amazing how fast things die when I completely give up on them. Heads up to my kids. But I didn’t take a picture of the lawn’s death throes, only the brief moment beforehand, so there was no photographic evidence to remind me of my shortcomings. I was inspired to try one more time before I went back under the knife. I would have been better off spending those final few hours playing Xbox.

The day before surgery, I swung by the local big box hardware store to once again fork over grass seed money. My anti-green thumb single handedly bought that CEO a bigger boat. I procured two bags of grass seed big enough to cover a farm field and planned to double layer them over my small yard. On a whim, I also bought a combo fertilizer and weed killer. The package said the product was for late spring or early summer. It’s now September, but I figured an inert bag of chemicals wouldn’t check the calendar. While I’d never tried this brand before, I’d previously used a similar product and it was highly effective. I made the mistake of spreading it with my bare hands and it burned my skin. That’s how I knew it was the good stuff. I want to feel the poison working to confirm I got my money’s worth.

The raw killing power promised by the packaging made the chemicals less than ideal for my backyard. As much as I want the grass to grow, I also want it to be a source of food. It keeps the pigs busy. Plus, if they eat it, I don’t have to mow. I just want enough of the greenery to be left over to slow down the mud. Covering it with combo fertilizer/weed killer pellets that burned flesh would make it less than optimal as a mini grazing pasture, even if the pigs are remarkably hard to kill. They eat garbage but not literal poison. Everybody has their limit.

There was still one area where I could have fun with dangerous chemicals: the front yard. It’s that thin strip of grass where the pigs never go, except on those rare occasions when they escape and someone calls the police. I have an interesting relationship with my neighbors. Those limited forays notwithstanding, the front yard is the only place where I can’t blame my miniature livestock herd for my problems. Everything that goes wrong out there is on me. The only saving grace is there shouldn’t be a lot of blame to spread around. Ever since I built a retaining wall and flower beds covered in mulch, there isn’t much grass left. It’s just the small area between the sidewalk and the road. Even a guy with one functional hand should be able to keep that under control. Actually, no. I gave it everything I had on my last day with two working wrists. It wasn’t enough. Not even close.

I’ve attempted to weed that section multiple times, but I always have to give up. It’s at least fifty percent things that aren’t supposed to be there. There’s a school of thought that says weeds are just native plants that grow on their own. They, not ornamental grasses from foreign lands, deserve to be here. I disagree with that entire premise. There’s nothing natural about these weeds. They’re warped, twisted hybrids created by generations of active combat with the encroaching suburbs. Nothing can kill them, not even an atomic strike. After nuclear winter, the only things left alive on earth will be these weeds and cockroaches. The gross and unwanted shall inherit the earth.

I didn’t have access to a WMD to test out my theory, but I did have my bag of unsanctioned chemicals. First, I took care of the backyard by non-chemical means. I blocked the pigs out of the worst half, spread grass seed, and laid down straw. Then, I moved on to the front yard. This is the only part of my property that people can actually see, so it deserves more effort than I give it. In the backyard, by contrast, I made the wise decision to hide my shame behind a picket fence and a wall of privets tall enough to block out the sun. In Lord of the Rings, parts of the Shire have a defensive hedge to keep out wolves and trolls. My privets are twice that thick. They could block the all-seeing eye of Sauron himself, or, short of that, the prying gaze of my judgmental neighbors. There is no such cover out front. That’s why I went with a broad, unrestricted chemical attack. I also tossed out more grass seed. Once all the weeds were dead, there had to be something to fill the void or else I’d just be farming mud. There are no government subsidies for those acres. After spreading everything, I silently congratulated myself on taking care of business, even if it was, as always, at the last possible moment. My recovering wrist could rest easy in the coming months knowing the hard work was done.

I woke up the next morning to quite a surprise. The chemicals had worked fast. Too fast. No, the grass wasn’t suddenly a foot tall. In fact, even a week later, it still doesn’t look like the fertilizer portion had any effect. I suspect the people at the chemical plant left it out entirely and gave me a double dose of poison. It was supposed to be scientifically formulated to target the greenery I didn’t want, but the chemists weren’t as good at reading my mind as Facebook is. It apparently assumed what I wanted to eliminate was grass, but only random patches of it. The weeds are doing just fine—the poison was, unfortunately, much less powerful than a direct nuclear attack—but the grass was devastated. The pattern of death and destruction look like the spots on a cheetah. If you have a sensitive stomach or take any pride whatsoever in your yard, I must warn you to stop here and not scroll any further. Don’t let my lawn carnage haunt your nightmares. For everybody else, look below at your own risk.

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