GARDEN PESTS • by Ellie Tupper

“Congratulations, Greg, this is a nice place. It’s going to be good to have a family in the neighborhood again.”

“We were lucky. The Realtor’s a cousin of Magda’s. The house wasn’t even on the market, but she knew the owner. It’s a bit rundown, but Mags is a gardener and I like to do the handyman thing on weekends.”

“That’s great. Old Mrs. Grunderson just couldn’t keep up with the maintenance, not since her husband died. She really needed someplace smaller. This yard is great for kids. Lots to mow, though.”

“Magda’s starting her garden over there already. Watch out when zucchini season comes around, Rob, you’ll be buried in the things.”

“Looks like she’s working on a flowerbed too.”

“Yeah. That thing was growing here when we moved in. We don’t know what it is, but it looks good there with the petunias.”

“You know, I think it’s a wild bean. Sorry to say this, Greg, but you probably ought to get rid of it.”

“Huh? How come?”

“Well, they attract jacks. You know, those little things.”

“Never had a problem with jacks.”

“You don’t get them in the city. Out here, though, you get a wild bean, you get jacks. Nasty little pests. We had a real problem with them a couple of years ago.”

“What, are they dirty? Magda’s crazy about vermin. She’ll put down poison, take care of that.”

“Poison won’t do it. They won’t eat it, they’re pretty smart. They’re like squirrels. They get into the house and steal stuff. I had a new iPod, the Magic Harp version? Went into the den, it wasn’t where I left it. Then I saw it on the floor. Picked it up, and there was a jack under it, trying to carry it off.”

“You’re kidding, Rob.”

“No, honest. I left a handful of change on the dresser, got up in the morning, the little monsters had taken it away. Penny by penny. Must have taken all night. Wait, look, there’s one now. No, don’t step on it, they make a mess. Catch it in your beer glass.”

“Got to say it’s a funny looking little thing.”

“They come in all colors. That outside skin is loose, it comes right off. It’s the same color all over, underneath. We used to play with them when I was a kid.”

“Daddydaddydaddy! Mommy says the barbecue’s ready. Daddydaddydaddy what’ve you got there? Lemme see! It’s cute! What is it?”

“Uncle Rob says it’s a jack.”

“It’s cute! Can I have it for a pet?”

“Um, no, sweetheart. We, uh, don’t have anything it can eat.”

“Why’s it bumping around like that?”

“Good question. Rob, does it look sick?”

“Heh. No problem, bro. They like beer.”

“Ha! Um, Dallie, honey, it’s, uh, sleepy. Tell you what, go tell Mommy Uncle Rob and I will be right back. Go on, now. — So, can you control them like slugs? Put out a saucer of beer and they crawl in and drown?”

“Nah. We tried that. They just sang all night. My grandad used to eat them.”

“Yuck! Really?”

“Absolutely. Some people think they’re a delicacy. They’ve got this strong aroma, my grandad called them stinkjacks. He’d toast them for a while, run ’em through the coffee grinder, have them for a dip with bread and olive oil.”

“I dunno about that. Not wild ones. You don’t know where they’ve been.”

“I wouldn’t either. The only real way to get rid of them is to get rid of the plant. You can’t pull it up, it’s got a taproot goes straight down for miles. There’s a weed killer, BeanBeGone, but it’s pretty toxic, you don’t want it around the kids. The only thing you can do is cut it down, down below the surface. But once you’ve got beans in your lawn, you have to watch out, they can crop up anywhere. Jacks can be dangerous, too.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, sometimes they have a little stinger. And old Horace Grunderson, owned this place before? That’s how he died: broke his neck tripping over one. They don’t look like much, but you don’t want them around.”

“Okay, Mags, we’re coming — so what do I do with this one?”

“Dump it back in the plant, I guess.”

“Hee hee! It’s passed out. They are pretty cute, you have to admit, with those little feet and things.”

“You should get Dallie a puppy. Dogs are good for keeping the jacks under control.”

“She’s been asking for a kitty.”

“No way. A dog’ll eat it, but cats just leave them on the doorstep. You don’t want Dallie finding one.”

“Good point. I’ll take care of that bean bush first thing in the morning. Thanks for the advice, Rob.”

“No problem, Greg.   Good to have you folks in the neighborhood.”

Ellie Tupper’s yard has moles.

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