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Bonus Story

Thomas Canfield

We search far and wide to find stories that make us think. Here, for your reading pleasure, is a story that makes us think about... lawn care.

Canfield's phobias run to politicians, lawyers and oil company executives. He likes dogs and beer.

Canfield currently has tales at, Interstellar Fiction, Allegory and the just released print anthology from Freedom Forge Press.



Thomas Canfield


“What’cha doing, Johnny?”

John Warwick looked up, frowned. It was his neighbor, ‘Tweed’ Murphy. He was leaning over the fence that divided their two properties, a look of open curiosity on his face. Murphy had a habit of showing up at inopportune times.

“What’s in the bottle?”

“Poison,” Warwick said.

“Yeah?” Murphy raised one eyebrow. “Who’re you trying to poison?”

“Not who,” Warwick said. “What.”

“All right,” Murphy said amiably. “What are you trying to poison?”

“Moles. I’ve got an infestation of moles. They’re all over my property, tearing up the lawn.” Warwick stepped over to the fence. “Moles are insects, aren’t they, Tweed?”

Murphy looked surprised. “Insects? Geez, I don’t think so. They’re more like rodents. You know, rats and the like. Or mice, they’re like mice.”

“They’re not insects?”

“I don’t think so but, hey,” Murphy spread his hands, “I could be wrong. They’re a nuisance, I do know that. What makes you believe that you’ve got moles? I haven’t seen any on my side of the fence.”

Warwick looked across at Murphy’s lawn. It was immaculate, not a blemish or an imperfection, not a weed anywhere. It resembled a carpet of green velvet, soft and downy and lush.

 “They’re tunneling all over the place. That’s what moles do. If they aren’t moles, then I don’t know what they are. But this,” Warwick held up the bottle of poison, “this is going to settle their hash. This is going to put an end to ‘em.”

“Let me see that.”

Warwick hesitated. Murphy was just the sort to make a stink over some little thing like a bottle of poison. But it was too late to hide it now, too late to pretend that he was not going to use it. Warwick handed over the bottle. A skull and crossbones was displayed prominently at the top of the label. Underneath, in fine print, were a series of warnings and precautions and, at the bottom, a second skull and crossbones. Murphy started to read the label, his expression growing bleaker and his eyes narrower as he read.

“Jesus!” He looked up. “Where did you get this?”

Warwick smiled. “I got connections. A friend of mine is in the military. I told him that I had a problem and that I needed something strong.”

“Yeah, but ...” Murphy frowned. “This stuff is lethal. It’s not designed for casual application around the house. I mean, the military employs this in active war zones, places where there are no friendlies. I’m not sure but it may even be proscribed by the Geneva Convention.”

Warwick bobbed his head. “Yeah, should do the job all right. The commercial stuff, the stuff they sell at the hardware store, it isn’t worth the time of day. You put it on and all it does is make the moles angry. I know that for a fact because I tried it.”

“Listen, Johnny, you might want to rethink this. You got no idea what you’re doing here. Or what the possible consequences might be. If you got a few moles, well, there are other solutions available. But not this! This is crazy.”

“What’re you worried about, Tweed?” Warwick’s eyes glittered with malice. “You afraid the moles will come over into your yard?”

“I hardly think that’s likely. I’ve never had any moles in my yard. Not once.”

“Well step on over here. I want to show you something. I want to show you what’s going to happen to your yard if I don’t do something about mine.” Murphy rolled his eyes as though humoring a wayward child. He slipped around the end of the fence. “Over here,” Warwick beckoned him. “Step over here.”

“You don’t have to prove anything to me, Johnny. I believe you. Just remember: however bad your problem is it doesn’t justify ...” Murphy stumbled and lurched forward. Both his arms pinwheeled in the air. Suddenly the ground gave way beneath him. He disappeared in the lawn up to his thighs.

“What did I tell you,” Warwick proclaimed triumphantly. “You think a mole that can dig a tunnel like that is going to respond to some wimpy, over-the-counter pesticide? Not a chance. I got to bring in the heavy artillery to deal with these babies.”

“Sweet Jesus, Johnny!” Murphy scrambled up out of the hole. His pant legs were covered with dirt, and his shoes -- he lifted one and examined it in horror -- were coated with a thick, malodorous excretion that resembled roofing tar. “What the heck is going on here?”

“Moles. I already told you. But this time I’m ready for them. This time they’ve met their match.” Warwick slipped his arms through the straps of the pesticide applicator and stood up with the unit mounted on his back.

“My god man, these aren’t moles!” Murphy brushed dirt from his pants, looked around the yard in shock and dismay.  “A whole army of gophers couldn’t do this kind of damage. You’ve got some sort of serious infestation. What, I don’t have any idea. I not only never seen anything like this, I never heard of anything like this.”

“Isn’t that what I been trying to tell you? I was down in my basement the other day and found cracks in the concrete. They’re actually undermining the foundation of my house. That’s how bad it is. But for every problem there’s always a solution.” Warwick waved the wand of the applicator in the air. “That’s what I’ve got right here: the solution. All I got to do is stick this nozzle in one of the tunnels, give the trigger a squeeze and, bang!, it’s lights out. This stuff’ll stop a charging bull elephant in its tracks, bring him to his knees and melt the tusks right off his face. Or so my friend said.”

“Don’t do it, Johnny.” Murphy waved his hands in alarm. “This could set off a chain of events that you got no idea how it would end. I’m telling you, don’t do this.”

“Bah!” Warwick shook his head in dismissal. “What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe I kill a few birds along with the moles. That’s show business.” Warwick stabbed the applicator into the soil. His eyes glittered with relish. “Step on out of the way, Tweed. Cause once I start, there’s nothing but the wrath of God Almighty Himself going to stand between me and destroying every last one of these little bastids.”

“This is a mistake.” Murphy picked his way across the lawn like a man navigating a minefield. “Please listen to me. If you were to stop and examine the matter, I’m sure you’d change your mind.”

Warwick flashed a crooked grin. “I thought you was on my side, Tweed. I thought you was one of the good guys. Why take the part of the moles?” And he squeezed the trigger.

There was an instant of absolute stillness and silence, as though time itself had paused, poised upon some awful threshold. 

“Johnny?” Murphy’s voice was barely audible, even in the silence. A tremor passed through the earth. Leaves drifted down from the trees overhead, “Johnny, I think ...” A mound of earth sprouted upwards, like a dimple hammered in a sheet of copper. There was a flurry of agitation just beneath the surface, an ominous thumping sound that gathered volume and speed. “I think we ought to consider getting out of here.” The dimple exploded outwards, and something began burrowing through the earth, its line of pursuit heading straight for Tweed Murphy.

Murphy stood frozen for an instant, his face fixed in an expression of outright disbelief. Then he began to run. He ran looking back over his shoulder, arms stretched out in front of him, legs pumping as fast as he could manage. He resembled a cartoon character.

“Bring him over this way, Tweed,” Warwick called out. “Steer him over toward me.”

Murphy zigged first one way, then the other. The creature behind him mimicked his movements, gaining ground. “This way, Tweed,” Warwick called. “Bring him this way.” Warwick waved the wand in the air. “All you got to do is bring him to me.”

The words finally seemed to register. Murphy shifted direction once again, feinted to his left, and headed straight toward Warwick. The ground behind him heaved and bucked. Warwick readied himself. Murphy went sprinting past, face flushed, and vaulted the fence like a track star, never breaking stride. He raced across the carpet of grass into his own house.

Warwick slammed the wand into the tunnel, began squeezing out poison, giving it everything he had. The earth split apart with a roar, dirt geysering up into the air. An enormous length of pale, segmented flesh breached the surface, bristling with hundreds of tiny legs. The creature thrashed from side to side, tormented by the poison, then turned and dove downwards again, burrowing under Murphy’s yard and, finally, his house. The house began to buckle and collapse. The roof disappeared, then the upper story and lastly the ground floor The wooden struts jutted out of the rubble like splinters of bone. The earth heaved one final time, an agonized, desperate lurch upwards, then lay still.

Warwick walked over to the pile of rubble. He peered beneath the shattered drywall. “Tweed? You in there?”

There was a hissing noise of anger and protest. A sheet of drywall shifted, slid backwards and a thin, dust-coated figure crawled forth on hands and knees.

“You ... It ... My...” Murphy spluttered, inarticulate with rage. His eyes were immense dark circles in his face, which looked as though it had been dipped in flour. “I ...You ...”

“I think I got him, Tweed,” Warwick proclaimed with satisfaction. “He didn’t go down without a fight, but that last dose appears to have done him in. That was perfect the way you decoyed him over here. I never would have thought of that.” Murphy made a high-pitched gurgling sound in his throat.

“The only trouble,” Warwick cast a worried look back over his shoulder, “is that I’m certain there are a couple more left. Once they get in your lawn, it’s hell to pay to get rid of them. But there’s no point in leaving the job half done. I just got to make up another batch of poison, and then we’ll have another go at them. You up for that?” Murphy shuffled forward, his hands pawing at the air as though he could hardly wait to begin.

“Next time, maybe, I’ll get some shoulder-fired missiles from my friend. Imagine that, Tweed! Isn’t any law on the books says that lawn care can’t be fun, is there?”



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