- Proven Adventurer
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Jack didn't like animals. He never had, from a child. Most animals returned the favor, and weren't too thrilled with him, either. It was because he reacted so strongly against the animal, Pharlen always said. They smelled his fear or some rot.
Jack didn't like animals, but even he was beginning to think that his beloved bride was going over the edge. He leaned pragmatically on the split rail fence that separated the house from the garden, Desdenova on his shoulder, Jackie at his knee, and wondered if he shouldn't get the kids inside before their mother went absolutely bonkers. He cleared his throat and said something he never thought he would say.
"Pharl, baby, they're just gophers. It's not like they're these giant tentacled buzz saw toothed anal repressive gothic RhyDin gophers."
Pharlen looked up at Jack's words wide eyed, and he cringed. Once more, she lifted the pathetic carcass of her Lavandula Dentata, waving it at Jack in the kind of fury that he hoped she'd display should someone chew his roots off.
"They KILLED my Lavandula Dentata! It was ten years old! They don't even like lavender, they ate it to be spiteful!"
"Gophers," Jackie noted, impressed at the ire of her mum. Soon, there would be a hunting of these horrible gopher beasts. This was only the mandatory war dance. Jackie clung to her father's knee, envisioning great, slavering, cunning beasts to be battled.
"Honey, I'll buy you another Lavend... Whatever that is," Jack temporized, patting Jackie's head. The kidlet would be disappointed to find that the gophers were rodents no bigger than a .45s magazine.
"It's a lavender bush," Pharlen corrected sourly, "And look what they did to my sage! And the dill! They destroyed my garden!"
"It's early spring, honey, isn't that when you re-plant anyhow?" Jack tried. The glower Pharlen shot back gave him the willies. Well, that clearly wasn't the point.
Dirt flew as Pharlen dug at the holes left throughout the garden plot. The earth sank beneath her at one point, and Jack and Jackie both winced as Pharlen fell face first into the loamy earth.
"Stupid GOPHERS!" Pharlen howled, leaping to her feet and stabbing at the sink hole with the shovels point in a remarkable display of obsession. Jackie's green eyes widened.
"Mummy's mad," she remarked reverently. There would be a gopher hunt the like the world had never seen.
"Stay behind the fence, kiddo, I think mum's gone fishing," Jack grunted uneasily. While he admired Pharlen's over the top behavior, he also had to keep loved ones out of her shovel's reach.
Pharlen abruptly dropped the shovel and stalked to the garden shed. Jack and Jackie craned foreword, tracking the somewhat disheveled albinos progress. Jackie looked up to Jack, confused.
"Just sit tight," Jack grumbled, tugging at his tie. He glanced back at the house, noting that Pharlen's faithful pack sisters were bravely hiding behind the hedges. He stared until all three, nightmare, dog, and cat, miserably came foreword.
That was always cool. As alpha male, Jack could order the hairballs around. He patted Daisy's nose.
"Is she always like this?" he grunted, jerking his head towards the garden shed. As he spoke, Pharlen re-emerged, dragging the hose.
"Dis ain' nuffin. Waits till th' aphids come," Daisy supplied dolefully. Jack frowned faintly. Aphids? He didn't want to know.
"Why didn't you two hunt and kill the stupid gophers?" he demanded of Molly and Dolly. As carnivores, he'd think they'd deal with the pests. Daisy rattled her wings, translating back and forth.
"Dolly dealin' with mice in th' house, an' Molly got no 'scuse."
Molly barked in what sounded like outrage to Jack, and Daisy wickered back, clearly arguing. Jack exhaled.
"Stop it, both of you. In any case, Daisy, you can hunt the stupid things too, right?"
Daisy looked sheepish, a difficult feat for a nightmare.
"Next year, the gophers have priority, okay? She's gonna bust a blood vessel like this..."
Cackling maniacally, Pharlen turned the hose on full blast. While her cackling like that always was a thrill to Jack, he still had to follow the hose's course. She had it shoved into the ground.
Nothing seemed to be happening. Jack glanced to Daisy, who only watched in fixed horrified fascination.
"What is she doing?" Jack finally asked. He hired gardeners to deal with these sorts of things. He had no idea what was going on.
"Floodin' th' holes..." Daisy responded mechanically.
"Does that work?" Jack's brows lifted, impressed with the horrible end his gentle bride had concocted for the gophers.
"No," the nightmare assured him.
A tuft of winter weeds shivered. As Jack stared, snatching Jackie up and stepping back quickly in horror, one of the buck toothed ground demons emerged from the soggy earth, seemingly swimming out of the grass and dirt as easily as the water that bubbled up after it.
Dolly, Molly, and Daisy all tensed to pounce the flushed prey, only to freeze when Pharlen snatched up her shovel and tore across the plot, howling a bloodcurdling war cry. Jack nodded approval. His garden amazon would spatter the gopher.
Or not. Pharlen's foot came down on a water weakened burrow, the ground collapsing under her weight, and fell flat on her face. Silence, but for the distant hiss of the hose pouring gallons of water into the burrows, fell.
Spattered in mud and grass, Pharlen scrambled to her feet, yowling incoherently, and began to slam the shovel in wide arcs against the ground. Either she kept missing, or she was beating the gopher into paste. Jack wasn't sure, but he took another few steps back.
Cursing and snarling under her breath, Pharlen once more abandoned the shovel. She returned to the shed and turned off the water. Dire silence fell.
"What in Sam Hill...?"
Jack jumped, turning at the softly accented voice behind him. He blinked several times as Pharlen's sister Goldie paced to flank him, then shrugged.
"Gophers," he explained. At least, he hoped he was explaining. It seemed that he was, the woman exhaled, shaking her head as she took Jackie from Jack to rest on her hip.
"Ah swears, sometimes, that chile jus' ain' right..."
Pharlen marched back to the field of honor some moments later, carrying what looked something like a small grenade with her. Jack and Goldie exchanged concerned stares, and then both took several steps back.
"Maybe ya'all oughta take th' baby on in...?" Goldie volunteered.
"I would, but I'm kind of afraid of taking my eyes off of Pharl. Here. Take them both in," Jack responded mechanically, passing Desdenova to the woman as well. Jackie started to protest, but closed her mouth and simply clung to her aunt and brother.
Chortling like a demented house sparrow, Pharlen jammed her hand bomb into one of the holes. She hopped back and capered while Jack and Daisy waited for something to explode.
Instead of an explosion... Smoky gas began to escape from several holes in the garden. It looked like any movie set for a bombed out countryside. Jack stared, astounded, watching as Pharlen let out a yowl of dismay. She flailed, running to plug up the holes, albeit belatedly.
Once more, Pharlen bit sod as a sink hole collapsed under her foot. Jack heard Goldie suck in her breath as she rejoined the transfixed observers at the fence.
Furious, Pharlen stalked back to the shed, returning with a can of gasoline. Jack's eyes all but came out of his head.
Before he could so much as sputter out a sentence fragment, Jack watched in horror as Pharlen jammed the spout of the can into another hole.
"Oh, this ain' good..." Goldie muttered.
"I have never been this inappropriately horny before," Jack whispered reverently. Goldie eyed him sidelong and choked on a laugh.
Another gopher escaped the ground, seeming none the worse for the wear. Pharlen snatched up her shovel, and this time, tested the ground for more burrows as she went after the beast.
Not being entirely stupid, the gopher promptly scrambled several feet away before diving back into the dirt. It was only a few yards from the hose still sunk into the earth. Crowing, Pharlen ran for the spigot, turning the water back on full blast.
Muddy water flew as Pharlen commenced to what was surely the largest, messiest whack-a-mole game Jack had ever seen. The worst part was he was pretty sure that Pharlen and her mighty shovel of doom wasn't really hitting anything more than the ground.
Rather taken aback, Goldie stepped a few feet away from Jack, pulling a cigarette from her vest pocket and lighting it. As she shook out the match, she glanced at Jack.
"I think ya'all might wanna call her in, bathe her, an' put her t' bed with a nice sedative..."
"I think you're right," he agreed slowly, "But it's so entrancing to watch..."
"Like watchin' a locomotive accident... Kind of a... terrible grace an' majesty to it all," Goldie nodded, transfixed by the sight before her.
Panting and triumphant, Pharlen stalked to the fence, stumbling in holes from time to time, covered in mud and looking none too sane. She snitched another cigarette from Goldie's pocket, then the box of matches, managing to splatter mud over her sister's neat suit.
"You think I'm crazy, don't you?" she demanded, fumbling a match from the box. She struck it several times before it lit.
"No, darlin', s'perfectly norma' t' go tearin' up yo garden t' gets gopha's," Goldie assured her dryly. Jack cleared his throat.
"If there are any gophers left out there, I'm sure they're packing their bags to leave now. So let's go on in and rest, Pharl," he called soothingly.
Pharlen glowered. They thought she was mad. She could see it in their eyes. They didn't know what evil gophers could wreak upon mankind. She managed to get the cigarette lit and simply dropped the match.
"Oh, all right, but I'm holding you responsible if they come back," she complained.
"Honey, I'll call an exterminator. They'll clear those things out in no time," Jack promised, reaching his hand for her.
Goldie tried to say something, to warn them, something, but could only point. The abandoned match ignited the gasoline floating on the water. First with a faint glow, then with a dull roar, flames tore merrily over the yard.
Pharlen whirled, her jaw hanging open. Jack could only stare.
Moments later, the smoke canister Pharlen had shoved into a den floated up. And exploded.
When the muck stopped falling, Jack just nodded. The flames were going out on their own as the gasoline was exhausted. He exhaled as he went to collect his muddy bride.
"We are getting an exterminator," Jack informed Pharlen as he toted her into the house.
Goldie paused before following the couple. Her eyes narrowed, she adjusted her glasses.
Sitting near the still running hose, a gopher seemed to be staring at her. Goldie backed away, then turned and ran after Jack and Pharlen.
(This is based on a true story. Only the names are changed. )
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