A Short Story
The grapevine at the side of the house had spiraled out of control, latching onto anything that was momentarily stationary for support. Suddenly, it had the upper hand.
Saturday morning the gardener girded herself with the accouterments of war: gardening gloves, clippers, stout string, worn-out jeans with only one somewhat-indecent hole hidden by the plaid shirt wrapped around her waist, tank top, ponytail and baseball cap. She’d had enough coffee that morning that the blood pumped enthusiastically through her veins.
She approached the side of the house. Across the street, the sun crested the tops of the trees, exposing the breadth of the grapevine’s newly-acquired domain. It stretched for metres. The gardener’s hand twitched, squeezing the clippers closed.
The grapevine flinched.
The gardener’s eyes narrowed.
Slowly, cautiously, the gardener made her way down the path into the heart of the grapevine’s lair. Chipmunks scurried for safer ground. Bees fell silent and stepped back. The sun glared in the sky.
Closer now, the gardener reached out an exploratory hand, feeling the smooth purple stem of the vine as it stretched to reach the fence in order to block the path entirely.
The grapevine took a firmer grip on the hose tap and slid its tendrils deeper under the siding.
The gardener reflected. She was not sure when the grapevine had arrived, or how. It was beautiful, in its own way, with its colourful stems and bold leaves. She’d hoped that it would grow grapes; even if they were not edible to her tastes, the birds would like them. And so she had left it to grow. This was the third year, however, and there had been no grapes.
She began to explore the length of the vines, peering under the leaves and following the maze of tangles.
Then it had her. A quick shift and suddenly a vine wrapped around her wrist. Then another around her ankle. A third reached out for her neck. She pulled, but couldn’t break away.
Her hand was trapped, the secateurs useless.
A swarm of mosquitoes, hidden until then, rose up from the depths of the garden beneath the maple tree and filled the air. Futilely the gardener struggled to get away, using her free hand to slap mosquito after mosquito as they ambushed her, sucking out her lifeblood. One pierced the main artery in her neck, and knew she was done for.
She screamed in frustration and denial, pulling at the god-forsaken tendrils of the demonically possessed vegetation.
A vine snapped. She flew back, crashing to the ground, then lay sprawled against the rough grey surfaces of the path’s stones. She kicked at the vine that held her ankle, realized that the clippers were free and snipped the vine, freeing her leg. She scrambled back out of the vine’s reach, then ran from the pursuing insects.
Safety was found on the deck, and she collapsed into a chair. Her breath came in short, ragged gasps. The swarm of mosquitoes drifted by nonchalantly, glaring at her, off to find other prey.
Slowly, ever so slowly, her pulse calmed and her breathing slowed. She gulped the glass of water she’d left on the table, then sat back to consider her options. The birds resumed singing.
The gardener stared across the yard at the neighbour’s house. A grapevine grew there. Innocuous, well-behaved. It even produced grapes. What was the difference?
Slowly realization crept into the gardener’s mind. They didn’t ruthlessly hack their vine back with abandon. Their vine grew steadily, resolutely, determinedly up the fence and onto a trellis. They cared for it.
The gardener looked at the clippers that lay on the patio table. The shapened blades gleamed. The tool suddenly looked murderous.
When her breathing had returned to normal, she hesitantly returned to the side of the house. The clippers remained on the table. Instead, she carried with her the string and a small trellis made of sticks, holding each before her in a gesture of peace or, at least, of less ill intent.
The grapevine swayed gently in the breeze.
The gardener spent the next hour carefully teasing the tendrils out from under the siding and away from the side door. She unwrapped the vine and rediscovered the location of the faucet. Slowly, respectfully and with great care, she gently maneuvered the vines onto the new trellis. She would have to get an arch or a bigger trellis, she realized, but what she had would do for the moment.
She could feel the tension in the stems as she worked. The vine occasionally quivered, but did not lash out again. Not once did it call out to the insect community to intervene.
Finally it was done.
The gardener stepped back and surveyed the new arrangements.
The vine appeared contented.