Aphids

Joe and Evan watched their mother through the kitchen window.

“Sucks to be us,” Joe said.

“Dude, sucks worse to be them.”

• • • • •

Audrey was in kill mode. She stood in front of her favorite ‘Buff Beauty’ rose, grasping a small towel in her gloved hand. Aphids swarmed over the buds.

“Die, bloodsucking scum, die.” She plunged the rag into a bucket of suds, grasped the fat rosebuds in her left hand and scrubbed each one. She repeated the process all over the bush, letting out a few wincing screams whenever she got hooked on a thorn. Now she picked up the hose with the high-intensity nozzle, blasting the bushes clean. A few buds were decapitated in the process. Next came ‘Anne Boleyn.’

Pam Wells/The Pullets

• • • • •

“She gonna stay out there until Monday?”

“I don’t know, dude. We’re gonna have to warn dad when he gets home.”

“I called him.”

“Good.”

• • • • •

Audrey was getting almost as wet as the roses but she didn’t care. She was working her way around the yard when Carl drove in. His arms were full of stuff—travel mug, wadded-up sweatshirt, a roll of plans—so he just waved to her and headed into the house.

• • • • •

“Thanks for the heads up,” he said inside. “Where is it?”

“Here,” Evan said, and handed his dad a postcard of the British countryside. “It’s a little smeared. I cleaned off the coffee grounds and tuna gunk.”

Laboring somewhat over the handwriting, Carl read aloud: “Went to see family candle—castle. Lard and lady—Lord and Lady Carew, that’s what we are. Took the grand tour. Tell you all about it when we see you on the ninth, love Jeannie and—” He put down the postcard. “What does she mean, ‘when we see you on the ninth.’ Ninth of what? May? Like, Mother’s Day?”

Joe and Evan shrugged.

“Oh, this is bad,” Carl said.

• • • • •

Audrey paused in her aphid-purge to stretch. She folded over and let her arms hang loosely, feet apart. From this position she could see up the driveway as Danni came rolling down.

“Hi,” Audrey said, straightening up. “Evan’s in the house, if you—”

“I didn’t come to see Evan,” Danni said. “I came to see you. How are you doing?”

Audrey found it easy to answer. “I’m blowing off steam, if you really want to know.”

“Looks like you’re blowing off aphids.”

“Yeah. It’s that time of year.”

Danni seemed to understand. She rolled her wheelchair close to Rosa rugosa and studied the brown and green insects latched onto the tender new growth.

“Aphids are born pregnant,” Danni said.

“Aphids are—what?”

“Born pregnant. It’s called parthenogenesis. They’re almost all female, and they give birth to females who already have embryos growing in their bodies. Grandmother, mother, daughter.”

Audrey aimed the spray at ‘Lucia di Lammermoor.’ “You mean I’m erasing three generations of crazy women all in one shot?”

Danni smiled and manned the hose. Audrey seized the towel for the next round.

The guys came out of the house with a plan but decided this was not the time to implement it.

©2010 Pam Wells

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