Maxwell Waters, or “Mac” as the jarhead buddies used to call him, owned the premiere manor in Hacienda Estates, a pleasantly gated community north of San Antonio. Half stone, half stucco, with archways, semi-circle windows, and a clay tiled roof the color of sunset, the house sat on a full acre tract of carpet quality grass that sloped down to a stand of Bald Cypress trees separating the estate from the Guadalupe River. It was, he believed, the iconic symbol of his life—a standing monument to the relentless pursuit of success over the course of forty years.
Mac would be the first to admit success never came easy. Nothing that took decades to achieve could ever be dubbed as simple. If it were so easy, then why did it take so long? No, Max won his success only through a series of hard fought battles, one right on the heels of another it seemed. That was the way, though, and today proved no different.
On this bright Saturday morning, the sun a lonely orb in the sky, Max walked across his stone backyard patio. He was dressed in shorts, a tee-shirt and a pair of sandals. He took one look at his yard and muttered a deep, drawn-out curse.
“Where’d you all come from?” he added.
Recent rains had not only raised the waters beyond the riverbank and into the stand of trees, they also gave more life to his ongoing battle against the weeds. Crabgrass, Pigweed, and Dandelions were just a few of the little mercenaries. They weren’t the worst of the bunch, though. Mac reserved most of his rage against the two weeds that caused him extreme heartburn: Silverleaf Nightshade and Goatheads. The Nightshade was a particularly miserable plant because it's roots corkscrewed into the dirt, making it difficult to yank out by hand (and if a person did so without gloves, the thorns in the stems would give him a bite he wouldn't soon forget). And as far as Mac was concerned, Goatheads were a creation from hell itself—the devil’s scat soiling the landscape. They looked innocent enough, with foliage like palm leaves, but appearances were only a sleight of hand. These plants could produce a fruit that hardened into tacks sharp enough to bring down any unsuspecting barefooted soul.
When Mac took in the weeds and the assault mounting against him, he poured out his coffee and marched into the garage. He grabbed a hoe, a one-gallon pump sprayer, and a thirty-two-ounce soldier of last resort: glyphosate. Very few weeds could stand up against the golden colored agent.
Weeds were like any other obstacle in his life: enemies to be plucked out, torn out, burned out, or otherwise removed. You had to be decisive about it, too; if you weren’t—if you didn’t fully eradicate the problem—the problem would always find the will to regroup, resurge, and retaliate, causing you more of a headache later. Good God, just look at what was happening right now in his own back yard. The commie bastards.
Mac started with the hoe first, hacking away at this and that, knocking down as many of the smaller weeds as he could. For the larger ones, he poured the glyphosate into the tank and filled it up with water. At the backyard, he gripped the handle and hammered down several times on the pump cylinder to build up pressure. Smiling, he turned to spray the first Nightshade he came to, a beast of a plant already standing a foot high, its regal flower opened up like a harlot.
“Here y’are, you little whore,” Mac muttered.
He squeezed the control valve to release a dose of killer spray. The Nightshade flower snapped shut as the poison jetted out from the nozzle. Not sure what he just saw, Mac released the control valve and watched as the Nightshade shook its serpentine head and then hissed at him.
The Nightshade tore itself from the ground and leaped. Mac tried to jump out of its way, but the nasty thing latched onto his leg and drove several spikes into his flesh. He howled in pain and shook his leg, trying to unlatch the demon weed. As he did, a crop of Pigweeds raced toward him like spiders in pursuit of prey. They scaled up his legs, and he dropped the spray tank, his mouth open to scream. No sound came, though; one of the weeds stuffed a spearhead of seeds into his mouth.
In his panic, Mac turned to run. He made it only two feet before he tripped and fell. That’s when the largest Goathead he ever saw whipped back and slung hundreds of spiked nuts at him. They cut through the air like Chinese stars and lodged in his eyes, his cheeks. Mac screamed and tried to rise up on his knees. As he did, he heard the most awful sound. Something was slithering across the grass, getting closer… closer… closer…
“And here is the backyard,” the realtor said. She led Daniel through the gate and across a walkway of decomposed granite and stone. “I know it doesn't look good," she said. "The weeds have kind of overrun the place. With a little imagination, though, you can see the possibilities.”
A young lawyer from San Antonio who liked to investigate everything, Daniel stepped out into the brush and walked toward a lonely topiary tree.
“What happened to the owner?"
“Nobody really knows,” she said. “He just disappeared. After several months without payments, the mortgage company finally foreclosed and here we are.”
Daniel nodded and stared at the topiary tree.
“Such an odd looking thing,” he said. “Almost looks like a man, but not really.”
He looked down, saw a weed, and reached out to grab it. With a firm tug, he pulled it out. The root twitched in the hot air, and that’s when he heard something that sounded like a snake.