Invasive Species

by Chris Panatier

I keep my lawn clipped. Two inches. Hit it twice a week. Fertilize, water, aerate. Trim, then edge. Anyone who uses those terms interchangeably shouldn’t be trusted with lawn care. Looks great so long as Deb’s kids don’t mess it up.

I’ve got at least two ways to handle pests, each one a hundred percent effective. Fire ants? Poison or diesel. Bagworms? Poison or gasoline. Spiders? You get it. Be God’s creatures in somebody else’s yard.

I’m looking at a hornet’s nest the size of a birthday balloon planted in my fifteen-hundred-dollar black walnut. I’m twenty feet back and the little bastards are already pissed. This is when my lesser neighbors would throw in the towel. Stay on the golf course, Bill, leave this to the professionals.

I drag Deb’s boys over from where they’re playing some game. They were soft when I came along, and so I always make them watch when I’m eradicating. Teach them about life and death. The hard lessons. I approach the nest with a gasoline-filled Starbucks cup. Grande. It’s got a bit of rag stuffed in the hole—a Molotov cocktail for stroller moms. Whatever, it’ll do the job.

I light the end and let it burn for a couple of seconds, then eye the kids. An invasive species comes into the yard, you kill it with fire, got me? They nod, eyes wide. When the flame is just about to the top of the rag, I let fly. Direct hit.

A fireball envelops the nest. Hornets spit out like roman candles, trying to escape but hitting the ground as their wings burn off. Smoke and fire geyser from the front door. The boys try to wander off, but I yank them back close. We finish the job in this family.

The charred hull falls from the branch and crunches in the grass. I have the boys rake it up and bag it. Satisfied, I cross my arms and smile at a job well done. Not in my yard, bugs.


I pull into the drive after a week of sales meetings in Orlando and I can tell immediately that Deb didn’t trim or edge the grass. Jesus Christ, it looks like she mowed it with hair clippers. At least a few dozen bermudagrass runners have already shot over the curb, signaling to the entire world the bunch of slobs that live here. I’ll deal with her later. Sun doesn’t set for another thirty minutes.

I rip off my tie and roll up my sleeves, then top off the fuel in the trimmer. I start along the back wall of the house and move down the fence, pleased with the smooth precision of my line. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the boys in the garage. They’re old enough to do the work, but Deb says it’s too dangerous. No wonder they’re such babies. Good-for-nothings, really.

Peeking from behind the compost pile is what looks like an old, yellowed piece of cardboard. I lean down and yank it free. It’s thick and waxy, and for a moment I’m not sure what it is. A bee shoots out and hits me in the throat. The trimmer clanks on the ground. Fuck, that hurt. Another stings me in the cheek. I swing wildly back.

They pour from behind the pile and the air becomes a vortex of swirling pepper. I’m swarmed over. In my eyes. Earholes. Even as they cover me, I fight the urge to call for help.

I stagger toward where I think the house is, now screaming as every bee in the colony gets his taste. I can’t feel my fingers or ears. Face is numb. I collapse to my knees. For the first time, the thought of dying creeps in. I think about Deb. Wonder how long it will take for her to start fucking Bill once I’m gone. Wonder where the boys will find discipline. God knows they need it.

Suddenly, I’m dowsed. The swarm disperses. Cool liquid soothes my body, salving the thousands of burning wounds. Relief. I cough and sputter, spitting bees from my mouth. And that’s when I taste it.


I peer through my swollen eyelids. The older boy says something.

Kill it with fire.

The younger one strikes a match.

Chris Panatier writes science fiction, horror, and dabbles in nonsensical slipstream. His work has appeared in Ghost Parachute, The Ginger Collect Magazine, Soft Cartel, The Molotov Cocktail, and others. Draws art for metal bands and talks shit at Trump on twitter @chrisjpanatier.
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