The monster in our front yard did not always belong there.

It began as a trivial sprout, blending in perfectly with the nearby grass. My family had imagined it to bloom soon, as spring was in full swing, but nothing was in sight other than flat leaves which poked out at odd angles, and pearl-like seeds which stuck to the stem. But as nimble as its spine had seemed, the plant impressively had enough strength to arch upwards so that its gaze could lock onto our towering human frames.

To us, its small stature was so innocent and welcoming. 

After much debate, we decided that it would not hurt to let some unexpected shrubbery grow in our lawn, as letting it survive required no effort. If it became a bother, we were comforted by the fact that my mother could run its body under lawn mower blades, or my baby brother could suffocate its xylem and phloem until its heartbeat stopped.

So, we let it grow. There were bigger problems to deal with, such as the army of neon dandelions infesting the dead grass, or even the pile of debris left behind by the recently removed deck.

For a long time, we just left it there, barely registering its slowly increasing height. Its nimble stems and drooping leaves were of no threat to us – moreover, we admired how its shape complimented our house so nicely.  It was nice to have something so unexpected to call our own. 

By the end of the summer, however, the plant casted a shadow over our lawn, covering a width greater than any member of my family could. I now found myself staring eye to eye with a plant that bloomed no flowers, held no fruit, and stretched its stature with wide leaves that did nothing but photosynthesize for its benefit – but it still grew without any protest from our household. Why didn’t we bother removing it then? 

¨Its height gives our house privacy,¨ my father boomed. ¨Let it grow a little bit. What is the worst that it can do?¨

¨Keep the plant, Baba,¨ my brother pleaded. He had grown fond of its beauty and growth speed. After only growing bean plants for all of elementary school, this was a nice change for any six-year-old child.

My mother would stare at the plant from time to time. She was hesitant, like me, because it was obvious that this was not something that gave us anything to keep. This unexpected visitor – given its exponential growth over the summer – could cause problems in the long run.

“Let’s give it the winter,” she finally declared. ¨We will figure out what to do with it then.¨ It was clear that she did not want to do that, but was she going to make a fuss about something so trivial?

So, we let it grow. There were bigger problems to deal with, such as the oncoming snow, and back to school shopping that we left till the last minute.

Over the winter, the plant remained stagnant. Its leaves had already fallen off and we were secretly hoping that it would die off on its own. However, the plant endured the harsh winds of Calgary Alberta, seemingly untouched by the months and months of snow and slush.

The dirt was still wet, however. With some effort, my father and I could have torn it off of its roots and sent it away from our lives through the convenience of the green cart. It was still extractable, like one of those pesky dandelions that pop up in every corner possible. But, yet again, we let the ground dry up and hold the weed in place.

Over the months, it went from ¨the plant¨ to ¨the weed¨. No longer was it an innocent shrub that could be stamped out with a toddler’s foot. By mid-summer, it came to half the height of our two-story house and trailed into our neighbor´s connected lawn. We bought shears to cut off the thin and green stems that were getting out of hand but were unable to reach the top leaves, which grew on without restraint.

We had no choice but to let it grow, and by then this was the biggest problem that we had to deal with.

Because that is what happens when unexpected things in our lives – good or bad – are given freedom. They grow within the facets of our being, recklessly coming to define the way that others perceive us. Numerous times, we caught our neighbors staring at the ugly parasite, guests craning their necks up to attempt to make eye contact with the beast, judging our character by the gnarly nature of our manifestation of neglect.

Our attempts at cutting it from its original stem were futile; the frail stem was now a thick stalk of wood, so large that my brother’s hands could no longer grasp around it. Worse, the ground was too dry to pull it out anymore, and, without hope, we watched it dominate our lawn like a menacing creature.

We stopped keeping track of its growth after that. Years and years passed, as we helplessly cut off what our arms could reach, stopping just when the shears could no longer penetrate the wood. It was utterly disgusting now, something we just wanted to rip off of our lawn, but no matter how far we arched our neck backwards, the parasite refused to stop reaching for our roof.

The weed went from an unexpected guest to an unwelcome family member. We could no longer ignore its presence when its shadow cast into our bedrooms when the full moon shone brightly. We could no longer control its clones that grew on top of each other and parasitically fed off of the nutrients in the nearby grass, making them the deep brown of decay. We could no longer pretend that it wasn’t a part of our life. 


My mother and I were doing yard work the other day. We stared at our seven-foot family member with more exhaustion than menace.

¨Bring the shears,¨ she sighed.

We, again, cut the limp stems off, silently feeling the regret of letting it grow all these years.

¨Here try this one,¨ my mother pointed at a thicker stock that protruded out at an odd angle. The blade clamped around it, and I had to put pressure on it for a few seconds before it snapped off, landing with a thud on the cracked dirt. I clenched and unclenched my fingers, looking for the next target to pursue.

Slowly, we started targeting the thicker stems, using the sheer force of our will to snap them off of their feeding spot. My shoulders seared with pain, but I kept going, knowing that this summer I would not let it grow anymore.

Click, click, click, was all we heard for two hours while the sun beat down on or fatigued bodies. It felt nice to have more progress than usual on the parasite, which somewhat fueled our anger to finish this thing for good. My mother would pull down on the large stems so that I could cut the thinner ones growing out of it. Gritting my teeth, I willed for the thicker ones to snap, but we sometimes had to cut them off halfway and then pry at the tissue inside until it detached.

My mother pushed at the original stock, the one that started this mess in the first place. 

An ear-splitting snap echoed across my street and when I looked down, the trunk detached from the ground and was swinging wildly in my mother’s hands. 

¨Amu!¨ I called out to her, quickly grabbing the mass and thrusting it onto the dirt. We both stared at it in shock, our mouths refusing to close. It was as if duct tape was torn off of our conscious, leaving a beating and confused mind behind. 

Excited, I began to pull at the other stocks, and, to my surprise, two more masses ripped out, carrying a pile of dead grass with it. The long limbs of the parasite were then littered across our front yard, almost looking like mutilation of body parts.

¨See what happens, Amu,¨ I gritted my teeth as another branch came tumbling down, ¨when we let problems grow within us without bothering to get rid of them in the beginning?¨

She looks across at me through the empty holes in spaces left behind from the branches we tore off, ¨You’re right. Look at us,¨ she laughed in such a defeated way, pointing at the crime scene, ¨What do our neighbors think of us now?¨

But, in reality, both of us didn’t really care about what the neighbors thought. The pest that sat atop our lawn like royalty, was dying very very slowly, but surely. In a few months, if we continued to cut off more and more branches every day, it may disappear. It was funny to think that we once thought the plant was meant to be on our lawn, the perfect place for a small plant to grow. 

Negative things are deceptive by nature. The innocence of the tiny plant that won our hearts over ultimately aged and grew stronger than we could have ever imagined – so strong, that its own clones began fighting to suck the nutrients out the soil that it once had all to itself.

Looking back on that joyous day of cutting away at a former companion, I know inside that it is not going away for a while. I can see with my own eyes that it is still there, maybe not growing leaves, but still basking in the sun and waiting until we forget about it again.

But we still blindly hope that the last stock falls over, leaving a crater behind as a parting gift. 

It’s the only thing that the parasite can offer after all these years.  

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