Day 228: Mark’s Common Mullein
Mark adjusts again in his squeaky lawn chair. He told himself that he was going to stay outside all day, he at least owes himself that. And damnit, he’s sticking to his guns. Eh. He should’ve brought a lemonade. Or a water. The July sun beams over his head as the humidity from the trees around him make the air thick and dead. He feels like he can almost bite into it. And he tries. It tastes of grass and malaise. While Summers are typically cool in Bloomington, it gets unbearable for a couple weeks out of the year. And in his infinite wisdom, he chose that time to sit in the backyard all day.
He adjusts yet again, trying to get comfortable, when something catches the corner of his eye. Right smack in the middle of the yard sits a green sprout. He had never seen it before, but it looks like it had been there for ages. It’s green hue is just different enough to stick out among the grass. It’s furry tendons look welcoming and menacing all at once. How did this happen? And what is he to do? Maybe if he stared at it long enough, it’ll get scared and retreat back to the earth. Or he can convince himself that it’s just fancy grass. But it just sits there, motionless, not cowering to his glare.
Rick pokes his head over the fence and spots Mark, staring contemptuously at the ground. He considers saying something, but doesn’t want to break his fixation, so he lets himself in. He loudly fumbles with the door latch and clanks his Micheloebs, but Mark doesn’t flinch. He takes a seat next to him.
Whatcha doin out here?
It’s…a…nice day out. Figured I’d sit outside.
Well, it’s not cold, that’s for damn sure. You okay?
Whatcha starin at?
There’s a weed.
You’re growing weed?!?
No. There’s A weed. I’m not growing it. Just happened on it’s own.
He points out the culprit and Rick pretends to inspect it. It looks like a typical weed. So he tells him just that.
It looks like a typical weed.
But how do I get rid of it?
I dunno. A weed whacker?
But then I’d still have to pull the roots out, right?
So I have to go all the way to K-Mart, buy a weed whacker, figure out how to use a weed whacker, whack the weed and then get down on my hands and knees and pull it out with my own two hands?
You got a Micheloeb for me?
They both crack one open. They drink deeply and pensively. Is it worth the hassle? Is it just going to come back? Is it even safe to be outside in this heat? There has to be a better way. This is normal shit that normal people deal with, why would it be this complicated? They sit in silence for a while and then Rick remembers why he came.
Hey, are you watching Concentration?
Am I concentrating on watching, you mean? Yes. Yes I am.
No, Classic Concentration. The game show with the Canadian fella. You watching it today?
Does it look like I plan on it?
Not at the moment. Is it alright if I go in and watch it?
That’s why you came? Why couldn’t you watch it at your house?
My pliers are broke.
What does that have to do with anything?
Can’t change the channel without the pliers.
I don’t have any pliers.
Aw, come on man, you got that beautiful Emerson in there just growing dust!
After further prodding, they head into the house. Mark walks backwards, not letting his eye off the weed and trips on nothing in the process. Rick doesn’t notice. The show starts in a minute.
Mark’s limbs are still sporadically going numb as he makes sandwiches. He definitely pinched a nerve somewhere. Just another casualty of being 30. He doesn’t even look down, spreading mayonnaise every which way. He can’t stop looking out the window. Waiting for something to happen. In a trance, he haphazardly assembles. From the living room, he can hear Rick yell out, trying to solve the puzzle.
Thief! Thief something! Thief…Thiefs and robbers! Thiefs and robbers!
You mean, thieves and robbers. Wait. That’s not a thing.
Mark sets the plates down and carefully lowers himself to the couch. Rick doesn’t even look at the sandwich as he grabs it and starts shoving it down his gullet. They sit there, glazed over in sweat as the puzzle’s answer is revealed.
Spine tingling?!? How the hell did they get that?!?
As soon as he hears the words, Mark feels a numbness in his chest. Unlike anything he’s felt before. It’s not on the inside, but rather at the skin level. He starts sweating harder and goose necking the window. He tries to block it out, maybe make a light conversation.
So what are you up to tonight?
Oh shoot, forgot to tell you, I’m heading to The Dome. I’ve got an extra ticket if you feel like cramming up in the truck.
Who’re they playing?
They any good?
Good enough to play Major League Baseball.
He considers it for a moment. The idea of sitting in an air-conditioned stadium entices him. It could even be a welcome distraction. But every time he thinks about the weed, the numbness in his chest grows deeper. Irrationally, he fears that if he leaves the house, the weed will take over. He can’t let that happen. He may never be able to leave again. He’ll be at the mercy of Rick to bring him groceries and sundries. Snapping out of his trance, he declines the invite, finishes his warm beer and tries his best to participate in the bonus round.
Time passes. Day fades to night. But his fear doesn’t.
He must’ve been staring out the window for hours. Probably since Rick left. The TV loudly plays the Twins game, but it goes in one ear and out the other. It’s mocking him. It knows his weaknesses. Maybe it’s been there since before he lived there. Maybe it’s been there since before he was born. He needs to do something. He needs to mark his territory. The weed isn’t paying rent. He is. Or at least, his parents are. Don Gladden singles down the third base line.
Like The Terminator, Mark stalks through the screen door and into the backyard. The numbness in his chest starts to pulse. It’s a honing beacon. It’s tracking him. Chuck Knoblauch weakly grounds to third, Gladden advances to second. His whole body flares up as he gets down to the ground. He stares at it up close. Stares into its soul. He firmly grabs a bunch of leaves and strangles the life out of it. Kirby Puckett takes ball one. This has to end once and for all. He readies his arm and pulls with all his might. The fuzzy leaves cut up his hand. A small amount of earth comes up with it, but the weed still remains. He howls in anger and frustration. Kirby Puckett hits a single straight down the middle, Gladden scores, it’s a 1-0 ballgame. Relentlessly, he rips away at the lawn until every shred of weed has been uprooted. The numbness subsides, but his whole body tingles. He sits for a moment and breathes in the cool evening air. A dog barks in the distance. All is still. Kent Hrbek grounds into a double play to end the inning.
Mark tries washing his bloody hands, but they’re stained green. Exhausted he lays on the couch with an encyclopedia. Rob Deer hits an absolute moonshot to tie the game. Common Mullien. That’s the name of the weed. The description says nothing about regeneration, but he wonders if the ripped limbs could cause it to regrow. But he’s too exhausted to bother with it tonight. By the time Chili Davis singles down the middle, Mark is fast asleep.
He wakes up in a panic. Must’ve been a bad dream. He gets up, turns off the TV and heads to bed. The cool breeze is gone. The air in the bedroom is stifling, even though the window is wide open. He sprawls out on the sheetless bed and closes his eyes. He can feel the sweat drip down his face. He brushes it off with his hand. To his surprise, the fuzziness is super absorbent.