The Wicked Witch of the Garden
I asked my husband to make me something. Something deadly. Something electrical–as in electrocution. A kind of taser only lethal. I am not in the mood to stun or warn or simply stop. I want to kill. This is not my usual pacifist frame of mind. I am no Buddhist, but I really do hate to kill things. In my whole life I have killed only a handful of things larger than a spider or a fly. There were a couple of rattle snakes that were in the lawn when we lived in Eastern Oregon. The dog almost stepped on one and I almost stepped on the other. I apologize to PETA and the environmentalists out there. I’m an animal lover and greenie too, but our neighbors there had three dogs bitten by rattlers, and one had to be euthanized, so the suckers had to go. Off with their heads. Which by the way, if you’ve never witnessed that particular species after decapitation, the mouth still snaps menacingly even when attached to the body by just a string. It’s the stuff of nightmares, believe me.
And for some reason one day at the beach when I was nine or ten, I decided to drop big rocks on several horseshoe crabs. I don’t know why except that maybe I was inspired to do so by a particularly weird kid who lived in our neighborhood who was always killing stuff. He seemed to enjoy it. So I guess I decided to try it. I did not enjoy it except for the briefest time. There was a little bit of a power thrill in killing something as ugly and seemingly useless and creepy as a horseshoe crab. And then there was a big let down. A lot of guilt and a lot of “why the heck did I do that?” I immediately regretted it.
Regret. I hate regret. You only feel it when you’ve already done something you either didn’t know you would regret, or you suspected you might but went ahead and did it anyways, which is the very worst kind. So I live with regret. It’s a fact of life for empathetic people like me. And I regretted killing those crabs. Even if they were hideous creatures.
So I need something that will be an effective killer, but that I won’t regret using. I need to reduce the slug population around here and I’m trying to think of a painless way to kill the little slime balls. I was out salting them a little while ago and it seems like a particularly gory way to get rid of them. They seem to not like it. All that writhing and melting, melting.* “Oh what a world, what a world…Who would have thought a good little girl like you could end my beautiful wickedness”*. It’s agony, I’m telling you. And it is a regretful experience. I don’t do it often. Plus, it’s gross.
There are other ways to go, of course, but I garden organically, and don’t use chemicals, so bait is out. I could get a duck, but I am not good with livestock and the dog might try to eat it and then I might get mad at the dog and blame myself if the little duck dies. There it is again, regret. In the past I have found that garden snakes are wonderful slug eaters, and the more rocks I put around the more snakes lived in the garden, but for whatever reason, they just aren’t all that prolific here, despite the rocks. Not to mention those damn rocks gave me tendonitis in my soldier and a strained psoas muscle. Who knew I even had a psoas muscle?
So I am seriously considering a slug euthanizing tool of some sort. I know my husband could come up with something quick, painless for the patient, and not gross. Something I could use without regret, or at least, without too much regret. I would still be killing something, but how bad could it be, really?…for the slug I mean. One minute, you’re a slippery brown mucous spewing gastropod without a shell munching silently on a tender swiss chard leaf, and the next, ZAP!–escargot!
*The Wizard of Oz: Warner Brothers; 1939