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Seedling by Lene MacLeod

Through the bedroom window I looked out at my back garden. Native grasses and plants grew, a haven for the bees. The edge of my lot met a narrow laneway, and on the other side, in that neighbour’s yard there was a black garbage bag. It moved.

Well, it didn’t move, something inside of it moved. First, I thought it was the wind fluttering the black plastic. It became obvious that was not the case, as a pointed, snout-looking thing poked around. Trying to break free.

It must be a trapped squirrel. They chewed holes in trash bags sometimes, as seen at the curbs on garbage day. This one must have entered in search of a feast and then could not find the exit.

So, who do I call? Should I just go over there and tell the neighbours? I knew the woman there as a bit of an angry type. A ‘mind your own damn business’ type.

With the next frantic movements, the shape seemed bigger. Definitely not a squirrel. Maybe a raccoon? They were a nuisance in the area. I wondered if they had bagged it purposely. Pretty sadistic to let it die that way, suffering. I should call someone. This isn’t right.

Three people walked into the backyard from that house. Good. Now they’ll see the bag and rescue the animal. The couple and their son stood in a line and stared toward the bag. A black dog zoomed out the back door and joined them. The people retreated to the house.

The dog will find it. The dog will sniff and bark and alert people to the trapped animal. The dog will save it!

The dog ran around, did its business, and went back in the house.

What? Any normal dog would have run right to the bag with a fellow live being inside and done…something.

The thing in the bag moved violently now. Shaking its head from side to side and trying to point its snout through the flimsy bag. Not so flimsy, must have been industrial strength.

Then it looked like there were two snouts.

Since there was a dog, I had a terrible thought. What if…inside that bag…were…puppies? How could they have a pet dog, yet do that? They are terrible, terrible people.

I was going to call animal control, but if puppies were being murdered, I would call emergency and get the police over. Those people had to be arrested. Those puppies needed saving.

The movements became frantic again. Now it was one large mass swaying side to side. Not puppies. Okay, raccoon, maybe skunk. Maybe cat? Who do I call?

The teenage boy emerged from the house, and again the dog. This time the dog ran around then did stop at the garbage bag. Finally.

The dog sniffed the bag, which was oddly still, and ran off to do some more business, then return to the boy. They went inside the house again.

Unbelievable. Okay. I’ll just go over there and save the thing myself. I went to the basement to search for thick work gloves. The animal might be wild, vicious. Donning my coat, the one I used for gardening, I went out through my back door – just as a car was pulling out from the laneway garage of that neighbour.

I spotted the dog pressing its nose against the back window of the car. Did they all leave the house?

I grabbed a long, two-pronged fork from the utensil hook on my outdoor grill and crossed the lane. Stepping into their yard, my eyes examined, in rotation, each of the rear-facing windows of their house. No tell-tale curtain movements, or faces peering out. The bagged thing squirmed under the plastic.

“Okay, okay, don’t worry,” I told the thing.

I decided to rip the plastic near the bottom of the bag with the fork. I poked the prongs in and pulled upward. The thing moved slightly. I pulled more, ripping the bag wide open, and out sprung— a fir seedling.

It was a plant after all. I hadn’t noticed much wind during those panicked minutes of watching the ‘animal’ but apparently there had been enough breeze to move the bag and the bent over tree-to-be with its pointy (snout-like) groups of branches. My face felt flushed as I tried to place the remnants of the bag haphazardly over the growth.

Before I even stood upright an elderly woman sprang out of the back door. “What have you done?” she shouted. “Oh, no, no, what have you done?”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I thought I saw—I thought I saw something, and I didn’t mean to rip the bag. I’ll go home and get a new one. A burlap sack might be better.”

She shuffled up to me. “That would be of no use!” she said. “You’ve let it out now, haven’t you? You’ve let it out.”

She glared at me then turned to head back inside.

“Wh-what did I do?”

“The evil. You’ve let the evil out and now we’ll never know where it is. Not until it strikes again, anyway. We had it trapped. It was going to grow inside that tree. We would have chopped it down, destroyed it. But you—”

I stared at her retreating form. She entered the house and slammed the door. Things don’t grow if they are smothered in plastic, I thought. I didn’t know who she was. I didn’t know what to say to the family when they returned with a box labelled ‘mini greenhouse’. What I do know is that I haven’t slept well since that day last week. At night the shadows look a little darker than they had before. The corners of rooms are ominous. I saw the seedling in the middle of the laneway, uprooted and tossed there. That tree never had a chance to grow, but something did. Something dark was growing in the neighbourhood.

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