1st Place, 2017: “Slug City” © Debbie L. Miller, Brooklyn, NY
“Honestly, Marge,” I said into the phone, “I don’t know how I do it. I just have a green thumb, I guess.”
“Well, I do admire your effort. You have achieved an enviable ecological balance.”
“I try,” I said as modestly as I could.
It’s true. I was a gardening genius. Until the slugs came, that is. They ate their way from one side of my garden paradise to the other, spreading their slimy, shimmering snail ooze. I lived in fear of Marge stopping by, unannounced, and finding out what a fraud I was.
I called her back to broach the subject, without mentioning any problem.
“Do you know that Addy has been having a terrible problem with slugs?” I gossiped.
“Well, it doesn’t surprise me. She’s a terrible gardener. No gardener worth her weight in salt would have even one slug in her garden.”
“I know, but if she were to ask for my advice, what would I tell her?”
“Well, I hear that beer works for some people. Of course, I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had slugs in my garden.”
Like hell, she hasn’t.
Determined to get rid of the little darlings, I searched the public library, scouring the shelves for any shred of evidence that slugs could be eradicated or at least persuaded to move across town. But most gardening guides deny their existence. Photos of stocky, slithering slugs don’t sell books. Sex may sell but slugs don’t.
Then I found it, in an obscure, vintage “natural” gardening book: the beer solution. Just set little saucers of beer around your plants and your slug problem will be solved.
Beer? Waste a precious commodity like beer on a pulmonate gastropod? I glanced at my favorite foxglove, as a plump slug scaled its stalk, munching and taunting me. Hmm…it was worth a try. So, that evening, under a full moon, I set out saucers of a sensibly priced brew, strategically scattering them among the snapdragons and sweet william. Then, I went to bed, secure in the knowledge that the little czars would be overthrown by morning.
At dawn, I triumphantly trekked to the garden. The odor assaulted my senses, first. Then I saw them: stinking, stoned slugs submerged in stale brown sludge that was beer only last night.
Suppressing the gag reflex, I carried the saucers to the trash and dumped the goo. Gross, yes, but the slugs were gone, never again to return to my garden of Eden.
The next morning, I sauntered into the garden. The sidewalk was criss-crossed with slime! Shafts of sunlight revealed more slime, smearing the leaves of my prized columbines, dropping off of my bleeding heart blossoms. Two slugs were sunning themselves on the sidewalk, sneering at me. They’d been partying all night, by the looks of it.
I felt something wet and realized I’d stepped on a slug. In my bare feet! I was hopping around the yard on one foot, shaking my leg like a spastic exercise junkie, when my husband leaned out the window.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“It’s a pagan solstice dance,” I answered, adding arm movements to my leg jerks, “to ensure a bountiful harvest.”
“All right, then. Carry on.”
Vowing to get even, I eyed my rivals. “Still here, eh? Well, we’ll see about that!” I hobbled to the car and sped to the nearest gourmet emporium to purchase its most expensive imported beer. This was war.
That night, I set the traps again. If my calculations were correct, this tasty little lager would do the trick.
Next morning, I moseyed on out to the garden. I couldn’t believe my eyes! A veritable “slug fest”! The front yard was covered with slugs, making it impossible to move in any direction without stepping on one. They were crawling up the siding, clinging to the windows, swinging from the eaves. Obviously, the expensive beer had attracted every freeloading slug within a ten-mile radius. They’d spell out “SURRENDER, DEBBIE” in slime in the driveway.
I plopped down on the front steps, too exhausted to continue. Clearly, they weren’t about to leave. I’d have to be the one to compromise. I’d have to share my garden; there was no other way. I guess I could learn to love them. I mean, what’s a little slime among friends? But, what would I tell Marge?
“Okay, you win,” I announced, conceding defeat and vowing to live in peace with my new masters. “But, no more parties!”