Friday, October 14, 2016

The Gardens

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: crash, upheaval, greenery, plant, young, and career. They were submitted by:

I recently had my career plans thrown into upheaval (through my own decision) so I started to write about the progress I've had with that, but then I remembered it's October--the month when my creepiness is openly acceptable. haha. So, I changed my mind at the last minuted and penned a little fiction for today. Hope you enjoy. 


I think the plants at the botanical gardens where I work are taking over. Or at least one type of plant.

I know that sounds crazy which is why I haven’t told anyone and why I’m writing this down. For one, I need to vent without it ending in an involuntary stay in the mental hospital, and for two, I want a record of things just in case something happens to me.

I’ve been working here at the James P. Spooner Memorial Gardens for about 6 months now while I’m kind of in-between careers. I have a bachelor’s in English literature which has proven to be pretty fucking useless unless I want to teach. I tried teaching. I really tried. But, being in a classroom everyday having to read dumb essay after even dumber essay really wore me down, and I couldn’t take it anymore. At the very least, I needed a break. Burnout was getting to be a real problem to the point where I actually told a student of mine in a community college class I was teaching that I didn’t give two shits if they passed or not since it was their parents’ money they were wasting not mine. Probably should have looked into my students beforehand since one of the dudes in the class was the grandson of the mayor. Needless to say, my current break from teaching wasn’t exactly by choice.

For awhile, I didn’t really sweat it. I mean, I’m still young by most people’s standards. I have a lot of good years left, you know? But I didn’t realize how much upheaval that one tiny incident would cause in my life. It really didn’t take too long for me to realize how screwed I was, and I mean that in the worst sense of the word.

I looked for a job for a long time to no avail and ended up having to move back to my hometown to the little apartment above my parents’ garage which, I guess, is better than their basement. They gave me an allowance, as embarrassing as that is, for helping them renovate part of the house. And my sister gave me a little money for helping tutor both her children in reading, grammar, and English which helped. I mean, I love them with every fiber of my being for being willing to help me through this rough patch, but as soon as I heard about this job at the gardens, I jumped on it. I didn’t want to be a burden on the people who loved me most after all, and I figured working in all this greenery would calm some of my anxiety.

I could not have been more wrong.

The first few weeks went by without a hitch. I’m on the plant production and exhibition logistics team taking care of pest control, maintaining environmental conditions in my assigned areas, keeping those areas clean and looking their best, setting up new exhibits etc. There really wasn’t a problem until we started getting ready to put up a Halloween exhibit in September. Over the summer, we all had this bright idea to have a carnivorous plant exhibit for Halloween and decorate it up for a Haunted Horticulture walk that we would open on the weekends for the month of October. If it all went well, it would be an annual thing and be a way to keep profits up after the summer months when they tended to drop (before Christmas light exhibits for the holiday season). So, our team had to work with the botanical scientists to sort out what plants would work together and how to work out the environmental needs for those plants. This one guy (Dan…I never knew his last name) in that department told us he had been working on manipulating the DNA of some of these plants (sundews and Venus fly traps specifically) to make them larger and appear a little more aggressive catching their prey and that he thought he had a way to make them glow in the dark so we could cut down on the nighttime lighting to save shave some off the budget. We would have those types, a few varieties of pitcher plant which always look scary and alien, some bladderworts, and a few butterworts thrown in the mix as well.

If you’re thinking that the whole thing sounds absolutely insane and that of course it would cause problems, you’re smarter than I am. At the time, “more aggressive” and “scarier” were pluses to me. I was absolutely enthralled with the idea of this Halloween walk (Halloween is my absolute, all-time favorite holiday) and wanted to make this the best exhibit the gardens had ever seen. I mean, I was really taking ownership of the thing working after hours and coming up with ideas at home. I felt a spark working on this project that I hadn’t felt for a long damn time teaching. So I completely ignored that nagging little pit in my stomach that told me this was a reallllllly bad idea. Have you ever read that book The Gift of Fear? Listening to those nagging little feelings can save your life. But what I did instead was thoroughly ignore the fact that my life was starting to sound like a B horror movie.

After the meeting, Dan got to work on his creations, and our team started cleaning out the Summer Fun exhibit little by little placing the plants elsewhere in the gardens and selling a few to local nurseries (where we often buy plants as well). We had everything cleaned out by the end of August and closed off that particular part of the gardens to guests so we could begin work on the Haunted walk. We had lots of creepy shit we bought from department stores to help with the décor. The whole thing basically looked like a lab you might find in one of the many rooms at the Addams family mansion. The plan was for one of us was going to dress like a gory mad scientist and a few others were going to be the failed experiments both inside the exhibit for jump scares and leading up to it to increase the ick factor everyone was feeling before going in.

Since mid-September, we have been setting the plants into place and putting on the finishing touches, right? I’ve been staying late every night getting more and more done on top of my daily duties just to make sure it’s perfect. I mean, it’s stressful, but I’ve been happy, and the other guys have noticed how much I’m doing. I’ve gotten a ton of compliments, so it’s all healthy stress. What I’m trying to say is I don’t think it’s the workload or what I’ve been through with the career change that has me paranoid or delusional or any of that shit, and I don’t have any other issues like this anywhere else in life, so it can’t be something like schizophrenia, can it?

Anyway, when I get here in the mornings, I’ve been noticing the plants have grown an absolutely insane amount or are in completely different spots than where we put them. No one really seems to know what’s going on, and Dan has been M.I.A. for several days now. No one can get in touch with him, and no one has seen him since before we moved the last few plants out of his lab. At that point, I was getting a little weirded out, but the other night really made me think something is going on with these plants…

I was working late again and was trying to move a few things around on one end of the exhibit when I heard a crash on the other side. I ran over to look and I saw one of the plants had knocked over the pedestal it was sitting on and was literally hanging from the overhead rafters while simultaneously shoving a bat in its mouth. I swear I heard the thing smack and say mmm-mmm when it was done.

I ran out of there as fast as I could and got into trouble the next day for not closing things down correctly. I blamed it on working too late on the whole project which smoothed things over because how could I tell anyone what I saw without them thinking I’ve lost it? Plus that excuse has kept me from working late. I leave as soon as everyone else does especially since the whole exhibit is pretty much finished. The last couple days have been quieter. I haven’t noticed any of the plants out of place, but the growth is still insane. I don’t know what’s going to happen when the exhibit opens soon and I have to be in there with those things in the shadows… 

If I end up going missing like Dan, I hope someone finds my story and destroys those things before they get anyone else.

Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Southern Belle Charm

Not That Sarah Michelle

Spatulas on Parade

The Bergham Chronicles

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

Confessions of a part time working mom

Never Ever Give Up Hope

On the Border


  1. OK, so how much of that story was made up?
    If you can't use your education for a teaching job, you should try and make money with your writing talent. Horror stories, movie scripts, you get the picture!
    Happy Halloween, Jennyi! 👻

  2. I love what you did with your words. I always enjoying reading what you write. I know when I come to your site it's going to great!