Mr. Sensitive

April 19, 2013

I Just Won the War, Unless I Just Lost It

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 15:49

I opened the pond for the season two weeks ago, and there were two major surprises awaiting me.  The first surprise was that the filtration system worked on the first try; the second surprise was that the thorn forest behind the pond was hiding a large tree growing sideways into my fence.  One surprise was obviously more welcome than the other.

This was a big tree.  I’m talking six inches in diameter at the base—not the sort of flora that could have gone undetected without the assistance of the thorn forest.  Not only did the thorns hide the secret tree, they also pushed it down, channeling it to the side and into the fence.  My first thought: how could the Yard Dominion of the Spiders possibly be behind this dastardly attack on my fence?

My second thought: how could the spiders not be behind it?

We are now three years on from the Great Basement War and the Yard Dominion has had ample time to recover from that historic defeat.  Last summer passed without incident, and the spiders adhered to the 2010 treaty with uncharacteristic zeal (a few kitchen interlopers notwithstanding).  I don’t believe they are aware that their basement hunting privileges will be revoked when the Apple Floor Room is turned into Jenny’s room next summer, and at any rate, the losses should be minimal; after all, their insect prey won’t be welcome in the finished basement any more than they will.

As an aside, I promised Jenny her own room when she turned 13.  She turns 13 next summer.  Holy crap I’m old.

As I said, neither I nor the spiders mounted any major military operations last summer.  I executed my seasonal bleach-blitz in the Apple Floor Room in March, then again in October, both times without encountering notable resistance or inflicting significant casualties.  I even made a show of helping a fairly large web-spinner of the non-widow variety out of a dust pile and into the yard before I unleashed the bleach in October.  I’m not a butcher, regardless of what the Dominion propagandists insist.  Alas, I had no idea that the Dominion had developed the technology to transform trees into living battering-rams.

We are exiting what has doubtless been a deep and difficult winter for the spiders, with overnight freezes continuing well into April.  As a consequence, their customary spring mobilization was delayed, and I was ready to open the pond for the year well before they were ready to defend its approaches.  The pond is positioned in the far southeast corner of the yard, between Jenny’s birth-tree and the furthest point of the fence; it is sovereign Imperial territory, an exclave of the Empire fully encompassed by the Yard Dominion.  The triangle of land between the pond and the fence is covered entirely by massive, thorn-covered blackberry plants—or it was.  The stalks of those plants were as thick as two-thirds of an inch in diameter and as long as twelve feet, easily able to grow over the fence.  The wind blows steadily to the southeast here, and the thorn stalks thus grew away from the pond and into the fence.  When I’ve open the pond each year, I’ve cut back the thorns to create a path for walking around the edge of the pond, but I’ve left the thorn forest alone.  It was when I was clearing the perimeter two weeks ago that I discovered the spiders’ arboreal fence-wrecking apparatus.

Why would the spiders want to knock down my fence?  I don’t know the answer, but my sense of foreboding as I considered the question was answer enough.

The thorn forest was old and formidable.  A thorn stalk is like a stiff, barbed cat-o’-nine-tails; the smaller, more numerous thorns at the end of the stalk hook clothes and skin and pull the dagger-thorns behind them.  These things are nasty, and I’ve long suspected that the capital of the Yard Dominion must lie in the heart of the thorn forest.  I had no desire to enter the forest, and no reason to do so—until this year.

This past Saturday, I prepared a preemptive attack on the secret tree.  I meant to leave most of the forest intact, really I did.  I put on pants for the first time since we went to Jill’s wedding last fall—not suit pants this time, but the camouflage canvas pants I bought at the Dollar General three years ago.  I sharpened my machete and my axe for a solid half-hour.  I double-gloved my rending hand and single-gloved my sword hand.  I attacked from the west.  I was forced to cut down far more of the thorn forest than I’d intended in order to gain access to the tree’s trunk and then to pull its branches from the ensnaring bramble complex.  I forgot sunscreen; an hour passed; I became bewildered.  By the time I’d cut the tree loose and chopped it down, a third of the thorn forest was gone.

And that made it lopsided, which was no good at all.

I decided to even things out, circling around to assail the eastern ramparts.  Another hour passed.  At some point, the thorns made the mistake of slashing my chin and cheek.  What could I do?  I pressed the attack.  After four hours, the secret tree and the entirety of the thorn forest were piled up on the curb in front of the house.  To my amazement, my legs had been protected.  To my chagrin, my arms had been shredded.  I returned to the house, drank a pitcher of water, coated my arms with antiseptic spray, and reflected.  This might work out nicely; I’d wanted to plant a garden with the girls, and the area behind the pond should be an ideal spot.  And yet, something wasn’t right.

I had not seen a single spider.

I don’t know what to make of it, really.  The thorns themselves put up no less resistance than I’d expected, but where were the spiders?  Did they evacuate ahead of the onslaught?  It seems unlikely; they couldn’t have known that I was planning to clear the thorn forest since I wasn’t planning to clear the thorn forest.  Was the forest not the Dominion capital to begin with?  It may not have been the capital, but it was certainly held by the spiders, and held in strength, as recently as last October.  Where did they go?  Why did they leave?

I don’t like it.

It’s possible that the depredations of winter made my preemptive strike extraordinarily effective.  Preemptive strikes can be spectacularly successful; when Israel launched its preemptive attack against the massing forces of the Arab League in 1967, it was able to destroy the Egyptian air force on the ground, achieving such complete air supremacy that it won the subsequent war in just six days.  On the other hand, a preemptive strike that fails to destroy the enemy’s second-strike capability can be tantamount to long, slow suicide—witness the fate of Japan’s nascent Asian empire when the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor missed all three American aircraft carriers.  So I could be Israel, I could be Japan, or I could be Frederick the Great’s Kingdom of Prussia.  Prussia invaded Saxony in 1757, preempting an attack by Saxony’s powerful allies, France and Austria.  What followed was the Seven Years’ War, a conflict which Prussia was able to survive only because of the timely death of Russian Empress Elizabeth.  I’m not trying to slug it out with the spiders for another seven years.

I sure hope I’m Israel.  If not, the Battle of the Thorn Forest will live in infamy.


1 Comment »

  1. You’re a special person.

    Comment by Charlotte — April 22, 2013 @ 15:49 | Reply

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