EP210: The Hastillan Weed

by Ian Creasey

Narrated by MarBelle

This story originally appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction (February 2006).

“Since we have so many new faces,” I said to the half-dozen volunteers, “I’ll start with a tools talk. Safety points for the spade — the most important is that when you’re digging, you push with the ball of your foot.”

I picked up a spade from the pile, and demonstrated by digging up a bluebell growing by the hedge. From the large bells all round the stem, I knew it was a Spanish bluebell, a garden escape that if left unchecked would hybridise with the natives. Too late now, though. You can tell the British bluebell because the flowers are smaller, deeper blue, and they’re usually
on one side of the stem, so the plant droops under their weight as if bowing down before its foreign conqueror. There’s hardly a wood left in England where you’ll see only native bluebells.

“Or you can use your heel on the spade.” I heaved the invader out of the earth and tossed it aside, knowing it would safely rot. “But you should never press down with the middle of your foot. The bones in the arch are delicate, and you can injure yourself.”

Rated PG for plants with many uses.

Comments (12)

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  1. Divya says:

    Fantastic story. Very well written.

  2. Ken_K says:

    After listening to this podcast I wanted sing Kumbaya at the top of my lungs! Why can’t we all just get along?

  3. Ray says:

    Nice story, well-read, but I would have liked to have heard it before (I hypothesize) the overaggressive silence truncation algorithm wrecked the pacing. The reader didn’t seem to be rushing, yet there were no pauses between lines of dialogue or sections of the story. I felt harried to keep up.

    Still, quality stuff. As an amateur gardener myself, I really enjoyed the plant angle.

  4. Erika says:

    I have to say that as a long time gardener this didn’t feel much like science fiction. I spent the day pulling out dandelions which were introduced for their (now disproved) medicinal properties. I’m sure folks in Australia fighting the tomato frogs would see even less fiction in the story.
    I think though that this is a story that no one listens to unless it’s labeled science fiction, just like the volunteers wouldn’t come out without the draw of an alien. I’m sure if purple loosestrife were a martian introduction they wouldn’t be still selling it in garden centers.

  5. scatterbrain says:

    Ah, brings me back to the days when I raised cactii on the kitchen window…

  6. R2D2Blue says:
    1. Narration-deadpan but good. However the lack of pauses, space or whatever kept bringing me out of the tale.

    2. Short story? I think not.
      All this is preamble. Chapter 1, not a short story.

    3. What happened to reader comments at the end of Escape Pod? That was something I looked forward to every week.

    4. Keep up the good work!

  7. dont know says:

    wow, I think we can all learn a lot from the protagonists’ direct action attitude to the environment and relationships for that matter, great work !!

    also I felt the narration could have had an older voice, but anyway good work.

  8. MasterThief says:

    I had a friend in college whose dad was a diplomat. Yes, that’s what diplomat’s kids do.

  9. Heyes says:

    This story had the feel of an anecdote shared among friends while waiting for the shift to end. It was a good story, written in a way to feel natural. The reader needed to pause at periods, take a breath, and give us a slightly different reading for different voices. I’d to see this as a short film.

  10. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    Perhaps the only thing more boring than spending the day in the hot sun digging up weeds while some git forces hot tea upon you would be listening to a story about digging weeds in the hot sun while some git forced you to drink hot tea.

    The only thing that would have saved this story would have been to have included a long, alphabetical list of different weeds, mention a few more types of birds, and have Frank Key narrate it.

  11. Martin R says:

    OK story, pleasant voice and nice accent, but I agree: [pause] the reader could really improve by learning to use pauses. [pause] “overaggressive silence truncation algorithm”, very well put!

  12. V says:

    Connection between cultures, and connection between the generations, which feels real, as if the author had done many such outings in our world.

    Moved me to tears.