Nocturnal Animals

Man vs. Boar: A short story where a homeowner takes matters into his own hands in order to protect something near and dear to his heart, his lawn…

by: Ellis Shuman

“They were here last night!”

“After all the work you’ve done. What did they do this time?”

“They dug up the grass, again!”

I led my wife to the backyard where the damage was plain to see: mounds of overturned soil, piles of kicked-up earth where a lawn of thick green grass used to be.

“It’s worse than last time,” she noted.

“Much worse.”

What more could I do? I had installed a chain-link fence around the perimeter, but this hadn’t served as a strong enough barrier. I had reinforced the fence, added additional metal stakes at regular intervals. This did not stop them. I weighed down the fencing and secured the stakes with solid bases. This effort had failed as well.

The culprit was Boars. Wild boars determined to go on a rampage in my garden.

“Strange that they’re only trampling the grass. They never eat the flowers or the bushes.”

“They’re going for water,” I explained. The upturned earth ran in nearly parallel lines above the buried irrigation tubing. Grass destroyed in a surprisingly neat pattern.

“How many are there?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I have never actually seen them.”

We were newcomers to the quiet suburban community west of Jerusalem and had invested a lot of money in our garden. Professional gardeners had cleared the backyard, installed an irrigation system, and planted the greenery. The expense was worth it, we told ourselves. We envisioned sitting under a gazebo while watching the children we would raise run and play on an expansive lawn.

“Look at how beautiful it all is,” I said, shortly after the gardeners finished their job. It had been a wise decision to leave our small, crowded apartment in Tel Aviv. I had my wife to thank for that.

Everything had been going well since we made the move. I didn’t mind my daily commute and my wife worked three days a week as a cashier in a minimarket. She was three months pregnant the morning she found me staring out the window, my mouth open, and my eyes wide with terror.

“What is it?” she asked, and I pointed at the garden.

That was the first time. I wasn’t aware that wild boars could cause so much damage. The animals roamed the nearby hills and forests, I had heard, with no natural predators to keep their population in check. In Israel, boars are a protected species. It is illegal to hunt or kill them. Their middle-of-the-night raids on garbage bins and gardens were becoming much more than just a nuisance. It was driving me mad.

Months later, with my wife at the beginning of her third trimester, I was at wits’ end. Night after night, more boars, more extensive damage. The beasts were circumventing the fence. They were forcing their way through the wire digging under it. All to get to my well-tended, regularly watered, perfectly green lawn.

“Maybe we should have artificial grass instead,” my wife suggested.

“No! I don’t want my children to grow up on fake grass.” I wasn’t going to let a pack of savage animals take my dream away from me.

One morning, as I worked up a sweat packing the grass into place, setting the ground flat and hoping a few extra hours of watering would be enough to get the lawn back in shape, I made a plan. The municipal council wouldn’t help me, the neighbors couldn’t care less, and the fencing didn’t stop the beasts. I would have to do this on my own.

Shortly after midnight, I settled onto my lawn chair near the patio. A light breeze gently swayed the bushes and the night was pleasantly cool. The garden was dark, the wire fence at the end of my property hidden from view. In my hands I held a flashlight, duly tested, and my revered slingshot, the very same slingshot I had used as a young boy to ward off the bullies who ridiculed me in school. The same slingshot I had kept close all these years and rediscovered when we unpacked boxes after our move. The slingshot I would use to protect my house and my family, and now — my green grass.

I must have dozed off because I awoke with a start to strange noises coming from the lawn. I bolted from the chair and dropped my flashlight as I would need both hands free to handle my weapon. My eyes were not yet accustomed to the dark but without thinking I approached the beasts and their frightful sounds: grunting, squealing, clawing at the earth, brushing heavily through the bushes. I heard them to the left of me, and then to my right. I couldn’t see them, only their quickly moving shadows, barely sensed at the edge of my peripheral vision. And then, before I knew what was happening, they had completely surrounded me.

I stood paralyzed in the middle of my lawn amidst a team of snorting boars, adults and piglets, kicking at my legs, thrusting their way past me. Their body heat was intense. Their warm, earthy odor was overpowering. Clouds of dust filled my nostrils and my eyes began to water. I raised my slingshot, but there was no visible target at which to aim. One by one, the animals plowed into me as they searched for an escape from the fenced-off garden. I tried to get out of their way but there was nowhere to go. As the boars circled me in their frenzied stampede, I spun round and round until I fell to the ground and passed out.

 

Ellis Shuman is an American-born Israeli author, travel writer, and book reviewer. His writing has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, The Oslo Times, and The Huffington Post. He is the author of The Virtual Kibbutz, Valley of Thracians, and The Burgas Affair. You can find him at https://ellisshuman.blogspot.com/. Twitter: @ellisshuman.

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