Jonesy drove the John Deere riding lawn mower, pulling his aerator over every square foot of the Martins’ lawn, making sure to treat under the maple tree twice. He’d fitted the aerator with a seed spreader filled with his own recipe for sprite repellent—hexed sand, ground dill seed, and a shredded copy of the New York Times.
When he was finished, Mrs. Martin waited for him in the driveway, her scruffy terrier, Mimsy, on a leash. A tall woman with a pony tail, she wore white slacks, a white blouse, and a yellow sweater.
“That should do it, Mrs. Martin. They won’t be coming around for a while.” Jonesy unhooked the aerator and opened the back of his pickup truck.
“How long will the treatment last?” She scowled at the lawn.
“A few months at least.”
She nodded sternly. “Worth every penny. Nasty little creatures. Let them go bother the Fagans’ yard.”
“Yes. They’re the scourge of the neighborhood and an affront to good taste, constantly littering their place with gaudy decorations. You can’t miss them. They’re the lime green house with the lawn jockeys out front. Lawn jockeys!” She scoffed.
Jonesy chuckled. “Well, the sprites won’t bother you for a while. Mimsy can run around without getting tied up in ivy and covered in tree sap.”
Mrs. Martin’s growl sounded more threatening than Mimsy’s. “Thank you.”
Jonesy handed her a few cards. “Please spread the word. I can’t exactly advertise these services.”
After Jonesy spent the rest of the week ridding a neighborhood of spruce goblins, he received a frantic message from Mrs. Martin.
“Come at once! The property is overrun and they’re getting into the house!”
Jonesy’s sprite repellent had never failed before, so he hurried over with great concern. Had they become resistant?
He pulled into her driveway. Fireflies and grasshoppers swarmed the place—or so he thought. A closer look showed them to be spirea dragons, the occasional bursts of flame a severe hazard.
Mrs. Martin came out of the house completely wrapped in a grey sheet, only her face showing.
“What are these things? Can you get rid of them?”
“Yeah.” Jonesy pulled out his herbicide applicator and filled it with Guinness Stout. “This happens sometimes. Getting rid of the sprites upsets the balance of things a little. They kept these spirea dragons under control.”
Jonesy put on a protective bee suit veil and sprayed the lawn and bushes. The spirea dragons scattered, dropped, and fled.
“That should be good for at least a couple weeks. If they come back, give me a call.”
Another day, another frantic message.
“They’re evil,” she screamed. “They urinated in the bird bath, they ate all my roses, and they…” An uncontrolled sob. “…They said I was an old bat.”
Jonesy knew what they were before he arrived. Seven two-foot gnomes lounged in the front yard, one smearing the words ‘one lone crone’ on the front door with berries, another pulling up the flagstone. Thank goodness they weren’t the three footers. One of them flipped him off when he got out of his truck, and another climbed the maple tree and spat at him.
Jonesy shooed the berry poet away and rang the doorbell. Mrs. Martin opened, blackish bags under her eyes, her hair a mess.
She dropped her head and sobbed. “Please help.”
Jonesy nodded, trying to give her a sympathetic and comforting look. “I was afraid that might happen. The Guiness drives away spirea dragons but attracts gnomes.”
“What can you do?”
“There are only two methods that are really effective against them.” Jonesy put on a very professional and steady tone. These would be hard pills for her to swallow. “You have to completely dig up your entire lawn—trees and all—or you have to put something on your lawn they are extremely afraid of.”
Jonesy saw the hope in her eyes, sorry for what he had to tell her.
“What are they afraid of?”
Mrs. Martin’s mouth fell open, and her eyes went wide. Her lips trembled.
“Tear out the lawn,” she said.
“It could be worse,” Jonesy said. “At least they weren’t nymph trolls.”
“Why? What are they afraid of?”
“Tear it out!” She slammed the door.