Off With Their Heads

     Could I be jealous of dandelions?
     Something makes me hate them. Yes, that’s the word – I hate the little bastards.
     That obscene little button in the middle of their cleft, lacerate leaves … how it springs up overnight into a glabrous purple phallus waving over my lawn … their furious rate of reproduction … that taproot of bitter pith.
     Did you know the little bastards can reproduce asexually? The apomictic little s.o.b’s.
     I yank them up in the yard, I yank them up at the Post Office, I yank them up at the bank. The fecund little bastards.
     Jane says I am letting this get out of hand. “They’re good forage,” she says. “You can eat them in salads.”
     As if I would not be the first one she calls the moment someone foraged around here.
     “You eat them,” I say, spearing another of the vile little monsters on my forked dandelion stick – $9.95 at the Ace Hardware, and worth every drachma.
     I liked dandelions when I was a kid. I didn’t know why my dad told me to pull up the pretty yellow flowers by the roots. I blew on the bracts and watched the seeds sail away on the wind. Why does he hate them? I wondered.
     I never found the answer. I don’t know why I hate them now.
     Maybe it’s because they can reproduce after death.
     On Monday I uproot scores of the yellow flowers. On Tuesday they lie dead on the lawn, every one of them turned to seed, blowing onto every square centimeter of grass, or just lying there, germinating, reproducing.
     A single dandelion can produce more than 2,000 seeds, and every one of them will do it again – that’s 4 million offspring in two generations, and every damn one of them in my yard.
     I’ve tried to be reasonable. I read up on dandelions – a flowering aster of the genus Taraxacum. The ugly head of the dandelion – which I hate – is called the clock. A thick copse of clocks can produce – hold on – 97 million new dandelions.
     Their milky sap – which I hate – supposedly can repel mosquitoes, and kill warts without hurting the surrounding skin. Big deal. I could kill a wart.
     The long ugly taproot – which I hate – supposedly can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute. As if anything could substitute for coffee.
     Their bitter leaves – which I hate – supposedly are good to eat in soups and salads – just full of iron and vitamins A and C, the dandelion books assure me.
     Dandelion books are written by communists. I hate them too.
     In many languages the dandelion is called the “piss in bed” plant, because if you eat or drink any of the wonderful concoctions the botanists are so proud of, it makes you – well, figure it out.
     Medieval English peasants called it pissabed; French still call it pissenlit; in Spanish it’s the meacamas; in Italian it’s piscialetto or pisacan, which means “dog piss.”
     I always liked Italians.
     Humans have eaten dandelions throughout recorded history, the botanists tell us. Well, look at recorded history. Thousands of years of one atrocity after another. And through it all, the dandelion has been making people piss in bed.
     Is this supposed to be a recommendation for dandelions?
     Botanists! Bah! Off with their heads.
     Just tell me how to get the damn things off my lawn.
     Botanists say the leaves of the dandelion can be boiled into a tea that is supposed to cure anemia, jaundice and nervousness.
     Well, I tell you what: A dandelion will have to drink an awful lot of tea to keep from being nervous around me.

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