Mommy calls him a weed because he is always growing, perpetually wearing shirts with necks too tight and pants that look like capris, but he thinks he is not that tall. After all, that boy in school who has a new girlfriend every week manages to make him feel really puny pretty easily. But he still has to keep telling Mommy that his clothes are too small and must have shrunk. She always sighs and looks at him with weary eyes that call him a weed even when her mouth does not move. Still, when he comes home after school, there are new clothes for him, and Mommy with her tight lips that mean money will be tight for a while, like his old clothes used to be on him.
Daddy comes home that night, and Mommy starts saying something and Daddy yells and then they are both yelling. He does not hear any words, just noise, and it is bad and it is all his fault for growing too fast and all he wants to do is cover his ears and curl up in the corner and rock and rock and just make the yelling stop. He sniffs over his dinner and Daddy turns to him and starts yelling, making sounds like rocks grinding. It is all too loud and it will not stop, and he starts crying. Daddy gets up and hits him and calls him a pest, tells him to stop crying. His tears come faster and it does not work.
He runs up to his bedroom and screams into his pillow, punching it over and over again.
“Why did I cry? Why did I cry?” he scream-whispers, and his throat is sore from the effort of holding it all in. “Hate, hate, hate,” he thinks, not knowing who or what to aim this word at. He punches the pillow again and again, hoping the pain will go away. Nothing happens.
In school, he tries to hide the mark on his face, his head almost completely inside his locker. Then he comes up, the one with a girlfriend every week, and this time no it can’t be but it is, he has his arm around Her. And he wants to scream like he did into his pillow and punch something and kill that awful boy, but he cannot do anything except stand there. He turns back to his locker, but watches them in his mind as they walk down the hall, and he listens as the boy that makes him feel puny tells Her, loud enough so he can hear, “That boy over there, he likes you. Creepy, right?”
She looks around at him and frowns, and all his anger cracks into complete pain. She does not agree or disagree with what was said.
Walking to his class, he is two minutes late and is yelled at in front of the class. He cries and the teacher hates this weakness, hates that now she is turned into the antagonist, so she keeps on yelling and in her voice, he hears Daddy and Mommy and he cries harder and harder. Everybody is staring and thinking that he is a crybaby; a silly, weak person, and he thinks he is too. When the teacher finally stops, he sits down and tries to wipe at his tears and runny nose discreetly, but feels everyone’s eyes on him, especially that one pair of eyes that is making him feel puny and worthless, and now creepy too.
At home he stares at his reflection in the mirror, and then down at the knife in his hands. Every day this has happened to him, abuse and names and pointing fingers and blame. “Weed” echoes in his mind; all he can think of are faceless people hacking away at some tall, ugly plant that no one wants, and spraying it with poison and throwing it away and everyone being happier. He thinks that maybe everyone would be happier if weeds got rid of themselves, if pests destroyed themselves, if creepy people made themselves vanish, and if crybabies drowned themselves in their own tears. Because who wants the worthless trash hanging around, just to take things that the good people need?
“Hate, hate, hate,” he whispers to himself, and now he understands who he hates, and it is himself.
So he plays that he is an exterminator, coming to kill the weed, except the weed is he, and he will never exterminate anything else.