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Read them at The Stranger Looks Back.

Wordless Wednesday


Devil in a Green Dress

(Continued from Lady In Red)

Twenty minutes passed before I realized that she wasn't coming back, that she hadn't gone to the bathroom at all. Torn between the concert I had been looking forward to and the woman I thought I was in love with, I left. I was not at all surprised when I found her at the bar. She was not at all surprised to see me, as though she had left just to make sure I would follow.

It was a week or two later that the cop told me I should go home and forget about her. That I seemed like a bright young man who could do better. That she was nothing but trouble, had been for a while, and so was he. Her ex-boyfriend, that is. Or more accurately, her other boyfriend. When they finally found her hiding in a dresser drawer (no shit), he grabbed a steak knife and started cutting across his forearm. "Rodney," the cop said,"you're doing it wrong. You need to cut here, like this." To my dismay, Rodney dropped the knife.

Fool that I was back then, another couple of weeks later and we were staying up in the country while I drove into the city to work every day. It was at least a week and a half before I found out that another one of her admirers, a moron named Eric, had been sleeping in a shed and visiting her at the house while I was gone during the day. Bigger moron that I was, I gave him  money for the bus and told him to get lost, only to be genuinely surprised that he was still there the next day. This time, I bought the ticket myself and watched him get on the bus.

The great flood ended my daily commute, and with it our stay in the country. When we got back to the city, she went off on her merry way, and I didn't see her again until she showed up at my apartment with Eric and a guy named Vic, whose intent was to rob me, which he did. I remember asking as he drove me to the bank machine, with a bunch of my stuff in the trunk of the stolen car, if he was going to kill me. I don't remember his answer, but I do remember finding myself surprised at how calmly I had asked. Needless to say, he didn't kill me.

Despite his warnings, I did report the crime, and didn't hear from her for another couple of weeks, when she called to say how sorry she was about what had happened. I told her to come over and we would talk about it. When she arrived, my roommate said he had to go to the store, and called the police from a neighbour's, as planned. I have never seen such sad eyes as the ones she looked at me with when they put the handcuffs on her. She had not expected this betrayal.

Of course I felt bad about the whole thing, sure that she hadn't known that Vic was going to rob me. So when the judge at the bail hearing read the usual condition about not communicating with the victim, I asked if that were really necessary. I was posting her bail, after all. At trial, she said that she didn't know that Vic was going to rob me until he did, and then was too scared to do anything other than go along with it. My testimony did not disprove this, and she was given the benefit of reasonable doubt. I left immediately upon hearing the verdict - I had just enough time to run to a nearby store to buy a modest bottle of bubbly and get back to the courthouse to offer it to her and her mother on their way out of the building.

Another couple of weeks later and she stood me up on what was supposed to be a romantic weekend in the country for her birthday. So I went up alone and smoked and drank and smoked some more and spun some vinyl and screamed at my ancestors until I passed out. I woke up with a wicked hangover and a cannabis fog, but something was missing. That uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that had been so familiar to me was gone. I wasn't worried about where she might be, wasn't concerned about who she might be doing, didn't seem to care about her any more at all.

Several months later, she called me out of the blue, and we had that weekend. It wasn't quite romantic; I felt no emotion towards her beyond physical attraction, and there was enough of that on both our parts not to care about anything else. A gentleman never tells, but she was no lady, and I'm okay with saying that we went at it like rabbits for two days until we could barely walk, and then we went at it some more. I never saw her again after that, nor ever wanted to. That weekend alone would have made all the other crap worthwhile if the cat hadn't already done that.

The Gardener

He had never really gotten involved in the affairs of the town. Like Arthur Dent, he was the sort who minded his own business, and left others to mind theirs. In this equation, the town was part of "theirs." Until the town decided how his garden should be displayed. Then it became his business.

At first, he wasn't quite sure what was going on. He thought he might have made an error somewhere, maybe checked the wrong box on a form, and the whole thing was a misunderstanding. He headed out for the repair shops, and happened upon a crowd gathering at City Hall. It seemed that he had made no mistake; a new ordnance had been issued, and a number of other gardeners were in a similar situation.

The crowd demanded that the invisible overlords repeal the ordnance. They circulated petitions. They wrote letters of protest. They demanded answers. They threatened to leave and grow their gardens elsewhere. They ranted and raged. At first, the rent-a-cops that were generally the only visible sign of authority at City Hall didn't know exactly what was going on. They had known about the ordnance, but hadn't expected it to cause some of the problems it did. It became clear that the invisible overlords had made a few mistakes in the drafting of it.

The invisible overlords sent out a couple of emissaries to circulate among the crowd and gather information about these particular problems, something almost unheard of at the time. Eventually, they amended the ordnance to remove the severest of the new restrictions, but said nothing about the rest. His own immediate problems had been resolved, but by then he was already drawn into the fray.

While others left to tend to their own affairs, he stayed with the crowd to protest what he still thought was an injustice, even though it no longer affected him directly. He explained his continued involvement with the old maxim about them having first come for the communists and there eventually being no one left to speak up. He realized that rules concerning the display of gardens was a long way off from the situation that inspired Niemöller's words, but it was a matter of principle.

The most glaring of injustices having been dealt with and the emissaries having left, the rent-a-cops took a marked turn in their dealings with the crowd. Their initial sympathy disappeared, replaced with a hard-line justification of the ordnance. They spoke of limited resources, criticized greed among the gardeners, and made it clear that the ordnance was here to stay. They implied rather than stated that this was the final decision of the invisible overlords, who remained as silent as they were invisible. The rent-a-cops openly invited those who were still upset to uproot their gardens and replant them elsewhere, and many did.

His own fervour had subsided somewhat. Early on, he had left the crowd for a brief period to take a look around the exterior of the fortress that was City Hall. He had come across what appeared to be a back door, and rang the bell. Eventually someone answered, apparently having been awakened from a deep slumber. They knew nothing about the situation or the crowd that was protesting in front of the building; in fact, they knew very little about gardens beyond the fact of their existence.

Nevertheless, they expressed polite interest in his concerns, and promised to pass them on. After another long wait, someone else appeared at the door. This person seemed to be somewhat less somnolent, but almost equally ignorant about issues relating to the display of gardens. They asked him to write a summary that they could pass on to the invisible overlords,  which he promised to do.

He returned to the crowd and began by compiling a list of the various petitions and letters of protest - he thought that surely this would impress the invisible overlords with the gravity of the situation, as well as form the basis of his summary. Having completed this list, he found that he had become weary and could use a short break before writing the requested report.

He wandered into the repair district and helped a few gardeners with some unrelated problems. He strolled through the school district, where he popped into some classes to share some of what he had learned about gardening. He found that he quite enjoyed this, and began to forget all about the ordnance; by this time he had stopped screaming about it and had started to advise other gardeners on how to live with it.

One evening after making the rounds of several classes, he felt a bit tired and thought that a strong coffee would perk him up, and maybe he would get to that report that he was supposed to have written. He headed toward the café district, where he met up with a few other souls wandering around aimlessly. It was a quiet evening during which the coffee that was being offered for consumption was not particularly full-bodied or flavourful.

He began to wonder what he was doing there, and thought that others might be asking themselves the same question. He picked a spot at which he could present this query to passersby. To his surprise, people started to drop in to chat with him. Few actually answered his question, but the conversation was engaging enough for him to stay.

He started visiting many other gardens, and became inspired to grow a second one of his own, which he has found to be quite rejuvenating, even at his age. Sometimes he imagines the flowers in his new garden to represent other gardeners he has met.

He still puts in a hand at the repair shops and wanders into a classroom from time to time, and once in a while he walks past City Hall to see what the issue of the day is. The crowd protesting the ordnance is long gone, its participants having learned to live with what is.

He hasn't been to the back door of the fortress since his initial visit, but he always carries a little map reminding him of where to find it, just in case. And of course, he never did write that report.