WESTLAND, Mass. For Martha Colburn, summer is the time for her annual “getaway” weekend with girlfriends, even if Crevasse Ranch, her favorite spa, has imposed “social distancing” measures to comply with state health mandates. “I guess that means our lounge chairs will have to be six feet apart,” she says with a laugh. “That won’t get in the way of our drinking.”
*don’t think about dying plants . . . don’t think about dying plants*
But the forty-something housewife had health concerns of a different sort on her mind when she kissed her husband Jim goodbye Monday. “You’ll water my plants while I’m gone, right?” she asked with an upraised eyebrow.
“Absolutely,” Jim said as he took a bite of a cinnamon raisin bagel, making his response difficult to understand.
“Because for some reason whenever I go away they seem to wither and die.”
“Of course I’ll neglect your plants while you’re away.”
“Well, they just like you better, I guess,” Jim said as Martha got in her car for the two-hour drive to western Massachusetts.
“All right,” she yelled as she backed out of her driveway, “but there’d better be something growing when I get back.”
“I’ve got a pansy neglect and abuse in progress at 314 Shimer Road.”
That cheery goodbye masked a clandestine surveillance operation the housewife had put in place with local officials in a desperate attempt to get to the bottom of a problem that has bedeviled her and her friends for years. “We set up hidden cameras and voice activated tape recorders,” says Detective Sergeant Jim Hampy of the Westland Police Department. “Whoever is murdering these poor little green fellows is going to feel the full force of the law coming down hard on ’em–unless they made a significant donation to our fraudulent telemarketing fund-raiser.”
The involvement of local officials allowed Martha to relax with her friends until last night, when she got a text message from Town Hall saying she needed to log-on and identify the perpetrator of a crime-in-progress. She went to the resort’s “business center,” where an assistant connected her to the internet. “What’s going on?” she asked Hampy as she saw a shadowy figure on her front porch, barely visible with the outside light turned off in violation of homeowner association by-laws.
“I’d say this is an inside job,” Hampy replies. “Whoever that guy is, he’s familiar with the surroundings and he’s comfortable–almost brazen–in the liberties he’s taking in that Adirondack chair.”
The low-quality of the video precluded a positive identity until the suspect emitted a belch that sounded all-too-familiar to the co-owner of the unit. “That’s Jim!” Martha exclaimed.
“Okay, good. Why don’t you send him a text ‘reminding’ him to water those . . . what are they . . .”
” . . . at his feet.”
The woman complies, and her husband responds promptly with a “Will do.” Then, in a move that shocks the conscience of both his spouse and the case-hardened law enforcement officer, he pours the dregs of his beer into a flower pot.
“Oh my God!” the wife exclaims, and Hampy responds “We’re on it,” before bawling “Code Red, 314 Shimer Road, copy?” into his dispatcher’s microphone.
“Roger that,” a voice responds, and it is the work of a minute for a SWAT team from the Town’s Department of Public Works to arrive with potting soil and other gardening supplies to effect a dramatic rescue and save the future lives of the endangered perennial.
Last night, after Jim was released into his wife’s custody on his own recognizance, the two returned home and shared an uncomfortable few minutes of silence on their living room couch before Martha could restrain herself no longer.
“I can’t believe what you poured on that poor plant,” she says with disgust.
“It was light beer!”