A thief turns into a gardening apprentice
I raced through the crowded sidewalks, pedaled down alleys, and swerved through the throngs of people, yanking the handlebars as fast as I could. Behind me I heard people yelling.
I was far ahead but the police were joining the chase and the overload of people would surely catch up when I got tired. Suddenly, I heard barking behind me, and, as if my luck couldn’t get any worse, a huge German Shepherd was at my side, followed by a poodle and a Chihuahua, and then a whole pack of dogs. It was really hot out and I was sweating, partly from the heat and partly for the fear. Suddenly, a huge bulldog sprinted ahead of the pack and halted right in front of my brand new bike. (It was mine now, since I stole it, right?) I impulsively screeched to a halt and immediately wished I had just kept going. The bulldog barked a couple of times and to my huge surprise, the pack scattered! I just sat there for a moment until I heard the police catching up. I yanked the pedal down hard and the old-fashioned bike hurled forward and I was on my way. Almost instantly, I heard footfalls getting closer and closer. I turned my head around and saw the very same huge bulldog trotting along quickly by my side!
I had been trying to get the dog away from my bike for a while but he wouldn’t budge. I could hear the mob getting closer. I decided to take refuge in hiding. I stole through a couple of backyards and skidded to a halt in front of a tall, brass gateway. I stared at the gates for a couple of seconds before I heard people yelling and the thunderous sound of many citizens running behind me. I dropped my bike, and with the annoying, yet faithful dog by my side, took action.
As I walked through the huge metal gates, I could barely believe my eyes. Or my nose, for that matter. There were hundreds upon thousands of unimaginably beautiful flowers, bushes, and trees. A slight breeze carried the beautiful scent of flowers laden with pollen throughout the garden. There were stepping-stones that wound, snake-like the garden. They were safe harbors under my toes, keeping me from accidentally stepping on delicate flowers. They felt hard, but friendly under my feet, as if the were made especially for me. The flowers made an amazing pattern that wasn't really a pattern as much as collage of color.
Usually in the summer you don't take in the humming of the cicadas, the chirping of the birds, and the buzzing of the bees. Today was different. That summer sound was so conspicuous, so penetrating, that it was hard not to notice. I couldn't help but run my fingertips lightly over the delicate buds and petals, making the plants sway.
I decided to take a break from bicycling. Usually when I'm running away from the police, I definitely don't stop running, or in this case, biking until I get back to the rest of the gang. For some reason though, today was different. Maybe it was the overly loud "summer sound" or maybe it was just that today I had biked extra hard; but whatever the reason, I sat down hard in the middle of the gorgeous garden, underneath the shade of a huge, smiling oak tree, surrounded by the silence and the heat, and I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
But my nap didn't last long. I heard angry voices and I was roughly shaken awake.
"Hey, boy, get up! You goin' ta jail."
"Yeah, kid, wake up. You in big doo-doo."
I jumped up immediately and pressed myself against the oak. I had been so stupid! I had fallen asleep in a completely obvious place and not even locked the gate behind me, and now I was caught. Doomed. Then I heard a voice.
“He's with me.” a wrinkled, but strong-looking old woman walked briskly up the path, pushed her way through the mumbling crowd, and marched up to the chief of police.
“What?” another police officer had spoken and was looking very confused.
“ I said, you fool, 'He's with ME,’” the woman said, emphasizing the ME.
The second police stepped back, looking abash.
“ Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to continue gardening in peace. Good day.” the woman seized me by the shoulders and steered me into the cottage on the left of the garden. I was shocked. Why was this strange old woman bothering to rescue me if it would probably get her in trouble?
When the huge mob had left and the last witness had trickled away, the old woman turned to me and said sharply,
“Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to know why I rescued you from that completely UNRULY group of idiots.”
“I don't know,” I said, completely confused. How was I supposed to explain the actions of an old lady?
“Well, if you don't have a reason for me rescuing you, I'll just call the police and you will be gone.”
I started to realize where this was going.
“Oh, I see what you mean,” I said, as politely as I could, “ Well, I can work, for one, and I can run errands, and I just love your garden.” I said, trying to get on this strangers good side.
“Oh, don't try to soften me up,” the woman snarled, “ But if you really can do all those things, then I guess I'll keep you. My name is Rosemary. You can start by bringing all of those bags of compost to the back vegetable garden.” she pointed to a huge pile of 20 pound bags, and then vaguely towards a fenced in area in the back of her perfect yard. She started towards a freshly tilled area in the middle of all her gardens, but I shouted,
She turned around.
“My name is Time cuz I'm always on time in the gangs.”
“How do you spell it?” she belted back.
“Well, from now on, you spell it T-H-Y-M-E. Got it?”
I nodded, wondering why she had changed it, then wheeled and walked quickly towards the compost pile. I was happy yet at the same time kind of nervous. There were no more leaders, no more gangs, no more hard work, and most importantly, no more stealing, but I was a little afraid that the leader of the gang I had joined six months ago would try to come and find me. This fear left me after a while.
But over the next few days, I had been finding it hard not to steal. I had collected a spade, a hoe, a hand shovel and many seed packets just because it looked like a challenge to try to swipe it. I guess it had been such a habit to steal that I couldn't help myself anymore.
Rosemary had been teaching me all she knew about gardening and she said often that I was catching on quickly. I was having the most fun I had had since I could remember, but it was hard work. I loved to care for the bushes, trimming, weeding, and watering, but most of the bushes had sharp thorns or even sharper-tempered bugs. I had an uncountable number of large scratches when I came in from weeding the raspberries and I itch all night after the horrible day when I had to weed the buckthorn and thistles out from the patch of strawberries. There was no shortage of water but it was just the right heat so that the weeds wouldn't leave and the plants wouldn't stay. I carried gallon after gallon to each plant, bush, and tree. I was very close to quitting each night but I knew that if I just once complained I would be kicked out faster than you could say carrots and beets.
That annoying bulldog that chased away all the dogs the first day I met Rosemary still wouldn’t leave me alone and had gotten many hard whacks on the rump from Rosemary for stepping on her plants. I had begged her day after day to let me keep the big dog; he had become almost like a friend to me now and I had named him Buckthorn. She finally gave in under two conditions. He had to stay indoors when we couldn’t watch him and I had to be responsible for his food. I quickly agreed. Something very positive about Buckthorn staying with me that Rosemary could enjoy too was that I spent so much time caring for and playing with Buckthorn that I didn't have any time to steal! It 's kind of weird but it works just as effectively as a shiny toy does with a baby.
It was nighttime two days later and I was taking a big risk. Such a big risk that if I were caught, I would surely be kicked out. I had decided to clear the place with the frowning, tangled weeds behind Rosemary's shed and plant my own garden. After it looked beautiful, just like Rosemary's garden, I would reveal it to her and earn a permanent spot in her household. (And then I would give back all the stuff I had stolen.
“Buckthorn, c’mere boy,” I whispered into the night. The only answers I got were heavy snores from kitchen.
“Traitor!” I whispered fiercely but he didn’t stir. I left without him.
I started to hoe the ground, but bad luck struck right away. I hit a rocky area in the earth about 3 inches down. The metal hoe against the rocks made a horrible screeching sound. I stopped after I felt the first rock, but before I could hide or run, Rosemary came bolting out of the house with her hair perched comically on top of her head and grabbed me roughly by the shoulders.
“What,” She yelled, “do you think your doing!? And where did you get all those gardening tools?!”
Then before I could answer she said, “Never mind. Just drop everything that you’ve stolen and get out of here! Shoo! Out!” and she slapped me hard as I ran away.
I cried as I ran, shocked, but I wasn’t very far when I very faintly heard Rosemary’s voice behind me. I turned back, expecting her to invite me back. I half got my wish. She was calling me back to the cottage, but definitely not the way I had hoped. She had decided that maybe she would get credit if she turned me in herself. She was bringing me to the police.
A week later, though, I was back with Rosemary and she wasn’t happy with the new arrangement. I was in her custody, as the judge put it, and stayed in her custody until they could find a ‘suitable’ home for ‘the poor little orphan-boy’. It turns out that the police knew about the gang that I was in and they had been keeping an eye on it for a while. They hadn’t found it a threat because the orphan boys I used to live with were just kids. Also, the police knew where our hiding place for all the things we had stolen was and they could return the items easily.
It wasn’t really a whole session in court, just a talk with the police and a judge. The judge wanted to send me to military school but the police suggested (quite slyly, I might mention,) that if it was O.K. with Rosemary, I could stay with her. I think he just wanted me to stay with her so he wouldn’t have to pay to send me away. The judge said he would send us the results to the possibility that I could stay with Rosemary in a few weeks.
I had been trying to get on Rosemary’s ‘good side’ for DAYS but it wasn’t easy. She was acting so hostile towards me that I felt as miserable as when my poor parents had died in a winter storm and the gang had picked me up. I had tried being super nice, really cute and sad looking, and REALLY silly. When I finally did get her to smile, it was because, in my effort to please her, I tripped on all the weeding supplies and fell flat on my face. Those next two weeks were not fun, but they weren’t torture either and eventually, we would get back on speaking terms. I knew it.
How do I know, you ask? Well, I’d tell you all the details, but I have to go. Buckthorn and his bottomless pit of a stomach needs dog food and I need to be on time for dinner with Rosemary. (Also, she needs to open an urgent letter from the judge. Don’t tell her, but I already opened it and believe me, I didn’t regret it! The judge’s answer is YES!