Friday - Memorial Day Weekend - 2001
Amanda Quale watched as the old man watered his lawn. He usually did it this time in the evening, only watering the places that were brown. It usually took him about a half hour or so.
She looked down at the papers in her hand. Her daughter, Amy's final assignment for her middle school's D.A.R.E. program. It was an essay about the medicinal use of marijuana. Their next door neighbor was the subject of the first two paragraphs. Amanda didn't know much about him. He'd lived here before they moved into the neighborhood. But he was a good neighbor, very helpful and friendly with everyone. He let Amy and her friends swim in his pool most days she was home during the summer. Sometimes Amanda worried about that...
... He lived alone. They didn't communicate much. He had confided in her once, shortly after she moved in... Said he'd lost his wife to cancer a few years back. She shared with him that she was divorced...
... She would always watch out the second story window when Amy and her friends went next door to swim. She always found Luke, that was his name, sitting out in the sun, in plain sight... Like he knew he had to be seen at all times when the girls were over. Well, Amanda wasn't sure of that at all but it sure made her feel better about letting Amy go swimming next door...
... If the essay, her daughter wrote, wasn't true? Then Luke was in for a very unpleasant surprise come Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning next week. The essay described how their next door neighbor smoked marijuana to increase his appetite during his chemotherapy. It was a very well written essay.
But just how does one tell a child that sometimes it's not okay to tell the truth? She was sure Amy believed that nothing would be done to their neighbor next door because he was just treating his cancer and that law passed last year.
Most of the paper dealt with the medicinal uses of marijuana and was quite detailed. Amanda wondered where Amy got all this information? She was pretty sure that D.A.R.E. wouldn't mention it in their curriculum.
Amanda looked up. Luke was gone... The water already dried on the pavement of the driveway. She could always let it go. She didn't owe him anything. After all it was against the law and if he really did have cancer? Well, just like Amy, Amanda believed that the authorities would let it slide.
Shit! He was an old man... Had to be close to sixty. She knew he was a veteran as every Saturday morning he left the house real early, with one of those veteran hats on... Lots of medals and patches on it.
Amanda put Amy's essay down and wandered into the kitchen to fix herself a snack. Her daughter was gone for the weekend... Camping with some friends. Amanda wasn't often able to spend time by herself. Keeping Amy in tow was a full time job beginning at the end of her other full time job. She could never count on the money her ex-husband was supposed to send. Sometimes it came. Sometimes it didn't...
... The tape she rented from Smith's was terrible and she started rewinding it about twenty minutes into the movie. Amanda flipped through the pages of a clothing catalogue until about eight-thirty when she fell asleep on the couch in the front room...
... The figures were all dressed in black with those police helmets on, the ones with the clear plastic face shields. They were creeping by her bedroom window. One of them put his finger to his lips. She was shaking and turned away from the window. She brought her hand to her mouth and bit her knuckle. There were six that she counted and they were all carrying shot guns. She was sure there were others on the other side of his house.
She tried to move toward the phone but felt she was walking through quicksand. The phone seemed to move away from her as she struggled toward it. She tried lunging but to no avail. She could see him being beaten with the butt ends of the shotguns as he confronted his assailants in his hallway. Amanda lunged for the phone again...
... The floor was hard and Amanda's head actually bounced off the carpet before she came awake. She was sweating and confused. For a few moments she didn't have any idea where she was? She truely came conscious with her back against the couch. It was pitch black outside but the lamp on the end table was still burning. She felt stiff as she made her way to the kitchen. The clock on the oven said it was a little after one a.m.
The coke was nice and cold but tasted flat. Amanda wandered back into the den and opened the back door. She laughed thinking of the dream she'd had. She didn't even know his telephone number! She looked over toward his yard and saw the reflection of light from what she figured was his den or front room... Maybe his kitchen?
Luke was up. This was not mere coincidence. It couldn't be?! Maybe he knew? Maybe Amy talked with him about it before she wrote it? Amanda had smoked marijuana before but had lied to her daughter when asked at the begining of the school year. She felt uncomfortable with this course; that prompted this type of parental questioning. What was next? Is Amy going to ask her about her sexual preferences when they come to sex education?
Saturday - Memorial Day Weekend - 2001
The house was dark in front and Amanda almost turned back to head home. Maybe the light in the back was just that... A light on? He'd think she was nuts, waking him at this hour. She smelled hemp on his front porch. Not like he was smoking it but something... She just couldn't finger it... But knew it was hemp.
A light came on inside almost immediately after she knocked on the door. She heard movement and then the front porch light came on. He peeked out the curtains to the right of the door. His smile was full of white teeth.
A moment later the door swung wide open. "And what can I do for you at this hour of the morning, Amanda?"
"I have something you need to read." Amanda didn't know what else to say.
Luke stepped aside and Amanda entered his house for the very first time. There wasn't much furniture in the front room. It appeared he was sleeping on the couch... Sleeping in his clothes... Sweat pants and a "T" shirt. The "T" shirt had a picture of Bill Clinton on it and the words "Inhale to the Chief."
Arriving in the middle of the front room, Amanda turned and handed him the three page essay. Luke looked confused. He gestured toward the couch and then realized that there was bedding all over it. He rushed to gather it up and tossed it on the floor beside the couch.
"Have a seat. What's this about anyway?"
"Just read Amy's essay."
Amanda remained standing but Luke sat after getting through the first couple of paragraphs. He was into page two when Amanda started looking about the front room or den or whatever it was. There were three photographs above the fire place, all framed.
One had to be his wife... An attractive blonde... The picture at least thirty years old... Probably closer to forty. The other two were group photos of a whole bunch of men... Not quite as old as the one of his wife. The men were all uniformed and the pictures weren't very clear. Both were taken with the jungle as a background. The men were heavily armed and smack dab in the middle of the group was a younger Luke, although he looked much older in the photo on the right and there were fewer men in the picture on the right.
Other than the pictures there were no other decorations in the front room. It looked like the dining area was the same. She could just see into it through partially closed french doors. Just a large dining table, covered with butcher paper and a whole bunch of plastic bags. The smell of hemp was very strong. She noticed something scattered all over the butcher paper. She figured it was marijuana but it was really just a guess. She'd only tried it a couple of times. She jumped when he spoke and she felt bad about giving the place a once over.
"This is a particularly fine essay for a fifth grader. She makes a pretty good argument for the medicinal use of marijuana. Is this why you woke me at zero one hundred hours? You think I encouraged her to write this and you're pissed because you think marijuana is the devil's tool!" It wasn't a question.
Before Amanda could form a thought, Luke continued. "Your daughter stumbled on to my marijuana smoking about a year ago. I asked her not to tell you because the fewer who know, the better it is. It became our secret. I hope it goes without saying that I haven't provided any marijuana for Amy to smoke. I haven't and never would. Neither have I promoted the recreational use of marijuana to your daughter and believe me I never would until she was a grown woman and out on her own." He paused for just a moment.
"That's your responsibility... To decide what your daughter should believe or not believe about moral issues... That is, until she's old enough to form her own opinions. Up until then you're the one who should be guiding her. I apologize if I overstepped my bounds but she came up with the topic on her own. I just guided her research. The bibliography states as many anti-drug references as pro-drug references. The conclusions are your daughter's not mine. She's got a good head on her shoulders. I think you've done a fine job raising her, Amanda."
Amanda held up her hands as if she was surrendering, probably more like she'd never even thought to consider he might give or sell her daughter some marijuana. "Do you have cancer?"
.... There is more of this story ...