The first part of the recognizance was simple: observe Bartholomew and determine when he is at home and when he is in his garden. Mo had done this very carefully, only being seen by Bartholomew four times. The second part of his assignment was to peek into Bartholomew’s house and see if there is anything of value. Mo knew, from overhearing Bartholomew’s conversation, that Bartholomew would not be home that night. This would be the perfect time, he thought, to look in some windows and see what valuables Bartholomew owned.
It was about eight-thirty in the evening when Mo decided to head over to Bartholomew’s place. By the time he arrived it was getting dark. Mo figured he would not be seen by the neighbors. He parked his car two houses down from Bartholomew’s house and, in the cover of dark, he pressed his face against a bedroom window.
Mo hadn’t realized that if he could not be seen at night, he could not see what was in Bartholomew’s house either. Bartholomew, being energy conscious, did not leave his lights on. “Crap!” said Mo who went around the house once just to make sure all the lights were off.
Done with his covert activities for the evening, Mo’s mind drifted to what he really wanted to be doing: gambling, investing in the stock market, stealing money, etc. anything that would make him richer – other than working. Then he wondered if the doors to the house were locked. He checked those. Locked. Perhaps the windows were unlocked. He checked those. Locked.
Mo peered through one more window and saw Hump-Pug blankly staring back at him. For a moment Mo thought he saw something else in the window, something shiny and gold. It took him a moment to realize it was a reflection. He assumed it was from one of his many rings or necklaces or maybe his gold tooth. But the reflection seemed to be something else. He looked behind him at a gigantic old tree in Bartholomew’s back yard. There in the lower branches was a shiny gold object.
He went to the tree. He grabbed hold of the first branch and pulled himself up. It was dark out and Mo was afraid of heights, but he had to see what this was. It was a rather easy tree to climb with branches at even intervals as far up as he could see in the dark. He only had to climb three or four branches before he was at his destination: a small mesh bag of gold pieces. Mo thought that this was an odd, but fortuitous, placement of a bag of gold pieces. There were eight to ten pieces in the bag, which was heavy for its size. Mo unhooked it from the branch and put it in his pocket. “How lucky I am,” he thought.
He started down the tree but caught a glimpse of something else in the corner of his eye. It was another shiny object much bigger and much further up the tree. “Hmmm,” Mo thought, “that one is much higher. I don’t like heights. I better let it go. But… it is much bigger than this little bag in my pocket. It must be worth much more than this.” Because Mo wanted wealth more than anything else, especially wealth that took little effort, Mo climbed on.
The branches were easy to reach until he was about twenty-five feet off the ground. Suddenly, Mo wasn’t sure how to proceed. He made a few attempts at the higher branches, but, being afraid of falling, didn’t try anything difficult. One branch was almost in his grasp. He could touch it with his fingers, feel the ridges of its bark, but couldn’t quite get a hold of it. In the trunk of the tree was a bump, a canker, that if he put his foot on it, maybe he could reach the branch. But it would mean letting go of the tree with both of his hands. He panicked a moment at the thought and held close to the tree.
“Xavier would think I was such a woos for not trying,” thought Mo. “I can do this. I know I can.” Then with all his adrenaline pumping, he stepped on the canker and swung his arms upward. It worked. His hands grabbed around the branch and then he scampered up. “Well, Mo ain’t no woos after all,” he said to an Xavier who wasn’t there. He rested on the branch for a moment and then continued his ascent.
Mo reached the next object a few minutes later. It hung in a large mesh bag tightly tied to a branch. It was impossible to untie the bag from the branch, so Mo pulled the very heavy gold object out of the bag. It was a vest made of gold chainmail. Mo estimated it weighed about forty pounds. “What the heck?” said Mo as he pondered this object being hung so high in the tree. It looked like it was his size, so he wrapped his legs around the branch and he very carefully tried it on. It was a little small and he almost fell when his elbows were stuck in the arm holes. It was so small, in fact, that once he had it on he couldn’t get it off.
“Crap!” said Mo.
Resigned to wearing the golden vest, Mo began to climb down. He went very slowly, worried about the added weight. “How lucky I am,” he thought as he knew the golden vest would be worth a fortune. Then he caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye. It was something a bit higher up in the tree. From the glimmer of moonlight he could see that it was something encrusted with jewels. He could see green sapphires, red rubies and clear bright diamonds – lots of diamonds. This one object alone would be worth more than all the gold Mo had found thus far.
“Crap,” said Mo again, knowing full well that he would climb up to get this fabulous object. He began steady and carefully. The climbing became more difficult as the added weight of the vest was making him tired. He didn’t have far to go when he lost his grip for a moment. But Mo caught himself and continued on.
“Whoa, crap!” said Mo when he finally reached a golden crown completely covered with jewels hanging in a mesh bag. He removed it from the bag and put it on his head. It was just a little too small but there was something magical about this crown. When he put it on his head he felt like a king in his heart. He suddenly felt courage and bravery as he never had before. His mind understood confidence in his ability to make decisions, to discern which sacrifices are necessary and which are not. Mo now knew love of country, love of a people and commitment to his bloodline – his family. A slight breeze came up and Mo grabbed the branch between his legs as it began to sway. The crown slipped from his head.
Just as quickly as Mo had felt all these wonderful feelings, they quickly vanished. There was Mo, alone in the dark swaying in a tree in Bartholomew’s backyard. His life suddenly felt so empty, so shallow and so meaningless compared to the life of a king. This transition happened instantaneously, for the crown had only just slipped from his head. It bounced off his shoulder and out in front of him. That was what Mo wanted most, he wanted to be courageous, brave, true-hearted and loving. It was what he tried to attain his whole life by wearing expensive jewelry and clothes and by acting like he knew everything when actually he knew very little.
The contrast in lives was so sudden and so strong that Mo became desperate for the life he wanted. He reached out with both hands to grab the crown. The weight of his vest was more than he could adjust for and Mo slipped off the branch. As he fell he grabbed the crown. He placed it on his head and held it there as tight as possible. As his body ricocheted off of branches and crashed through leaves… and eventually came to smash into the ground, Mo only experienced the death of a king; noble, full of dignity and beloved.
Having come in the front door that night, Bartholomew did not find the body until the next morning. While eating a grapefruit and leftover polenta cakes, Bartholomew looked out his window and saw the broken body lying under his family tree. He called the police.
By late morning, Gerald, Mo’s father, and Xavier and Khua, Mo’s brothers, had arrived at Bartholomew’s house and identified the body as Mo’s. The police had indicated that, judging from the injuries and leaves and branches found around the body, it appeared Mo had fallen out of the tree and died on impact. Neither Bartholomew nor the police had seen a golden vest, a bag of gold pieces or a crown.
As the police moved the body into an ambulance, Xavier came over to Bartholomew and leaned close to him.
“You did this, didn’t you?” Xavier asked in a quiet voice.
“No!” Bartholomew replied, not believing that Xavier could think such a thing.
“First you mess with my sister, who is now missing. Then you mess with my stuff, which got broken. Then you mess with The Nanny, who starts treating me like crap. Now you messed with my brother and he ends up dead. Is there something you fucking want to tell me?” Xavier asked while bumping into Bartholomew.
“What?” Bartholomew responded at the threading of these separate incidents together.
“You heard me asshole. You want to mess with me? Then quit messing with everything else around me and come and get me. You better do it soon, ‘cuz I’m coming to get you.” With that threat Bartholomew felt a slight stab in his ribs. He moved quickly away from Xavier who had a knife in his hand. He looked down at his shirt and saw a drip of blood. Xavier quickly folded up his knife and slipped it in his pocket. Khua grimaced at Bartholomew, cracked his knuckles and pointed a finger at him. Gerald gazed at Bartholomew with empty souless eyes and an expressionless face. He turned and exited the house. Xavier and Khua followed.
The police left soon after and Bartholomew was alone with Oliver in his lap and Geraldine the pug at his feet. He put his head in his hands and had a long cry._____________________________________
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrated by Meghan Hogan