Bartholomew was escorted to a room where Uncle Jeffrey and Aunt Josephine were waiting. Aunt Josephine rushed to Bartholomew and gave him a big hug.
“We're so sorry we didn't get home sooner. We just feel awful that you stayed in here for three days. If we had known we would have rushed down here immediately,” apologized Aunt Josephine.
“Yes, we heard your message as we were heading home this morning. We're sorry,” said Uncle Jeffrey. “We turn off our phones when we get to the cabin. I guess we should leave one on or check one regularly. We're very sorry.”
Bartholomew didn't care about their reasons, he was just thankful that they were there at last and could help straighten everything out.
“Will you explain to them that I wasn't growing the marijuana?!” pleaded Bartholomew.
“We already have,” said Uncle Jeffrey. “We told them that Mr. McBarden was growing it and that the rest of us had no idea. They said that you had just discovered the ma... marijuana just before they got there.”
“It’s true!” confirmed Bartholomew, “I had just gathered one stem and was going to wait until you got home to figure out what to do. I didn't know how to handle something like that.”
“I would have just called the police,” interjected Aunt Josephine.
“But Mr. McBarden is my neighbor,” said Bartholomew. “Perhaps we should have talked to him and asked him to get rid of it. If he didn't, then we could have called the cops.”
“I have to agree with Aunt Josephine,” responded Uncle Jeffrey. “When it comes to breaking the law, you should just call the police and let them deal with it. After all, what has Mr. McBarden done? Nothing! He is home all the time and he must have seen what happened. Has he come down here to help you out? No. Now we know why he was so protective of his plot.”
Bartholomew squirmed a little. He liked to give people a chance. “So you don't think confronting Mr. McBarden would do any good?” he asked.
“Bartholomew,” Uncle Jeffrey said very sternly, “did Mr. McBarden ever check out the property lines and get the okay from the railroad?”
“He said he did. He said everything was fine.”
“That's what he said, but you don't know if he actually did it, do you?”
Suddenly, Bartholomew felt sick in his stomach. When they were starting the garden, Uncle Jeffrey had reminded Bartholomew several times to check on the property lines and utilities. Bartholomew wasn't sure how to go about doing this, and he put it off. Then Mr. McBarden assured him that everything was okay. It was Bartholomew's fault that the garden was built on railroad property without permission. He felt like throwing up.
Bartholomew quickly changed the subject. “How are Geraldine and Oliver?” he asked.
“We stopped by your house and fed them. Poor Geraldine had been outside on the stoop waiting for you. She has become so sweet. Oliver was Oliver. He was glad someone was there to give him food. He lectured us for quite awhile. I'm sure he’ll do the same to you when you get home.”
“Well, thank you for taking care of them,” said Bartholomew with relief.
“And Bartholomew,” Uncle Jeffrey added, “you should know that the garden, at least the part on railroad property, has been, uh, removed.”
Bartholomew sat quiet. “You mean Mr. McBarden's marijuana was removed?”
“No, all of the garden on railroad property, more than half the entire garden, was cut down, dug up and sprayed by the railroad company. All the vegetation was left to rot. It looks awful,” Uncle Jeffrey said apologetically.
All that work destroyed? Bartholomew was stunned. He remembered the day he was told his parent's had died. This day was a small echo of that day, Bartholomew had lost something important.
“Can I get out of here?” asked Bartholomew.
“They said it would be a little bit longer, but you should be able to go home with us. They just had to look into a couple of things,” assured Uncle Jeffrey.
The three of them sat in the room together and talked about the garden. They talked about what a great idea it had been and how sad it was to have lost it. By the time the police officer had entered the room to let Bartholomew go home, he was feeling much better about all these unfortunate circumstances.
“Well, you're free to go,” said the officer. “We checked up on this Mr. McBarden character and found out that he had three previous citations for possession of marijuana. So your story checks out and, as I said, you're free to go.”
Bartholomew slumped in his chair with relief.
“Here are your possessions,” said the officer as he placed a tray with a wallet, keys and a comb in front of Bartholomew. “Please make sure everything is there. Here is some paperwork we need you to sign – it's just documentation of your arrest and release. When you are done with this, you can hand the paperwork to the man out front and then you can be on your way. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.” With that, the officer left the room.
Bartholomew scanned the tray and flipped through his wallet to see that everything was there. He signed the papers and he, Uncle Jeffrey and Aunt Josephine headed home.
It was dark when Bartholomew arrived at his house. Geraldine greeted him at the door with some jumps and licks and one slight little hump of the leg. Oliver cooly came running, not wanting to announce his excitement at seeing Bartholomew. The three of them huddled and petted and patted and were happy to be together again. Bartholomew flipped the light on in the kitchen to get them both a treat.
“I am so sorry to have left you alone for three long days. Especially you, Geraldine. I am so sorry you were stuck outside without food.”
“Actually,” purred Oliver, “with her palette she had a veritable smorgasbord at the neighbors garbage can. I, on the other hand, cannot operate a can opener.”
Oliver pounced on the treat Bartholomew offered.
“This was on your door,” said Uncle Jeffrey handing Bartholomew an envelope. It was from the mayor's office. Bartholomew opened the envelope and pulled out a single sheet of paper with the City logo and the name Mayor Dick underneath it and an address for the Office of Licensing and Inspections across the top.
It has come to the attention of the City that you have been practicing urban food production on City property without a license. Pursuant to City policy for Food Production and Vendors of Consumables, you must be in possession of a license to produce and sell food products within city limits. The fact that these products are also produced on City owned property without a variance is not in compliance of city code: statute 23, paragraph 16, section 4a.
In light of these infractions, it is requested that you cease and desist with activities listed above within two weeks of receiving this letter or the City shall pursue appropriate action to end said activities as stated in the City Licensing Response policy, page 142, paragraph 4.
If you have any questions, please go to the City website and print out form 4967-J, fill it out, and submit it to the Department of Licensing and Inspection, City Hall, room 426c+b.
Have a good day, Inspector Richardson
Bartholomew stared at Uncle Jeffrey and Aunt Josephine in bewilderment. Aunt Josephine took the letter from Bartholomew and read it out loud to Uncle Jeffrey. When finished she crinkled up the paper and threw it on the floor and muttered the word “darn.”
“They can't take that garden away from us,” she said defiantly.
“What can we do? We only have two weeks,” protested Bartholomew.
“I don't know what we can do, but we can think of something,” Uncle Jeffrey added a little uncertainly.
Aunt Josephine and Uncle Jeffrey began to discuss possibilities for saving the garden. Bartholomew's mind drifted away from the conversation. It was hopeless. The railroad doesn't want the garden on their property. The city doesn't want the garden on their property. How could they save it?
Bartholomew slid out the front door and walked down to the garden at the end of the block. Geraldine tagged behind. Even in the dark, the destruction looked horrifying. Black massive piles of vegetation, lit by a distant streetlight, lay across the ground. The garden that still remained revealed a trampled silhouette. He sat down on one of the chair-stumps and picked Geraldine up in his arms. Bartholomew stared at the twisted piles of blackness. Geraldine stared at Bartholomew's face.
“You know, Geraldine, this was the best thing I have ever done.” He picked up a tomato near his feet and tossed it into the void.
“I have no idea how to even make a complaint to the city, much less fight them on this. I couldn't even figure out stuff about the property lines. I feel so dumb.”
Geraldine wriggled a bit and then reached up and licked his face. It was kind of slimy, but it made Bartholomew feel better.
“Why am I even here looking at it; I can't see anything. I can't see in the dark. And it will probably look even worse in the light.”
Geraldine snuggled up against his chest and let out a quiet sympathetic whine.
Bartholomew remembered the first time he met his dog. Everyone called her Hump-Pug. It was just after they finished planting the garden. She had come right up to Bartholomew and humped his leg while he was studying Topping’s paint job on his Peugeot. He remembered the crazed look in her eyes as she humped from one person to the next. He remembered her coming around to his house and the garden often over the summer. He assumed she was living somewhere along the railroad tracks. He wondered how she had ended up in the tree in his back yard that one day a few weeks ago. He realized that tonight Geraldine was not trying to hump his leg, she was not crazed and desperate. She was comforting him. The garden would soon be gone, but Geraldine was still here. Despite the horrible few days he had had, oddly enough, Bartholomew was ending this day thankful.
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrated by Mark Granlund
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrated by Mark Granlund