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West, United States
I love to hike, bike, ski, run, swim, read, write, teach, learn, experience and enjoy loving others.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tin Soldiers

by Elaine Street

"These sure are cute little lacy plants." the neighbor gushed, and then continued, "What kind are they?"
"Oh, they're Elaine's marijuana plants." mumbled the sweet gray headed lady as she grabbed another towel from her laundry basket to hang on the clothesline.
"Well, did you hear about the little Nielsen girl? Can you imagine, getting married so young?" the jaws yammered. "I'll bet she's pregnant."

* * *

The summer of 1974 was going to go down as one of the most memorable for Elaine. With high school graduation in the next week, she was thinking how each minute had to be lived to its fullest, because who knew what would come next.
"Honk, honk." bellowed a familiar horn.
Elaine glanced up as she was striding toward her tan, Olds 88, bomb in the school parking lot. A deep maroon, Chevy Chevelle 447 cruised up beside her. It was Dennis, her boyfriend of two years. Elaine's parents were not too pleased with their relationship. Dennis' family was okay, but he was not the "church type". Elaine was shocked the first time he asked her out; she didn't think she was his type. Being cute in a “Teddy Bear” sort of way on the outside, he marred is inside by partaking, once in a while, a few illegal substances. Elaine figured that she could "save" him so she accepted. Thoughts of dating someone on the edge intrigued her. The two immediately hit it off and had a blast whenever they were together as long as she saluted his commands.
"Come on. Get in. I've got something to show you," he snapped.
"Okay," said Elaine as she jumped in and slid over by him.
As rubber squealed out of the parking lot, he enlightened her. "You know Randy, the guy taking auto body with me at the Tech? The one with the hopped up Vega. . . ?
She nodded.
"Well, he's going to be in serious trouble if we don't help him. You see Randy kicked his roommate, Greg, out of their house, and Greg is not too happy because he has had to sleep in the Lion's Park the last few weeks."
Dennis went on to explain that Greg was getting even with Randy. For the last two years Greg had grown marijuana around his father's cornfields in Wayne County. Harvesting it before his father caught on, Greg had himself quite a stash, with plenty of seeds for a new batch. He told Dennis that he had planted marijuana seeds all around Randy's rented house in Richfield. Greg knew that the police would bust Randy. What a way to get even!
"The plants are just right for transplanting" Dennis mentioned. "Let's go get some before I tell Randy and he digs them all up."
Elaine had never seen a marijuana plant before. She was curious, but she was also cautious. "You're sure no one knows about this? We won't get caught or anything will we?"
"Oh lighten up. You worry too much."
He pulled his car up in front of the little house. No one was home. Grabbing some paper cups and spoons Dennis had brought, they walked around the house. Sure enough, little marijuana plants were poking their heads up to see the world.
"Come on. Let's hurry!" Dennis commanded, "You dig over there and I'll dig here."
"But I just wanted to watch."
"Hurry. Help me before Randy comes," he ordered her like a four star general.
Snapping to, Elaine quickly and carefully transferred three healthy plants into the paper homes and carted them back to the Chevelle. Setting them on the seat like fragile glass sculptures, she thought, “They are kind of cute. I wonder what they look like when they flower? I wonder if I dare take them home like I would a puppy?” As Dennis got in, she asked, "Now what do we do with them?"
His car motored in a slower than normal motion as they discussed various options. Then it was decided. He would take his home and so would she.
After she got back into her own car, Elaine looked at the frail little specimens. “I've always been able to level with my mom. I'll tell her just what they are and see if she'll let me grow them in the backyard.”
As Elaine pulled up in front of her home, she noticed some young boys playing in the baseball field next to the house. It was Robin and his friend Kelly. The boys were laughing and having fun. Elaine longed to be like them again without the thoughts of graduation and the future lurking in the back of her mind.
Protecting the lacy little foliage from snapping in the breeze, Elaine carried them in the house and explained the situation to her, preoccupied, dinner-cooking, mother. Then added, "I don't care to smoke it. I just want to see if I can grow it and see what it looks like when it flowers."
"Okay. Set them over there on the counter, and help me by putting the dishes on the table for supper."
As Elaine sauntered into the kitchen the next morning, the counter was empty. They were gone. She was a little comforted thinking that her mother had thrown them away, but the back door opened.
"I've found a home for your plants. Come and see!" her mother beamed.
Ambling behind her, Elaine was led to a spot in the backyard. There they were, in the shade of the blossoming cherry tree, lined up like tin soldiers ready to withstand anything.
"Thanks Mom," she swallowed.

* * *

The summer was a busy one. Between teaching swimming lessons and life guarding at the city pool, Elaine didn't have a lot of time for her relationship to grow with Dennis, but her tin soldiers grew taller and wider every day. “I hope we don't get caught,” was always in the back of her mind. “I wonder why Dennis seems so calm about the whole thing? Is he used to this?”

* * *

By the middle of August, white hats were starting to adorn the three- foot tall soldiers.
"That is a dainty little flower," commented her mother.
"Yes, it is. It's toooo bad they won't hold up when it freezes," Elaine came back in a slightly sarcastic way. She was thinking about the added stress because of them and relieved at the thought of frost.
Finally the first of September - - The kids were out of school for Labor Day, the last time the cooling plunge would be open that year. After sitting in the hot sun for what seemed like hours, Elaine was highly contented to get into her tan bomb and propel herself home. As she rounded the corner, a sight made her heart stop. A sheriff's car had stationed itself in front of her home.
"Oh no!”
She whipped past her house and immediately cracked down to Dennis' place.
"Good, he's home," she gasped as she screeched into his driveway.
"Calm down," he said as she told him about the cop car. "If you were in trouble, they would have arrested you at the pool. Now go home and act as if nothing has happened. If they are there to scope out the plants, tell them you didn't know what they were. " Then he ordered her as if he had epaulets on his shoulders, "Don't you dare get me involved with this."
“Hey, weren’t we in this together?” she thought as she dejectedly planted herself back in the bomb.
Summoning up all the acting ability inside, she rehearsed the scene as the bomb coasted around the corner again. The four-wheeled guard was still there keeping watch. Strategically placing the bomb for a quick get-away, Elaine got out and started walking toward her doom.
“Hey, Elaine. Come and pitch some fast ones to us,” yelled a voice from the baseball field.
“Yeah. It’ll be fun,” chirped Robin.
She walked toward them like a prisoner trying to sneak away from work detail, but then she stopped. “What if they come and arrest me in front of the boys?”
Elaine said reluctantly, “Sorry guys. I would love to play with you tomorrow though. Dad showed me a new curve I’d like to try.” Then she mumbled under her breath, “If there is a tomorrow.”
Taking a deep breath as she started to head for her house, Elaine thought, “I can do this.”
Her legs seemed like mushy spaghetti as she wobbled through the front door. Expecting to see a room filled with people, there was no one. All was silent except for her quick breaths. She worked her way out of the back door and heard the endless chatter of people. Just then the aroma of barbecue touched her nostrils. Inching her way along each of the cinder blocks that lined the house, she was able to get view of the crowd. Dad was frying hamburgers on the grill; Mother and two ladies were preparing the picnic table under the cherry tree; another lady was stirring punch; and two men, one of them in a sheriff's uniform, were sitting directly in front of the marijuana soldiers. In fact, as the breeze blew, the soldiers waved fingers across the back of their necks.
Just then Elaine's father noticed her. "Hey come on out here and meet some friends I met in Alcoholics Anonymous." The introductions went on until he said, "And last but not least, is the sheriff in charge of drugs and alcohol, Officer Jensen."
"How are you, young lady?" Urged the officer as he shook her hand. "Won't you come and sit down over here with us and chat a while?"
"Ahhhh. . . no thanks. . . ahhh. . . I've got a date tonight. . . It was nice meeting you though." Elaine murmured as she backed into the house. Her breathing was easier now. In fact, she chuckled. "That guy did look a bit on the senile side. Maybe he's never seen a marijuana plant before."
Just then the phone rang. It was Dennis.
"Is everything okay?" He interrogated.
"It's fine. False alarm. . . I'll see you later on main and explain."

* * *

A few days later, Elaine went home after helping close up the pool. She could hear her mother talking to someone while hanging out clothes. Peering out the window, Elaine noticed that it was “The Mouth,” a nickname her father had given the neighbor lady across the street.
"These sure are cute little lacy plants. . . "
Just then Elaine eyed her three tin soldiers. Her mother had carefully placed them into shiny ceramic homes. They were sitting on the porch exposing themselves to the neighbors.
After “The Mouth” had yammered for a while and gone, Elaine stamped out and demanded, "Mother what were you thinking? Now she'll go all over town spouting out, 'Elaine Breinholt is growing marijuana!' Why did you pot them in the first place? I wanted them to freeze."
"What are you so upset about? They'll make cute house plan. . . you mean they really are marijuana? . . . You're always teasing me. . . Elaine, what am I going to do with you?"
"That does it! I'm getting rid of them once and for all." Gathering the soldiers in her arms, she marched directly to the canal behind her home. Splitting up the ranks, she pitched them in one at a time for a final burial at sea. Watching as each one drew its last breath, Elaine's mind was clear, clearer than it had been in a long time. She was not only getting rid of her three tin soldiers, but also their general.
* * *
“Hey, Elaine are you ready to show us that new curve?” yelled Robin.
“You know it!” She said freely, “Just let me get my mitt.”

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