Every year she did the same thing: she threw the seeds out in a wild sprawl across the dirt…sun, shade, wild, hybrid…it did not matter. She never ‘nipped them in the bud’ either to make them thicker she just let them grow leggy and tall without rows or design. Before Spring was full; her little yard was wild and high because the apartment people never mowed. She was the only one who liked to see things grow. She lived there a long time, maybe she still lives there but we moved. Most people try to leave that quaint, crumbling and crime infested nest but she liked her little two rooms and her feral cats who ran at her chair every time she went out.
We were a little bit scared of her. Sometimes when she came outside and the tornado storms were moving overhead she would stand straight with her long stick planted firmly in a triangulation while facing east and smile as the rain fell over her and she would speak and suddenly the winds would blow or stop with each word as if she was breathing with the universe.
The only holiday I ever saw her celebrate was Halloween.
We had to leave there because dad lost his job at Wal mart and we could not live there anymore. We had to live at a hotel in an even worse part of town but I remember her clearly. She wore long dresses even in the worst of the summer heat and I met her because of the rocks in her garden.
One day my friends and I decided to steal them and put them in the washing machines in the haunted laundry, (that only worked half the time), for a joke.
“Dustin go get Marianna.”
“She is only ten!”
“Yes but she is bigger and taller than both of us!”
“She HATES us for calling her ‘Fatty fatty two by four can’t get through the bathroom door!”
“Just go ask her. Trust me. I know what I am doing!”
We were standing on the opposite side of the wall, where the lady was often at her computer, and I am pretty sure she heard what we said even through the rock wall. I went upstairs to Marianna’s house and asked her mother if she was home. Her mother was stoned as usual, very obese and wearing very short shorts and a tight T-shirt. I squinted so she blurred because she was scary like the witch lady whose rocks we were going to steal.
“MARIANNA THERE IS A BOY AT THE DOOR FOR YOU!”
Marianna came to the door as her mother rumbled off into the other room. Marianna really wasn’t too bad for a girl. She already had boobs even though she was only ten. Her mother would not let her cut her hair. She was half black and half white and half the white was partly Mexican and if she was a little thinner…she already looked 16….
I shook off the thoughts. I was already 14 and I was STILL shorter than her. She looked at me with dull dislike and for a moment I felt bad about how we treated her. She stood there and said nothing…her mom yelled in the background at her, “If you have a boyfriend don’t be rude let him in! I am going downstairs to see your stepdad.
Marianna’s family was weird. Her dad and her step dad were roomates and they had worked temp-help with my dad at Wal Marts…I had to do something quickly so I would not have to enter that place that stank of weed and mouldy dishes.
“Erm…Marianna would you help me and Dustin?”
“Help you do what?” she said with a kind of shielded hostility.”
“We need you..” I looked at the ground now kinda ashamed.
“We want to steal the rocks out of the witch-lady’s garden and put then in the dryers and the washers and set the place on fire.” I felt both ashamed and excited that we were going to do something BIG!
When I looked up she was SMILING at me! Dustin was right! He knew EVERYTHING about girls! Marianna yelled at her mom over one shoulder,
“Hey mom I will be back later!” her mom said, “Wait I will come down with you!”
I was SCARED to death then! Those rickety stairs! I was sure her mama was going to break them! We would all crash from the top floor and they would call the cops! Her mother was surprisingly nimble and quick and the smell of ganja wafted off her and I inhaled deeply. My mom and dad smoked it too. (Most people here did because it made things less bad but not the witch lady!) Her mom told her to behave and went in to see her two dads who lived directly below and we both went around the corner…Dustin, a year older than me and ALMOST as tall as Marianna said, “Hi beautiful!”
She was going to punch him in the nose and I stepped in front and said, “Dustin say sorries!”
Dustin, who was getting ready to duck and run grumbled, “Sorry”,
“Sorry for what?” hissed Marianna.
“Sorry for calling you names lissen we NEED you!”
I watched her face. There was something in it that changed when she heard the word ‘need’.
“OK I will help you.”
Suddenly we were all best friends as the three of us crept around the corner and started to steal the witch lady’s rocks. She must’ve heard something or had secret powers because I saw her face looking out the window as we carried the last rock into the decrepit old haunted laundry mat.
“SHIT SHE SAW US!”
We ran back through the maze of 600 apartment units to try to get away but two of the littler kids saw us and asked why we were running and Marianna stopped to tell them why and Dustin was pissed off she did that and he disappeared like a ninja!
The two little kids who were five and six and brothers and lived in the middle buildings ran towards the witch lady’s house! I went back to my mom’s and Marianna disappeared.
After about 30 minutes those two kids ran back and knocked on my mom’s door ’til I answered. They were out of breath.
“She…called…” The other one broke in..
“Po po” she called the PO PO!
I was mad. I yelled “SHIT SHIT SHIT!” and my mom told me to shut up.
I went with them both to where the missing stones were and the lady was outside talking to a COP! Other kids were there from the hood and I heard her say, “I might not even do Halloween this year! Ungrateful wretches!”,
The Cop was taking notes and Dustin sauntered around the corner and said, “Marianna did it.”
“Who is Marianna?” The Cop said curtly as he messaged into his radio.
“Marianna lives upstairs around the corner.” Dustin pointed. Marianna was standing there and she ran down and I saw her mother and both her fathers leave very very fast in their beat up old hoopty. They left Marianna behind. Marianna ran up with murder in her eyes.
“DUSTIN DID IT!”
The two little boys were jumping around to get the cops attention saying, “They all did it! and pointing at ME!” Shit shit SHIT! I wondered if the lit matches we threw in there with some grass had caught fire and I hoped they didn’t now with all my heart! I went up to the witch lady, (she did AWESOME Halloweens with effects and tons of candy and even if she walked funny… felt like SHIT!
“Ma’am I will go get your rocks for you OK? We put them in the washers and dryers in the laundry.”
“I know you did I saw you do it.”
“OK OK please just don’t be mad?”
The Cop looked at her and she looked at the cop. The Cop asked her, “What do you want to do?
“I think if they bring my rocks back I I will be happy.”
Then the Cop gave us all a speech. He said,
“OK kids I know this is not the best place to live but some people try to keep it nice and pretty as they can. So please leave other people’s thing alone. Are you OK ma’am?”, he turned to look at the lady.
“Yes I am OK with this…get the rocks and bring them back and put them where they were and we will forget this OK?”
I could not get those rocks fast enough and the two little kids helped. Marianna and Dustin just looked at the lady like they hated her. At that moment I knew they would be friends and I would get picked on. I didn’t care we never lived in on place long enough to matter. The cop drove off and I was relieved the the matches just melted little spots on the old linoleum floor.
The rocks were back.
She gave an AMAZING Halloween that year with candy and prizes and special effects!
After we moved I heard the haunted laundry got burned down.