Ms. Glen's Garden

Submitted into Contest #143 in response to: Start or end your story with a person buying a house plant. ... view prompt

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Fiction High School Teens & Young Adult

Community service sucks. Community service sucks even more when you're sixteen and this was supposed to be your spring break. Community service sucks, even more, when you're assigned to slaving away in some random old woman's garden all day while your friends get to do things like chill out on the beach and stay up all night. But the part that sucks the most? Knowing I'm only having to do it because of my own mother, to begin with. Apparently, I smoke too much for her to handle anymore (which I think is a little bit dramatic, but whatever). I'm not sure how rebuilding an old widow's garden for the majority of my spring break is going to fix what I don't even consider a problem, but it's not like I really got to say much in the final decision-making process.

It turns out, that when you're under suspicion of being a so-called 'addict', nobody really cares what defenses you have to give. When you're a low-life, you're going to be treated like one. Even though you're not actually one; people in Crestview just don't get it. And thanks to that, now I don't get to enjoy my spring break. Well, that's what my mom and probation officer want, anyway. Of course, I'm still going to spend my break the way I want to, I'm just kind of limited to hours after 7 p.m. now; that's why tonight my plans start at 7:01 and don't stop until I say they do. Screw whatever chance of a curfew my mom thought she had left.

"Jay! You gotta go!", Mom's voice cuts through the house like a shrill and I roll my eyes. "Yeah.", I yell back down. Today's the day my service starts and I couldn't be more ready for something to be over. I slipped on my "VOLUNTEER" vest and give myself one last look in the mirror and think to myself "this orange is so vibrant I might be able to be convinced that I'm high right now". As soon as my feet hit the hallway carpet outside of my bedroom, I immediately felt Mom's gaze on me from the bottom of the stairs. I turn to her and notice a couple tears welling up in her eyes. Apart from me wanting to feel bad because I know that she really is just worried about me, I can't. Instead, all I feel is an annoyance. I mean, come on. It really isn't this serious for me to smoke a little weed. "Mom. Chill out.", I say as I brush past her in the stairway. She takes a deep sigh and I immediately regret what I said. Not because it's untrue-- she does need to chill out-- but because I don't want to deal with the conversation I'm about to cause. I know I'm in for it.

"I'm so sorry that I never wanted to send my child to be rehabilitated.", she finally says.

She's kidding, right? "Rehabilitated?!", I yell in genuine disbelief.

"Mom, I'm going down the street to help Ms. Glen plant her garden, not to a fuckin' rehab center. And yes you did want to! You're the reason why I'm even going anyway!"

My heartbeat was so heavy that I'm sure even she could hear it from the outside. Mom puts her hands up in surrender and takes another of her characterizing deep sighs.

"You are the reason why you are going. When my only two options as a mother are to either bail you out and sign in court that you'll do some community service or let you stay caught on a simple possession charge, I really think I did you a favor in what I chose. I am so sorry you have to sacrifice some of your time now to save yourself in the long run. There's a difference between doing what I want and doing what's necessary, Jay. One day, I really hope you realize that."

With that, she was back in the kitchen cleaning and I was out on the front lawn estimating that the walk to Ms. Glen's would take me about four minutes from my porch to hers. It's the second house to the last on the left side of the street, and all stark white besides the red shutters. Her nephew still power-washed the exterior for her and knowing that made me wonder why he couldn't have just been the one to come rebuild this garden for her. I'm pretty sure the only reason Mom even chose me to do it for my supposed 'rehabilitation' was that she expected me to enjoy giving back so much that I would start volunteering on my own and bringing her fruits and vegetables once they grew or get inspired and start my own at home or something. She loved putting unrealistic standards like that on me and saying it was just her 'seeing all of my potentials'.

Up until her husband had died almost eight months ago, the Glens' garden had been the pride of the south end of our cul-de-sac. Every summer the vegetables would grow in surplus and we'd all take trips down to their house for watermelons, carrots, tomatoes, you name it. This summer was going to be the first without Mr. Glen's green thumb to get us through the heat, but luckily my mom got way too involved in my life just in time to force me into being the one to take his place. I just hope Ms. Glen's not too much of the talkative type now that she doesn't have anyone else to riff off of. I just wanna get what I have to do done and go catch up on the fun I should have all day, every day of the next two weeks to have. I mean, really how fair is it that the same people I "smoke too much" with are still all together at Nathan's right now doing exactly that, but I'm stuck here walking up an old woman's front porch steps to clock in for the day.

I'm greeted with a "Well, hey honey." when I walk through the banisters and when I look to where it came from I see Ms. Glen sitting in a rocking chair in the right corner of the porch. "Uh... hey.", I stumble. "I'm supposed to be here to help you start this season's garden?" She gives me a squint and I took that as my chance to wish she would've said she had no idea what I was talking about.

She didn't, though. Instead, she pried on me over what I'd done to "wind up" in my "position". I might not be able to feel guilty about my mom's overreacting, but what I do feel guilty about is having to tell a seventy-three-year-old woman whose husband just died from lung cancer that I'm only here to help her with her garden because my neighbor caught me smoking and couldn't keep his mouth shut. Seriously, who calls the cops on a kid for doing something literally every kid does? That was literally all the justification Mom needed to criminalize it, and she wasted no time in doing it.

Speaking of wasting no time, that's exactly what Ms. Glen did when she put me out the back door with an illegible but long list of things to get done. When Mom said "help Ms. Glen", I didn't know she meant to do everything for her. I understand she's old and whatever, but she isn't dead--because if she were, I'd be at Nathan's. The only words I could make out from her elderly chicken scratch were 'tomato cages', 'fertilizer', and 'squash', so those were the only things I was even going to bother getting done.

If I could drag things out long enough, I'd be able to finish maybe one of those three by tomorrow. Realistically, for every eight hours of work I was supposed to be doing for the next ten days, I was only going to do about an hour. That should have been plenty for Ms. Glen to be thankful for, and as long as the eighty hours technically were accounted for Mom couldn't even argue anything over it. Besides, it's not like I was actually being supervised. Ms. Glen could barely walk, let alone have the energy to even stand and watch me from her window all day. I began to think that maybe this wouldn't be so bad if I could actually get away with sitting around outside all day and just pretending to work.

Unfortunately, my deep thinking was interrupted by a familiar voice coming over the Glen house's fence. "Jay? What you doin' down here?", was what it said and I knew exactly who I'd be met with once I turned around-- Carter Venice, aka the worst person to have possibly seen me here. Still, I turned around.

Carter and I were friends, it's just that you can imagine how annoying having to explain the situation to him was. "Damn, so you not gonna be over at Nate's any this week then?", Carter asked me and I rolled my eyes hard. "Not 'til after 7. But by then I'm sure everyone will have moved on to something else for the night, ya know.", was my reply. Carter did know because he was a part of the 'everyone' who couldn't sit still for too long and constantly needed the next thrill. That's how I wanted to be spending my whole spring break too but now I couldn't even take a trip overnight since I had to be at Ms. Glen's by noon every day.

As we were wrapping the conversation up, I noticed Carter's eyes start to wander to the far right corner of the fenced-in backyard behind me.

"Bro, what are you looking at", I finally asked him and he just pointed and asked me a question back.

"What is that over there?". I followed his finger's direction until my eyes met with a flourishing green plant tucked over into the side of the yard, but I didn't have an answer for him.

"I don't know? I haven't done anything yet and I have no idea what she wrote on the to-do list she gave me. Why?"

"Dude, no. Look at the leaves." I readjusted my eyes and looked again.

Holy shit.

My silence must have given my reaction away because Carter was the next to speak again. "There's no way that's what I think it is, right?", was what he said, and I didn't even know how to respond.

"I don't think so? It's gotta be something else."

There was just no way Ms. Glen was growing marijuana in her backyard.

"Well go dig it up and let me take it home and find out."

I turned around to face him again. "What?", I laughed, but he didn't. "Oh. You're serious?"

"Why wouldn't I be serious?"

"Bro, why would you? You actually want me to go pull that whole plant up for you right now?"

"Nah, bro. I want you to go pull that whole plant up for us. Us and Nathan and everyone else bro. Come on. You're already the bummer of spring break, you might as well bring some good with you when you can finally show up. Ya know."

I hated how easily he convinced me, but he was right. I was going to be the one missing out on what everyone else was doing, so I might as well make the best of it and get something good out of this. Stealing an old woman's weed plant would definitely make everyone forget I ever had this stupid restriction anyway.

The next thing I knew, I was behind a shovel hacking away at roots and ripping the soil from under the plant. The leaves were pointy and spread out, and the whole thing was practically growing green. If this wasn't weed, it sure was a good imposter. I grabbed a spare terracotta pot from inside the shed and placed the plant inside before delicately handing it over the fence to Carter.

"Take care of it. I'm serious. That's about to get us through high school." I joked as he walked away. For the next seven hours, all I could think about was whether or not Carter had told anybody or done anything with it yet. Finally, my eight hours of bullshitting were officially allowed to be over and I could go hang out with everyone, but when I walked through the back door my hastiness to leave was halted by Ms. Glen who was standing at her kitchen island with her walker waiting for me.

"Did you get a lot finished for me?", she asked.

"Oh yeah. Tons.", I lied and turned to finish exiting her home.

"Did you see the Japanese maple I wrote down about?"

The what? Oh. That must have been what 'Vopamese naple' on the list meant.

"I did.", I lied again.

"Doesn't it look nice over in that shaded corner? Bill planted that years ago for me, and now that he's gone it's my favorite. That's why I put it first on your list. I want extra good care taken of that one."

I froze. The shaded corner? That's where...

* * *

"Carter?", my voice floats through the phone. "Google green Japanese maple and then meet me at Starkey's flower shop."

April 28, 2022 00:47

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7 comments

Katy B
00:11 Jun 15, 2022

I came here because of your other story and WOW! I am impressed! So realistic, so funny. I have a background in gardening/horticulture so the similarity between cannabis and maple leaves gave me a chuckle :)

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Ashlynn Altman
00:45 Jun 15, 2022

Thank you so much for taking the time to read both of my pieces! It truly means a lot!

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Felice Noelle
00:13 Jun 12, 2022

Ashlynn: Wow, did this story ever bring up old memories. I had a son who I had do his stint of community service right before he decided that he might get more traction on his life by joining the Navy. You did a great job of what I'm sure was his inner language and the mother's dialogue was right out of my mouth, if I remember correctly. This was a clever story, simply told, and you didn't try to get cute with it. It held my interest all the way through, because you got the POV one hundred per cent! Any parent, actually anyone who has b...

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Ashlynn Altman
06:20 Jun 12, 2022

Thank you very much! As a very recent teenager myself, I may still have angsty moments but I like to believe I'm at my own level of maturity now that I can use that angst to make my pieces more relative rather than hinder myself with it. Your comment leads me to believe I'm fulfilling my hopes of doing so. Oddly enough, I got the marijuana correlation from a short film my professor in college had us watch and write a written analysis of. It was titled "Our Time is Up" on YouTube, if you or anyone who happens to stumble into my comments woul...

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Lily Saylor
15:07 May 01, 2022

I liked this story, and I liked the way you started it out, it had me interested from the first sentence

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Ashlynn Altman
23:26 May 02, 2022

Thank you I really appreciate it!! With short stories I find it important to grab the reader's attention quickly for lack of time to build the backstory, etc!!

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Lily Saylor
10:59 May 03, 2022

Yes I agree completely! I just submitted my first short story on here if you’d like to check it out :)

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