After sleeping together on our idea, in the nest that Heidi calls a bed — (we actually slept about an hour that night; the rest we spent planning and worrying) — we marched boldly into the police station in the morning and, firmly at first but then more and more sheepishly, explained our plan. By the time we’d finished, three officers had gathered to hear us.
When we were done, two of the officers looked at each other and walked away. I swear they had all three exchanged a secret glance. I was waiting for a smirk. But the one whose desk we were at started writing on a pad, and then he wrote onto a clipboard. Finally he looked up and said, “I’ll be needing your names for this permit.” Heidi and I jumped up and down right there and squealed.
By the time we could get the next CSN onto the street the big date was only fifteen days off. But there wasn’t anything to worry about. Dad had promised tables, chairs, grills, two yellow-and-white striped canopies, troughs full of ice, trash barrels, and more that I can’t even remember. To keep it simple, we asked everyone reading the CSN to bring with them what they’d want to eat or cook. That way, if we were set up for two hundred, and only twenty came, no food would be wasted. There’d just be lots of empty chairs. And we asked them to bring guests. That didn’t mean they should invite the whole town, but they could ask relatives and friends from out of town, or friends in town that they were close to — people like that.
We were anxious, but slowly our hopes grew. Missus Lipscomb, who runs a drugstore with her husband, called to say she’d be there with a helium tank and plenty of balloons. Missus Ardrill walked so slowly past our house that my mom knew she wanted to talk, so Mom stepped outside and then came back presently to say that, since the picnic would be happening right in front of the Ardrills’s house, they guessed they could set up their sprinkler in their front yard for any kids who wanted to run through it, assuming of course that it would be hot.
Buck Lewden sauntered over from his Uncle Amos’s house across the street that same week and announced that he’d be arriving with a couple of gentle ponies in case any of the kids, or little old ladies, for that matter, wanted pony rides.
Then April Hemple strolled onto our lawn. Now, I have to admit that I saw her coming and I felt my nerves steeling for a fight, so I pretended she wasn’t there until it would have been an open insult to be any more rude. Finally I spun around and fixed her with a haughty stare. “Suzanne,” she said modestly, “if you wouldn’t object, there’s a poem that I’d really like to read to everyone at the Clover Street Picnic next week.”
She said it so pleasantly and sincerely that my steel nerves turned to warm solder. I felt just as if I’d drawn a sword on her only to find her unarmed and innocent. I heard my own voice say to her, “Oh, April, I’m so sorry!”
She looked at me blankly. Then she shook her head and absolved me. “Suzanne, it’s not you who has been mean. I have.” And she told me all about how she admired my “great literary achievement,” and how proud she was to know me, the publisher of a newspaper, and how she wished she too could help with such a dignified publication, even though she was two years younger than I.
The very next issue included a back-page column welcoming the newest member of our staff. Even Heidi accepted her without hesitation or scorn. This issue and the next were both filled with publicity for the Great Clover Street Neighborhood Picnic.
Now, in the normal course of things I wouldn’t have taken any notice of the dinner conversation that Saturday night before the big day. And, indeed, at the time I didn’t give it any thought. But in light of what happened afterward, I can recall some of that conversation, and I just shudder when I think how innocently the seed of disaster is sown.
Dad sometimes complains, if you can call it that, about people and things going on at the store. So, like any other night he was telling my mom that he was disturbed by the fact that things have been turning up missing. This, I know now, was the first hint that I would later be going to jail.
He couldn’t be sure how long some things had been missing. Maybe months. And it wasn’t big stuff like four-cylinder wood splitters or arc welders. It was little stuff, like electric drills, hand saws, a couple of lawn mowers, things like that.
The best Dad could tell, it had all been returned to the shop since any of it was last used. But it was nowhere to be found. Altogether, he commented, it might be three or four thousand dollars worth of stuff in replacement value.
Pretty much, that was it. Mom wasn’t terribly impressed. After all, people do steal things from time to time, especially passers-through from out-of-state. And they wreck things. And Dad mentions things like that at dinner and we all forget it.
So I forgot it.
The Clover Street News – Chapter 1 – Chapter 2 – Chapter 3 – Chapter 4 – Chapter 5 – Chapter 6 – Chapter 7 – Chapter 8 – Chapter 9 – Chapter 10 – Chapter 11 – Chapter 12 – Chapter 13 – Chapter 14 – Chapter 15 – Chapter 16 – Chapter 17