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"The Bumble Bee Bush"pt. 2. Please make comments relevant to the story. No cut and paste.
Chapter Seven

Something inside Walter



A white house just a few houses from mine lived a family of three. A father, mother, and a son. Ronald, the father, was a small man barely topping five feet. He was an accountant working for a small firm downtown. Margret, the mother, was a dental assistant working for one of the prominent dentists. She was also small in stature barely weighing 95 pounds. The son's name was Walter Brent Hainsley. He was five foot two inches when he was only 12 years old. His weight was around one hundred and eighty pounds.

Walter had always been a trouble child. He would throw extreme temper tantrums that intimidated his parents to the point that anything he wanted, they would give him. They thought that he would learn to control himself as he got older. By the time he was eight years old, he was able to lift heavier things and throw them in his fits of rage. Mr. Hainsely finally took him to a child psychologist. After Walter torn his office up, he was put on medication to calm him. That worked for a while but shortly after he turned ten, he started hiding his pills. His parents, thinking that he was on his way to recovery, bought him a puppy. With in a week the dog was dead. Walter had beaten the pup to death with his fists. When Walters parents came home, they saw the dead puppy just tossed in the trash in the kitchen. It looked like it had been crushed as its scull had no shape to it. Every bone in its body was broken into small pieces. His excuse was that the puppy had bitten him.  He showed no remorse.

Walters outbursts were getting out of hand again and his parents were more fearful of him than ever. They made every attempt to keep him calm. He could easily hurt one or both of them at any time. School was also a problem because he would bully the smaller kids. He had to change schools three times before ending up in my school. Just prior to that his parents had even tried to home-school him with disastrous results. He had struck his own mother with a text book for correcting his spelling. Ronald and Margret were becoming prisoners in their own home. Margret started buying frozen dinners so they could be easily heated up when Walter was hungry. Ronald had started working later and later so he could, at least, delay contact with his son. Margret would come home just before Walter would get out of school, heat his dinner, then go visit her friends. By the time either one of them came home, Walter would be asleep where ever he happen to land but usually in his room.

Walter had become, what they used to call a "latch key kid". A house hold where both parents worked until after school was let out and the kids had to fend for themselves when they got home. This was 1969 and back then it was not considered neglect. It was done out of necessity but in the Hainsley's case, it was done out of fear.

All this fear and stress was beginning to show inside the house. What had started as a nice, well kept home was showing signs of neglect. The lawn hadn't been mowed for sometime and the weeds were growing out of control. The inside of the house was a mess. Margret was doing all she could to clean when Walter was not there but she had to work and the only time she had to clean was at night. Ronald was showing signs of wear too. He would come home exhausted but would try to do what he could to help. All the rooms were being maintained to some degree except Walters. His mother had tried several times to sneak into his room to get his laundry. Most of the time he would wake up to a screaming fit leaving his mother to make a fast retreat. His room was really beginning to smell. At one time Mr. and Mrs. Hainsley decided to stay home from work and, while Walter was at school, they feverishly cleaned his room. They knew it might take hours to accomplish such a daunting task. In their haste they had failed to notice a small red notebook tucked under some dirty socks on his desk. This red notebook would remain a mystery for sometime.

That evening when Walter came home and alone in the house. He stepped into his, now clean, room. What should have been a happy and grateful moment turned into a virtual eruption of rage. Walter immediately ran into his parents room and began tearing through it like a level five tornado. He ripped clothes out of closets, knocked over dressers and emptying the contents on the floor. He ripped the curtains from the windows and over turned the bed. Perfume and colon bottles were thrown at the mirrors, shattering them. It was this final act that caused Walter to end his onslaught. The broken perfume and aftershave bottles had released fumes of eye watering, alcohol based mist into the air causing him to leave the room coughing and rubbing his eyes. Staggering out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, he knocked over two chairs and broke one of the kitchen table legs. The table came crashing down and Walter sat on the floor next to it. With his eyes burning and tearing, he sat there blinking till he fell asleep.
This incident would mark a turning point for Walter. His parents had nearly reached the end of their rope. Something had to be done. They had arranged for Walter to be sent to a hospital for treatment. He was nearly eleven when an ambulance pulled up to the Hainsley house. Three attendants got out and knocked on the door. Walter answered, he had just gotten home from school. His parents were waiting outside when they dragged him out. Margret was crying but she stood tall. Walter was screaming at them.

"I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU" He screamed. "I WILL GET YOU FOR THIS. I HATE YOU, I HATE Y.....

The screams were muffled when the attendants closed the door to the ambulance. He would be in the hospital for three months. During that time, the Hainsley's overhauled their house. It seemed like things were getting back to normal.

This was a close knit neighborhood and nothing got past the neighbors. The Hainsley's tried to keep Walters problem a secret but with all the noise, that proved impossible. The news spread among all the gossip mongers with in a couple of days. Everyone felt sorry for Walters parents but there was plenty of blame to go around too. That kind of news didn't reach the kids very often. It was hidden away like anything else meant to be "adult" in nature.

My father had a habit of keeping track of everything that went on in the neighborhood. He never talked about it but he kept a record. I always thought he was working. My mother played bridge on Tuesday and Thursday nights. When she was gone, my dad would type like a mad man. That electric Royal typewriter was his best friend. He would type several pages, add them to a constantly growing pile of papers in a box he hid in the attic crawl space. I had asked him once why he kept it up there. He said that there wasn't enough room downstairs. He made me promise I wouldn't tell mom.
I never know what he was typing until just recently what was in there. He had chronicled everything that went on in that neighborhood. It was like his hobby. I didn't know it then but this is the very reason for mom and dad's reaction at the dinner table that night.

When Walter got out of the hospital he seemed much more calm but you could tell there was still something in there that wasn't right. He no longer went into rages but he still had a mean streak and he was demanding. He was just more subdued. He was on some kind of medication, although I never found out what it was.

He started school a week after the rest of us. I think the reason was so the teachers could warn us not to make fun of him. They made us promise to be nice to him. To us, that meant to stay away from him all together. That was something most everyone wanted to do anyway. The first day he showed up he walked around acting tough. I remember some kids tried to say hello to him but his response was nothing more than a smirk.
It seemed like the more we tried to avoid him, the more he picked on us. I think it just made it worse.

After a while, because of his reputation, no one even looked him in the eye. Well, except teachers who were actually trying to help him. He need a lot of help, that's the only reason he was passing. It wasn't because he was stupid, he was just stubborn. Some of the teachers were afraid of him.

Chapter Eight

Damaged


It was Saturday. I had turned my alarm off the night before so I could sleep in. During the night, I dreamed of the bumble bee bush. The little furry black and yellow blobs floating all around me. I could almost smell the roses and hear the deep hum of the swarm as I lay under the branches. When I woke up the sun was cutting its way into my room with glorious bright light. I could smell waffles. I got dressed and went downstairs to the kitchen. My dad was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and chatting with my mom while she was cooking.

"Morning son". he said, continuing to read. "Did you get a chance to talk to Walter yesterday? You said you were going to."

"No, he wasn't at school yesterday." I said ,"Maybe he was sick or something."

"Maybe, I still want you to be careful talking to him alone." He said in a low tone as he leaned forward.

"I know, I know dad. I will." I was really trying to reassure him.

At this point I didn't know about Walters past and just thought of him as a mean kid at school.

"Well, come and get it." My mother said. "I'm not the maid, you know. Serve yourself then wash your own dishes. Its my day off."

We all laughed. It felt pretty good that there was nothing bad to talk about that morning. As I sat there eating my breakfast, I was thinking about how I could visit the bush today. I had finished my homework and had no reason to go there. Friday afternoon I could only stop for a few minutes because I had to stay after school to help Mrs. Crawford. Maybe I could make an excuse to go see a friend and stop on the way.

"Oh, Brad, be sure to come right home after you are finished helping Mrs. Crawford. I want to make a list of things we need. I'm going to get you some new clothes so we need to clean out your dresser this afternoon." My mother said. "We are going shopping tomorrow."

I thought my heart stopped just then. I hated cleaning out my dresser. It was a once a year thing and that was too often. That meant deciding on what clothes I wanted to keep including underwear and socks. I wanted to pull all my hair out. Then there was shopping and trying on clothes. Why didn't she just stick a needle in my eye? That wouldn't have hurt as bad.

"Ah, mom, why tomorrow? I had plans to go to Josh's house." I lied. "I don't want to go shopping tomorrow." I was trying to keep the whining to a minimum but was always good to let a little out so they would see my disappointment.

"Oh come on Brad, Grandma is coming too and she wants to see you try on clothes."

"Oh no". I thought. I was gritting my teeth waiting for the next line hoping she wasn't going to say it.

"You know how handsome she thinks you look in new clothes." She said winking. She had no idea how much I hated that.

Screaming and running around the house knocking things over seemed like a reasonable thing to do right about now. Why did she have to use that word. It wasn't even in my vocabulary. Her and Grandma were the only people I had ever heard use it. To use it in the same sentence when talking about me was so embarrassing I just wanted to crawl under the carpet and die. Suddenly, what had started to be such a nice day was going down hill fast.

"So, who is driving us tomorrow?" I asked. I felt like I could predict the future. The way things were going I new it couldn't get any worse, but somehow I knew they were going to.

"Well, your grandmother wants to drive, you know, she doesn't get out much" She said nodding. "Now hurry up and eat your breakfast, you're going to be late for the bus."

I glanced over at my dad. I could tell he was enjoying this. He was trying to suppress his laugh by continuing to stuff food in his mouth.

"Come on, hurry up, boy, we'll get something special for you tomorrow for your trouble." He said patting me on the shoulder.

That didn't make me feel any better. Nothing could make up for the torture of shopping for clothes with Mon and Grandma. I kept feeling my forehead for the slightest hint of fever. Mom would just give me aspirin and tell me to go to bed. As I walked to the door to go to the bus stop, I felt like a condemned prisoner walking to the gallows.

I was standing there thinking about how I could get out of this.  There was no one at the bus stop and I had a few minutes to reflect. What else could go wrong? As the bus was squeaking to a halt I remembered that I walked past the vacant lot with out even looking in. I usually stopped for a couple minutes before I got to the bus stop to listen to them and smell the roses. That would have at least made me feel a little better.
As the bus pulled up to the stop, the stink of the exhaust was filling my nostrils. It seemed like an eternity waiting for the doors to open. Finally they did and I climbed in. The bus usually had a weird smell to it but it was a breath of fresh air compared to that exhaust. I scanned for an open seat but Josh wasn't going to school today. I remembered that he had a dentist appointment. The only seat left was right behind the bus driver. It was the worst seat on the bus. The driver's name was Ed. I know that because he always wore that same shirt with the little embroidered name tag. He was always grouchy and smelled really bad. Sweat was always dripping off of his nose and chin and his shirt was always wet. We all wondered if he ever changed his clothes or even bathed, for that matter.

Just as I was sliding over on the seat, I took one last glance toward the back of the bus. Sitting in the next to the last row was Walter. He was staring right at me and smiling. Our eyes locked. He raised his hand and did that "gun" hand thing pretending to shoot me. Something was up. Why was he so chipper? This just wasn't my day. 

As soon as the bus stopped, I was the first one out. I bolted for the school. Walter had something planned and I didn't want to make it any easier for him. I felt the cube under my shirt for comfort. I didn't expect the bees to save me this time. Things were moving too fast. I turned around as I was running to see if he was chasing me but he wasn't. He was just casually walking toward the door. I wasn't going to take any chances so I always stayed where I knew a teacher was near. When I got to homeroom, I sat in my seat just waiting for him to come in. He walked past me and sat down. He was humming like he was happy. I turned to look at him to show him I wasn't afraid. He just looked at me, nodded, and just kept humming. I turned and faced the front clutching my cube like it was a crucifix. That humming was driving me crazy. He did it all through homeroom.
I spend all day dodging him. Every time I saw him in the hallway, he had that stupid grin and nodded. He was using psychological warfare on me and it was working.

Mrs. Crawford's class was just getting out when I reached her room. I was a nervous wreck. The usual sixth graders were chatting at her desk. They were the "mature". To them, kissing up to the teachers was the pathway to good grades. I was glad that I didn't have to do that. Sixth grade girls were the worst. If their noses were any higher, they would scrape them on the ceiling.

"Hi, Brad. You made it." She said interrupting the princesses in mid-sentence. 

I thought how ironic that statement was considering the day I had avoiding the smiling, humming menace known as Walter the Terrible.
As the "stuck up twins" walked out the door, they both gave me that look. "Humph" they grunted as their noses reached for the sky. I was surprised they could see where they were going.

"So, how is your little friend in his little plastic cage doing?" She asked.

I pulled it out from under my shirt and dangled it from the string I tied to it.

"Oh, nice. That string looks kind of dirty. Where did you get it?"

"I found it on the sidewalk." I said, I was so careful never to let anyone know about the bush. It was my place. The only one that knew about it was Walter. I knew he wouldn't say anything.

"I've got something better. Give it to me and I'll fix it while you set up the project. I have everything set out. All I want you to do is to put one container each on every table." I handed her the cube and set about my work.
The tables were all covered with butchers paper. There were wooden tongue depressors and plastic containers already sitting at each chair.  On the cart Mrs. Crawford had put several containers of clear fluid. Some marked "Part A", others "Part B." All I had to do was put four of each on each table. "Easy" , I thought.
While I was doing that Mrs. Crawford was attaching a chain to my bumble bee cube.
My task completed, Mrs. Crawford thanked me and handed me the cube with the new chain attached. It was made of brass and the links were round. It didn't look dainty at all, but it wasn't heavy either. I liked it. I stuffed it in my pocket.

"Thank you for helping me, I'll see you Monday." she said as I headed for the door.

"Thanks for the chain Mrs. Crawford, bye." 

The first bus was gone and the next one wasn't going to be here for another 10 or 15 minutes. I was worried about the bush now because of the way Walter was acting. Had he done something? Finally the bus came chugging up, blowing black smoke from its exhaust. The, all too familiar, odor of the fumes filled my nostrils. It seemed like forever before the doors opened and I could escape the heavily polluted air. I slid into an empty seat and pulled out the chain and put it around my neck. It felt cold against my skin and, in my mind, it felt powerful. It took my mind off of the bush until I got to my stop.

I stepped off and stood there on the sidewalk afraid of what I would find when I got to the lot. Walking slowly I thought about what I would do if the bush and the bees weren't there. My eleven year old brain was telling me that the bumble bee bush was the most important thing in the world and I couldn't live without it. When I got to the path I could see white rose petals on the ground. I ran to the bush only to see it almost bare. There were rose petals all over the ground and some of the branches were broken. It looked like someone had beaten it with a stick or log. There were still a few roses left and there were still bees. The more I looked and thought about it, the damage wasn't that bad. To the bees it seemed like nothing had happened. Walter must have thought he really did something. Was that why he was so smug? Did he really think he hurt anything? I smiled to myself and started cleaning up the area again. I knew it wouldn't take long for the bush to be full again.

Chapter Nine

Department Store Incident


Saturday morning I woke to the sounds of people talking and laughing. I could smell bacon and I was starving. I had stayed up late drawing with a flashlight under my blanket. I must have fallen asleep in the middle of it because I had pencil marks embedded in my skin from laying on them. crumpled drawings were everywhere. I quickly picked everything up and went downstairs.

"Good morning my handsome grandson" Grandma said doing that praying thing with her hands.

"Morning grandma" I really hated that word. It make me shudder every time.

"You do remember what we are going to do today don't you?" Mom said.

At that moment I wished I hadn't gotten up. "Yes, I do." I had given up the fight and conceded defeat. I was going shopping whether I wanted to or not. As we were eating breakfast grandma kept talking to me and staring at me. It was probably because I was an only child and she had to have someone to gloat over. I didn't mind being the only kid but at times like this I really wish I had a sibling.

"Do you have a girlfriend yet?" She asked out of the blue.

"Grandma" I said with a little disgust."No I don't, I'm only eleven."

"Well it wont be long before the girls start chasing you." She really knew how to push my buttons. I just put my hand on my forehead and continued eating. I was dreading this shopping trip more and more.

"I need to pick up a few things too. I'm out of cologne and I need new socks." My dad blurted. He looked at me as he said it. I knew he saw my embarrassment and was just trying to change the subject.

"So, how is school going? Did you ever talk to that Walter kid?" He asked resting his chin on his hand.

"Its going OK. I haven't had the chance to talk to him. Maybe next week."

"Good. I hear he is doing a little better." He said effectively ending the conversation. I glanced at my mothers face to see her reaction. She was just waiting for him to continue. He knew better though.

"As soon as you are done eating, Brad, I want you to go to your room and start sorting your clothes. I will be up to help you when I'm done with the dishes." Mom said.

"Oh I'll help you with the dishes." Grandma said."unless you want me to help Bradley."

"Oh great!" I thought to myself. How many times is she going to say that horrible word. I took my empty plate to the sink and went right up stairs, not waiting for the answer.

When I walked in my room all I could see was the drawings of bees and roses. That was the last thing I wanted anyone to see. I panicked. I started stuffing them all into a shoe box in my closet. I knew if grandma had seen them she would make a big deal out of it and my parents would find out. I would have to explain my overwhelming interest in bumble bees. Suddenly the door swung open and in stepped Grandma. I froze and her eyes went straight to the drawings still laying on my bed. She closed the door behind her and walked to the bed and sat down. She picked up one of the drawings and looked at it like she was reading a letter. She looked at me then to the shoebox stuffed with papers.

"This is beautiful, I didn't know you had talent like this but why are you trying to hide them?" She asked with concern in her voice.

I didn't answer. This was the worst think that could have happened.

"Are you embarrassed about your drawing? Are you afraid everyone is going to know about it?"

I nodded yes. She looked back down at the one in her hand.

"I'll tell you what, If you give me one of your best ones I'll keep our little secret and I'll help you hide the rest." She said with a smile.

I was in shock. I didn't know if I could trust her but I didn't have a choice.

"So, do we have a deal?" She asked folding her arms. "We don't have much time, your mother will be up here any second."

"OK, OK you can have any one you want just don't tell anyone." I was almost shaking at the thought.

With that she scooped up all the drawings and put them in the shoebox and set it on the top shelf behind my board games. I could hear my mothers foot steps on the stairs and I grabbed several shirts out of my closet and tossed them on my bed. Grandma stood behind me as it trying to help me decide.

"What about this one? I never see you wear this one." She said holding it up against me. Just then my mother walked in.

"What do you think Francis?" Grandma asked.

"Well they are Brad's clothes. He has to make that decision." Mom said.

"Yea. you're right they are his and its not our decision. He has to learn to make his own."

Another shocker, Grandma wasn't treating me like a little kid. I guess maybe I could trust her after all. Just then mom turned and saw the bumble bee and rose picture on my mirror. It was the one she had seen before. I looked up at Grandma and we locked eyes for a second.

"Did you see this? He drew this last week."

"Oh that's wonderful. Is that the only one?" Grandma asked.

"Yea, I think it was a moment of inspiration." Mom said laughing. Grandma just nodded and said. "Well we better get these clothes sorted so we can go shopping."

I randomly chose some shirts and pants that I wore a lot. Grandma and Mom were sorting socks and underwear. They had a whole trash bag full and decided that was enough. I was so relieved when I was able to leave my room and close the door. We were only in there for about forty five minutes but it seemed like an eternity. There was something that happened in there though that I never thought would have happened. Grandma and I had made a connection. But there was suspicion in her eyes when she saw all those pictures of the same thing; bumble bees. I knew there would come a time when she would ask why. I had, absolutely, no idea how I was going to answer. All I knew was that something was happening and didn't know why.

We all loaded up in Grandmas car. I sat up front while Mom and Dad sat in the back. I wasn't really paying attention to what they were saying but I did hear my dad say something about an empty lot. I tried to hear more but the radio was too loud. The only lot I knew about was my lot. Why would they be talking about that? Maybe they were just talking about how weedy it was. I didn't give it another thought.

We didn't have malls back then and most of the department stores were downtown. We had to park in a parking garage and walk to the different store fronts. That was the only part of the shopping experience I actually enjoyed. Since we lived in "Suburbia", going downtown was kind of exciting. We went in to the Yonkers store to the boys section first. I was glad to get the torture of trying on clothes over with. My parents made some quick selections and directed me to the little stalls with the mirrors to try them on. Then I had to parade around in front of them for approval. It was grueling but I made it through. I didn't care as long as everything fit. I wasn't all that fashion conscious yet anyway. Those were the days when the butch haircut, plaid button shirts, blue jeans, and "Red Ball Jets" were in style. (I remember the TV commercials saying you could run faster wearing "Red Ball Jets" but I never noticed any difference, I just liked the little red ball on the heel.)

My dad had wanted to look at tools and men's stuff in JC Penny and it was next door. Between the two stores was a hot dog stand and my grandma wanted to treat us to hot dogs. It was almost 12:30 and I was really hungry. There were benches against the building and we all sat down to eat. It felt pretty good being surrounded by family and not a care in the world. I was the first one done and the JC Penny was just a few steps away.

"Dad, is it OK if I go in and look around?" I asked.

"Sure." He said looking at my mother for approval. "We will be in in a minute. Stay close to the door so we can fine you."

I jumped up and headed for the revolving door. There were a bunch of people coming out so I waited. Just as the last person came out I went in. I pushed it all the way around once and went inside. When I got in there, I saw Walter and his parents. They were just leaving and as he passed me he gave me an angry look. I didn't look back at him in fear like he expected. I just held my head up high and gave him sort of a "I'm not afraid of you" look. I was just browsing around waiting for my parents to come in when all of a sudden he came out of no where right in front of me.

"OK, now its my turn." He said, drawing back his fist. "We're inside now and you cant run".

I backed up against a clothing rack full of shirts. As he approached me his his anger turned to surprise and his eyes opened wide. He started screaming and waving his arms. The sales people were all looking at him. One of them had a phone in her hand. she must have called security because a couple seconds later two uniformed security men grabbed his arms. His parents were right behind him as he was ripping his shirt off in the store. As I was watching this I saw his back had several red bumps on it. His dad grabbed the shirt and inside there was a bumble bee. It must have been on his collar when he came back in the store and gotten trapped in his shirt. My friends, the bees, had rescued me again. I reached into my shirt and pulled the chain that was holding my bee cube.

"Thanks again". I whispered and dropped it back into my shirt.

Humiliated and hurting from the stings my little friend had delivered, Walter was being escorted out in front of people again. Just as he reached the door he turned and looked me in the eye.

"Oh my god, I hate you and I'll get you one day!" He screamed.

In my mind I was thinking, "Just try it", But I knew this bee thing couldn't last. I didn't even know why it was happening in the first place. I was standing there watching them leave when my dad came up to me.

"What was that all about?" He asked.

"That was just Walter, there was a bee or something in his shirt. I think he got stung." I said kind of nonchalant.

"Gosh, I hope he is OK. Some people are allergic to bee stings."

"Nah, he's been stung before." I said. I almost put my hand on my mouth. I couldn't believe I said that.

"How do you know? I thought you didn't talk to Walter."

Panic again, searching for something to say. How was I going to explain it?

"Umm, he came to school with bumps on his face and arms one day. We just thought that's what it was." I said with all the confidence I could conjure up.

"Oh, yea, maybe." He said, "Hey, lets go look at tools and get out of the clothes business for a while."

"Yea, good idea." I said breathing a sigh of relief.


Chapter Ten

The Lot



“Do you want me to help you hang up your new shirts and pants Bradley?” Grandma said.

I was exhausted and didn't really feel like socializing with her.

“I can do it, that's OK.” I said hoping she wouldn't argue.

“Alright then, I would really like to see what new clothes you got today.” She said with a wink.

Then I remembered the pictures. She wanted me to make good on our agreement. That wink said it all.

“OK.” I said, “I got a lot of new shirts.” I felt like I was being blackmailed.

I went upstairs with her following close behind me. I wanted to keep her happy so she wouldn't do something drastic. She still didn't know about the bush and I wanted to keep it that way.
As soon as we got into my room I looked at the drawing on the mirror.

“How do you like that one? Its the first one that came out right and its the only one Mom knows about.”

“I really like that one but wont your mom get suspicious if it were to disappeare?” She asked.

“Nah, I'll just tell her the truth. I gave it to you. If she wants one I can make another one for her.”

“OK, that's fine, but you owe me an explanation sometime in the future when you feel like talking about it.” She said with a look of real concern. “Something is going on that you don't want anyone to know about. I just hope its nothing serious.”

She had never talked to me like that before. It was a real one-to-one conversation. She was no longer seeing me as a little kid. I was so used to being the only kid in the house and separate from the adults that it felt weird to be treated as an equal.

“If you ever need to talk to me about anything, just let me know. I wont say anything to your parents unless you want me to. Understand?”

I just nodded in agreement. I now had an ally but I know that if I told her everything she would think I was crazy. At least I got rid of the drawing that my mother had seen. She would soon forget about it and that gave me some leeway to keep the bush a secret.

“Alright, let's get these clothes hung up. I'll tell your mother you gave me the drawing and that will be that.”

“Thanks Grandma.” I said with genuine gratitude. It was a real relief to have someone else know about my drawings even if she didn't know everything.
We started downstairs and I could hear my mother and father talking. I hear the words 'empty lot' again and it was starting to bother me. I never liked to listen on their conversations because it was usually boring.

“So, what do you think, honey? We could do so much with it. It would be an investment. We wouldn't have to do anything with it right away. If we don't move on it though we could lose a real opportunity.” My dad said. There was a seriousness in his voice that I didn't hear very often. They had a different way of speaking when I wasn't in the room. I don't know why they did that because I was never interested in what they were saying anyway.

“I know. We need to do something and it is really cheap. Ever since you mentioned it, I have been thinking about how small this house is compared to what we could build there.” Mom replied, “You never know whats going to happen in the near future either.” She said smiling and patting her stomach.
That last part confused me. I knew it had some hidden meaning but I didn't comprehend it at the time.

“Oh, hey bud, you get all those new clothes hung up?” Asked Dad.

“Yes, we did, I can't wait to see him in them too.” Said Grandma. “He's going to look so handsome.” I cringed as she reverted back to the old grandma talking with her hands pressed together. I couldn't complain though. She was a pretty good actor. When we were alone she acted like a normal person but when my parents were in the room she acted like the doting old lady I always knew.

“And look what he gave me” She said holding the drawing up with pride. “Isn't it wonderful?”

“OK, enough already Grandma. It's not that big a deal.” I thought to myself. She was “showboating” and it was making me uncomfortable because of all that was at steak.

“Aw, that was nice of you Brad. I really liked that one.” My mother quipped. “I'll just have to see it when I visit your grandmother.”

I felt like pulling my hair out. It was bad enough I had my own grandmother blackmailing me, but now my mother was giving me a guilt trip about a stupid drawing.

“Yea, I guess. Can I go to Josh's house, he's got some new stuff he wants to show me?” I lied. I had to get out of that house. They were all driving me crazy.

“Oh, sure son. Be back in a couple hours, OK ? It'll be dinner time.” My dad said glancing at my mother for the usual approval.

“OK, bye.” I dashed out the door before anything else could be said.

On my way out I grabbed my book I had to read for the report that was due Monday. I hadn't been at the bush for a while and was looking forward to spending time there. Walking down the path that cut into the lot with the fresh smell of roses, sent me into a sort of bliss. It was the very reason I liked coming there. I could hear the soothing hum of the swarm getting louder as I got closer to my destination. I was addicted.

When I arrived at the bush I could see that more roses had bloomed and it was almost back to normal. My little black and yellow friends were busy doing what ever bumble bees do. I parted the branches, made myself comfortable on my rug and commenced reading. The words flowed like water into my brain forming vivid images of the story I was reading. My book was “White Fang, Dog of the North.” I tried to read it at home but it was too distracting. Here, under the arching branches, I could imagine myself there. Time flew by and I was nearly half way through the book when I realized it was time to go. I had just turned onto the sidewalk when I noticed three figures walking toward me. As we got closer, I could see it was Mom, Dad, and Grandma.

“Hey, you're just in time. We are coming down to look at something.” said my dad. “Wanna come with us?”

My heart skipped a beat when he said that. I knew they were talking about the lot but I didn't think it was really important. 

“Yea, I guess. Why are we coming down here?” I asked with suspicion.

“Your mother wants to see the empty lot down here. So we decided to take a little walk.” He said smiling.

I didn't respond, I just stared straight ahead hoping they wouldn't continue their little stroll down the path to my rose bush. I felt the lump in my throat start to grow and a little sweat on my forehead. The weeds were pretty high. They acted like a fortress wall protecting my hidden sanctuary. From the sidewalk one could barely see the edge of the branches sticking out on to the path.

##To be continued ##


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