Unfortunately when my father telephoned me & asked if I would drop over a couple hours earlier than I usually do for Sunday dinner as he needed my advice on a pressing matter, I was still a little groggy from the many rum & cokes I had indulged in the night before. I actually agreed without realizing my dad never wants my advice on any subject or matter, neither pressing or otherwise.
Just as I walked into my folks kitchen a few hours later I overheard Pete, my fathers elderly & eccentric good friend stating "I don't know Simon, it's hard to tell if it looks like the picture from the internet or not, but it looks damn close."
Dad quickly looked up as I sat down and stated "Well it's about time you got here boy. Me & old Pete here have finally got the evidence we need to get those 'Dirty, Dope-smoking Hippies' to be arrested."
Of course I realized right away that Dad was referring to the neighbours who have been renting the house next door to him for the past few months. Just because they have had one mildly loud party and dress somewhat 'alternatively', my father immediately branded them as being both 'Dirty Hippies' and 'No Good Long Hairs.'
I should probably also point out that my father pretty much hates everyone in general, usually without any real actual reason. So if there is even the slightest of provocation, such as loud music next door to upset him, you are immediately on his personal 'I Hate You' list. A growing list which I estimate to probably include almost every neighbour within a 5-block radius.
I took a deep breath as I was still not really in the mood to listen to a two-hour rant about the neighbours, so I figured the best action was to try and calm Dad down and change the subject. Regrettably, before I could even begin, Dad continued.
"Thought they could out-fox me." Dad began, a snarl now on his face. "Well they don't know who they're dealing with. Let me tell you! I was up at 6 AM today and reached through the fence to get a few leaves off that dope they're growing. Here, have a look at this boy. It's dope if I ever saw it."
I don't believe Dad had actually 'ever saw it' previously however before I could point out that small fact, Dad tossed some dried up old leaf down, landing squarely on the kitchen table in front of me.
I looked at the leaf, picked it up and smelled it. It really didn't look like weed to me. Maybe 'A weed', but certainly not marijuana that my father claims it to be.
"I don't think this is pot." I advised, looking over at Dad. "It looks more like some kind of weed or a vegetable leaf of some sort. I really have no idea. Have you asked Mom what it is, she is really very knowledgeable on almost any type of plant."
"Nonsense" Dad responded angrily. "We don't need your mother involved in any of this. Pete here just looked it up on that internet and also I've observed those damn 'long-hairs' next door watering and molly coddling these plants every day. They spend way too much time and attention on these plants from what I've seen. I've called Joe Barnes to drop over and confirm my suspicions. He will be over later today after his granddaughter's piano recital. It's all I need to get rid of these damn neighbours once and for all."
Joe Barnes of course is another one of my fathers somewhat kooky friends who unfortunately tends to indulge my Dad in these type of unfounded and baseless activities. He was an RCMP officer for years prior to his retirement a couple years back. Between my father, Pete and Joe Barnes pretty much everyone in the neighbourhood has been under suspicion for one thing or another over the past few years.
The more I heard of this story, the more ridiculous it truly sounded. I really needed to bring some sense of normalcy to the entire event before it got even more out of hand.
"So, Dad. Let me get this straight." I announced sarcastically. "Just to summarize, you woke up early this morning, stole some plant leaves from your neighbours back garden, compared them to a random picture on the internet and now have called in some old ex-cop to verify that this is marijuana. What is the point of this lunacy ?
"The point!" Dad barked. "The point, you damn fool, is to get those dope-smoking hippies out of this neighbourhood and hopefully behind bars where they belong. They have been nothing but a nuisance since the day they moved in next door."
Seeing that my elderly father was becoming more agitated by the minute, I tried to calm things down by mentioning Mom.
"Mom seems to get along with them pretty well." I advised, in a placid tone. "In fact she is outside talking to them just as I came in a couple of minutes ago."
"That's the problem with your mother, boy." Dad responded. "She gets on well with everyone. Too giving and far too nice a person."
"Well it's safe to say you don't have that problem as well Dad." I replied, immediately regretting the words as I spoke them aloud.
Before Dad could respond into a string of obscenities in my direction, Mom thankfully appeared in the kitchen doorway and interrupted our conversation.
"Simon!" She exclaimed sharply. "Whatever have you done this time? I was just talking with Kathy & Ray from next door and they mentioned that they thought they saw you taking a plant from their little garden from through the fence this morning. They were quite embarrassed to even mention it to me. So let's hear your side. Come on, out with it, what are you up to?"
Dad had a very determined and even somewhat pleased expression on his face. He obviously wanted to brag further about his great investigative work from earlier in the day.
"I was going to tell you" Dad began. "Just waiting for Joe Barnes to formally confirm things however it looks like that bunch next door are growing 'the dope'. Finally got all the proof right here."
Dad once again produced the leaves he had stolen earlier in the day, this time now waving them in the air like a flag.
Mom quickly reached out and grabbed the leaves and examined them for maybe 5 seconds. She then threw them back down on the table.
"Tomato plant leaves!" Mom announced harshly. "What you have there are leaves from a tomato plant. Any fool with even half a brain could tell that just by looking at them. If you had taken even a brief second to open up one of my gardening books in the other room, you would have realized that."
Dad quickly looked down at the leaves and then over at Mom and then over at Pete, who wisely exited the kitchen and headed downstairs realizing that there was more to come. He was right.
"Simon!" Mom began, staring directly at Dad. "Over the years you have continually slandered, insulted and alienated every neighbour who has moved into that house next door, usually without any just cause nor reason. I have no idea what your problem is and who if anyone, could live up to the imaginary & lofty standards you seem to have set for being a neighbour to you. Honestly, I cannot imagine anyone who would even want to live there and cope with your anti-social attitude, day in and day out."
"Kathy & Ray are a lovely couple, they own a small health food store and grow a few of their own fruits & vegetables out in the back garden. That is what you picked this morning. Tomato plant leaves."
Dad remained quiet, looking more like a scolded schoolboy than anything else. For the first time today he seemed completely speechless.
"After observing your bizarre actions this morning, Kathy and Ray sent this bag of tomatoes over for you, Simon." Mom continued as she thrust a small paper bag towards my father. "They thought you wanted to try a freshly grown tomato. It was so embarrassing for all of us."
Dad, still remaining absolutely silent, opened the bag slowly and peered inside for a moment.
"Cheeky Bastards" is all Dad muttered as he threw the bag down on the kitchen chair and stormed out of the room.
"Your father really does need a hobby." Mom sighed aloud, as she picked up the bag of tomatoes and placed them gently on the counter.