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John Krieg



     They call me Shade-leaf, as if it's a big fucking joke.  I was born of marijuana growers, became a marijuana grower, and have fathered what I can only hope will not be marijuana growers to be. Not that I see anything wrong in growing marijuana, it's just that I want my kids to have a better shot at life than I had.  I've lived in this godforsaken town up on the high chaparral my entire life; not that I really wanted to, but that's just how everything turned out. Now, I'm stuck here.  Now, I feel trapped.  Growing marijuana is all I know how to do, and let me tell you that the outlaw's life is not nearly as glamorous as it seems.  Work and worry define my life as a grower, and this has made me old before my time; and cynical - very, very cynical.

     I was tending marijuana by the time I was six and able to weed, water, cut, and trim.  Most of all, trim.  The trimming's the worst part of weed farming.  There's just no getting around it.  Every fall as the other kids were going  off with their parents to higher ground to witness the turning of the leaves, I was stuck in a trim house trimming pot.  It becomes as redundant  and numbing as waves rocking a boat at sea.  At first you notice what you're doing, then it becomes commonplace, and then it becomes habit, and finally it becomes accepted as eternal.  Trimming is the worst of it alright, but there are other factors that can drive a man insane. First becomes the realization that these plants are in charge, that these plants rule your life, that all you do is in service to them.

     I was forced to drop out of high school because the trimming occupied most of my time.  With an on-site cop daily roaming the corridors with that stupid fucking pot sniffing dog, it was just too much stress in taking measures to avoid detection.  My grandparents homeschooled me and paid off the biweekly visiting home school teacher in primo weed.  With her silence bought and paid for, after four years, I stumbled into a  General Education Diploma, not that I'll ever need it because this is all I do, this is my lot in life, this is what feeds my family, and this  is honest work despite what law enforcement and puritanical society in general think of it.  I have more admiration for the small growers than for the corporate douche-bags who are entering the business and taking advantage of them at every turn.  The whole world needs a business man, a salesman, a big man telling everybody else how to live and what to do.  I'm so sick of it that I could scream while wondering if a weed farmer fell in a marijuana garden would anyone bother to hear the sound as he hurriedly got up and checked on the plants fearful that he may have somehow harmed them.  It's all about the plants, about how much they can produce, about their potency, and, most importantly, how much a pound of finely manicured bud will fetch in the fall.

     I'm forty now, and my grandparents have moved on to that great grow operation in the sky.  I have three children living under my roof, ages 15, 11, and 7.  Girl, boy, girl.  Shortly after the youngest was born, my old lady split during (you guessed it) harvest time.  Up until then I had never changed a diaper in my life.  Boy did that all change.  I used to think of babies as peeing pooping little machines that eventually grew out of it and started to become interesting around age five.  Now, I know that babies are mighty interesting little beings if you take the time to get to know them, and when you change their diapers you get to know them intimately.  Tara had gobs of personality - still does.  

     After Yolanda left, and I was forced to become Mr. Mom overnight, I got a lot closer to Keith, and feel that he has done the same with me. Rosalie seems to resent me, and would rather keel over dead than carry on a civil conversation with me.  I know that deep down inside she feels that I drove her mother away, and that must be partly true.  I accept the fact that I'm not totally guiltless, but I got some resentments of my own.  I hold a very dark place in my heart for women who walk out on their kids, just like my mother did to me.  Believe me, I store those slights close to my soul. Rosalie has had it hard having to be sister and mother and most of all, housekeeper.  I try not to pile too much on her shoulders, but during harvest time I'm just simply not there.  I don't even live in the house during those two-and-a-half to three months of fourteen hour days.  I shower, eat, sleep, and of course, work in the former guest house that is now the trim house, or what some people disparagingly refer to as "the pot house."   I see the kids daily before the neighbor lady carts them off to school, just so that they remember who I am.  I'm careful not to hug them, as much as I want to, for fear of leaving  any scent that could enrage that stupid fucking pot dog and give the kid cop a raging hard-on.  He has actually taken the kids of other growers back to their homes and demanded to inspect the premises.  When they tell him to get a warrant he threatens to have the kids expelled.  What a miserable bully, and would I ever like to break his puke face, but when you grow weed you quickly learn to become Casper Milk Toast.  You live by a policy of avoidance, and the last thing any grower needs is a child endangerment rap.  The irony is that I don't want my kids involved in this business whatsoever and I'm determined to stick with that.  My grandparents were old, really old, in their seventies old when my parents imploded and snuck off in different directions.  The old folks were never in favor of me working the crop, but never fought it in order to keep the peace with dear old dad.  What a fucking pathetic loser that despicable prick was.  I was fourteen when they did their little floor show, and I just kept the operation going.  Grandpa helped where he could and was generous with his praise, and grandma was basically the glue that kept our quasi-dysfunctional family unit together.  A family existence that depends on any form of contraband for its sustenance has its secrets and its compromises.  Lets' just say that we needed each other and we knew it and were smart enough to at least work together for the common good.     

     When the neighbor lady brings the kids home in the afternoons Rosalie does her thing, but not without bitching at the other two more than I would like, to help her out.  They seem to have some type  of a pact, and I'm proud of them for keeping it together.  I feel for the poor girl, but view the hardships she's enduring as a blessing in disguise because she'll leave this downtrodden town just as soon as she can, and by all indications, she'll never come back.  Unlike me, she's not going to be stuck here forever under some kind of self-inflicted house arrest.  I want them all to be able to make their own decisions, and to go out in the world and become productive human beings. She's in her sophomore year of high school, and I've promised to pay for driving lessons before the end of this summer and to buy her a car before school starts in the fall, providing she gets her two siblings back and forth to school with a special underage permit for just that purpose.  The neighbor lady just keeps hammering me for more, more, more, and I'm sick to death of it.  It will be a pleasure to bid her a fond farewell, but it's also just another source of worry because she could be vindictive and call me in.  Law enforcement views the county ordinance as a nuisance ordinance and usually doesn't bother the locals unless one of their neighbors complains.  This ordinance, the so-called "Pot Ordinance," limits the number of plants that can be grown, and by whom.  Often referred to the as the "Try to beat us if you dare," or the  "Please use a little discretion," ordinance, depending on your view of law enforcement, the fact remains that it condemns any marijuana being grown for resale.  Personal use only is what the law allows - yeah, sure.  So threats from certain neighbors abound for the sake of ill-gotten gain.  It's hell when they threaten to do you in, unless of course you pay for their silence.  A smart grower doesn't need friends, limits his acquaintances to the bare minimum necessary to survive economically, and steers clear of his neighbors if at all possible.  That pretty much limits you to helpers and trimmers for human interaction, and you have to be careful not to see them as friends and not to let them get it in their heads that you're their friend.  I can be as friendly as the next guy, but I count actual friends on the fingers of one hand.  The less human contact you have the better.

     So all the aforesaid drivel pretty much brings you up to date on where my life is at.  It's not much of a life, but it's the only one I've got.  To be left alone, and fly under the radar would be good enough for me.  Live and let live, so to speak.  But, there are some people in this world that just have to interfere  and take unfair advantage of other people in this world.  Take for example, Yolanda, who strolled into the house last night as if she had never left, plopped her ass down, and announced she was back in town. After the shock wore off, and she had her alligator teary moment with the kids, we went over to the trim house to talk about what she really wanted.  First was an immediate infusion of cash, and in descending order of importance: control of the grow operation,  control of me, and custody of the kids.  Or, at the very least, joint custody.  She had no problem with them staying here with me, or my doing all the heavy lifting in the area of parenting with all its associated expenses.  She was obviously back on the meth, still beautiful, still a head turner, but destined to fade in the not-too-distant future.  One other thing, and she acted like it was for sure a certainty, was that I could sell to her new boyfriend who had just opened a dispensary down in the valley.  In fact they were confident that with my stature in the community, that I could get neighboring growers to throw in with them, form a cooperative so to speak, with my property as a central clearing house, and most importantly, keep the price down.  So she wanted to burn me from both ends of the candle, did she?  Give her money and the kids just because she wanted me to, and take less for all my hard work for the sole benefit of her new boyfriend.  "I don't want to hear a fucking word about this guy, I don't want to meet him, and I certainly don't want to lay eyes on you again.  If you think you got a play to make; make it. Otherwise hit the fucking bricks."  Yolanda and I had had some knock down drag out arguments in the past, but six years of repressed rage could push me to violence.  "And another thing, what the fuck do you think is my stature in the community?  These fucking people still call me Shade-leaf as if it's a big fucking joke."

     "You'll be hearing from us," she said calmly which was not at all her style, and I must admit that her poise and self-assurance unnerved me, although I did everything in my power not to let it show.  "Don't let the screen door hit you in the ass on your way out, Yolanda."  She drove off in a late model shiny little Mercedes coup laying dust all the way down the drive.  Oh she's pissed off, is she?  Isn't that a rich one?

     I walked out to the end of the drive to close and lock the gate, and then walked dejectedly back to the house.  The kids would be suffering collateral damage because of her surprise inconsiderate visit, and I would have to take some incoming, especially from Rosalie who laid into me before the front door was completely shut.  "So you just had to run her off.  Couldn't even let her stay over and visit with us for just one night, could you?"  "For Christ's sakes Rosalie, you haven't gotten one card or letter in six years. None of you have. Now you're willing to forgive and forget at the sight of a teardrop?  Let me tell you.  She can turn them on and off like a faucet."  "I miss mommy," Keith said.  Tara had never really known her mother and just stood in front of the television looking bewildered, but I knew that inside her head those wheels were turning.  I favored Tara, everybody who knew me knew it, and I didn't care if they did.  I make no politically correct apologies in saying that there are oftentimes very good reasons for why favorites get to be favorites.  I slumped on the couch with Tara cuddling up next to me, as Keith went to his room, and Rosalie resumed doing the dishes at the sink with her face red and her ears practically emitting steam.

     Troubling times were coming to our troubled lives, it was inevitable.  That bitch was back and I knew that she wouldn't take this lying down.  If she wanted to get into me for cash and the forthcoming crop, then she wouldn't sic the county on me.  The county - I hate those bastards.  They got the power, they got the guns, and they got those motherfucking helicopters thundering down from above.  In a way, they bring on more crime than they ever stop, because any grower ripped-off or otherwise slighted is sure to take matters into his own hands, for who can he call? Certainly not the cops.  The bad guys know this and take advantage of it.  I had been lucky up until now, mostly because I grew just enough to get by comfortably, but not extravagantly. What the cops hate the most is a showoff grower because it's like shoving their ineptitude, not to mention their mundane salaries, in their faces.  My thoughts turned to who Yolanda was mixed up with, and if the answer would reveal that my luck had run out.

     The Fourth of July was right around the corner.  I had promised the younger kids that I would take them down to the valley to see fireworks.  Rosalie wanted to go off with "friends" which I knew meant boys.  They had been sniffing around for the last two years. The flush of womanhood as upon her.  She already had her mother's killer body, and if not her talent for manipulating men, at least a notion of what power her budding sexuality could wield.  It was pointless to fight it.  Little girls grow up, after all; faster than any father wants, and much slower than they themselves want, but inevitably that talk has to be had because no matter how much they don't want to hear it, boys don't get pregnant - girls do.  It would have been nice if Yolanda would have written to address the subject, but she couldn't be bothered, so the task fell to me. I'd let her cool off, at least for a day, and then we would have it.  If she were going to run with this new crowd, mostly older boys comprised primarily of the losers who weren't going off to college, then she was going to have to be on birth control.  If she refused, I'd keep her under lock and key.  These losers weren't going to ruin her life just so they could get their jollies.  She was straight A's in school, on track to be class Valedictorian, and had put in to take her SAT's early in her junior year just to have the time to retake them in the spring if she didn't like the results.  She was mad about Stanford, which she referred to as, "The Harvard of the west," and I had promised that I would take up the financial slack if she managed to get in.  I didn't know how, but there was no doubt in my mind that she would hold me to it.  I had made up my mind that she would have to take birth control pills if she wanted out of this house, and I would be checking the container daily.   She could hate me for interfering if she wanted to, but I knew that would be less than she would hate me if she got pregnant and I was against her having a kid.  Raising girls is like juggling chainsaws, and it's just a matter of time before you pay a price for the endeavor.  Rosalie, unbeknownst to her, would be coming with the family on the Fourth, and on every other occasion, until we got this matter rectified.  With freedom came responsibility, and she wasn't going to get one without accepting the other, end of story.

     The days were turning hot, and the plants were bolting towards the sky.  Thriving early flowers indicted healthy growth, and if all went well, a bumper crop come late September and early October.  The fertilizing regime had been flipped from high nitrogen content (for leafing) to high phosphorus content to promote heavy flowering.  The plants would hit "the stretch" in late August whereby that would nearly double in size within two weeks time while sending swelling resin-rich colas towards the heavens. There's something supernatural about the process, and my favorite time of year is when those colas ripen promising redemption of a sorts.

     Yolanda backed off a little by calling and asking if I would at least come down to her boyfriend's facility in the valley and discuss business with them.  I hated to accept, but I knew two things.  First that she would get more adamant, then hysterical, then violent; that was her modus operandi, and conflict was inevitable unless I could find a way to skirt it.  They were open on the Fourth, so I dropped the kids at the theatre, and drove over to their facility.  It was typical of most of the larger dispensaries that I had come to hate.  Always that air of policing the contraband with the toy soldier security guard in his Napoleonic uniform, a waiting room full to the gills with suckers waiting in eager anticipation to get fleeced into paying four times what the cannabis was actually worth, getting buzzed into the back room as if gaining access into Club 54 with their expectation that you should be eternally grateful that they let you in.  And, worst of all,  the knowledgeable bud-tenders who were really high school dropouts who had smoked too much weed too early in life thus locking their brains permanently into their teenage years. They could almost be endearing except to say that their arrogant air as "experts" and the massive overuse of the word "dude" is a real turnoff.  There was paraphernalia out the yin/yang, vape pens, water  pipes, vaporizers, Star Wars looking shit to smoke wax and shatter with. And, most egregious of all: edibles, drinks, elixirs, and candies –all made and sold without the requirement of a health permit while you wouldn't be allowed to open a doughnut shop next door without one.  The crap these dispensary guys can get away with really galls me.  Take for example, hash, which is rapidly declining in popularity due to the butane processed  extracts.  You can buy hash and sell hash in California - you just can't make it.  What the fuck is up with that?  Yet here it was displayed under crystal clear glass, a remnant to a lost culture, a dying time, a generation about to go the way of the dinosaur.  Christ, have these dispensary guys who coddle to the idiot politicians who view pot to be as dangerous as nitroglycerin, fucked everything up.  Always the fear of contamination, of mold, of a bunch of shit that hardly ever happens.  Always making a case for more monitoring, more regulation, more control with its requisite fees, fines, and penalties when all that is really needed is for them to let the fuck up and get out of the way.  And don't even get me started on the smear campaign that they have leveled against outdoor growers.  Their attestations that outdoor growing produces "dirty weed", that indoor growing is better because they can control everything when the only thing that really needs to be controlled is their overinflated egos.  In all cases environmental, the more mankind interferes with the processes of Mother Nature, the more she comes right back around again to prove she had a better plan all along.  It's all about bag appeal to these supposed green rush gurus and their simpleton disciples.  Pump up those indoor strains with enough chemicals to make their buds radiate every color of the rainbow and crush like ground coffee.  Make them smell like something that they say smells great, as if the smell gets you high. The canard I hate the most has to do with bud size.  Since the indoor growers can't grow nearly the size buds that outdoor growers can, they now say that big buds are bad, that any bud larger than a strawberry is inferior.  They even want outdoor growers to break down their perfectly legitimate big buds into much smaller buds to look like indoor buds which they will ultimately sell at the same price as indoor buds which  command a much higher price - because they said so.  How about if we just smoke the shit?  I'll put my weed up against anyone's if how high you get is the determining factor, and I'll blow them away.  Yet here were these newcomers to the movement oohing and awing over the color, sniffing and crushing the product, and hanging on every word of the expert bud-tenders who were assuring them that the cannabis was cheap at any price - because they said so.  Snake oil salesman as in days of old is all they really are.  Pot is now more about what someone has to say than what it does inside the body.  Amateurs.  These bloody fucking amateurs have ruined everything that has anything to do with the initial push for legalization, and it's only going to get worse.

     I was led to the main office conjuring up memories of being sent to the principal's before I quit school.  Yolanda was sitting at a conference table in a high back chair dressed to the nines in Gucci or some other such stinking rich, self-indulgent, overpriced shit.  There was one other high back chair at the other end of the table and smaller scale, obviously less important ones on either side.  "Frederick will be here in a moment," she said as she motioned to me to sit at one of the side chairs.  Oh we're going to play this petty fucking little body language game, are we?  Well fuck that, I'll stand.  "Sit," she said as if correcting an unruly Labrador Retriever in training.  Frederick's entrance interrupted the standoff.  He was about fifty years old, meticulously well-dressed, distinguished looking on the surface, with graying hair, an erect posture, and eyes not unlike a reptile's.  He spoke in an Eastern European, perhaps Russian accent as we limp wristed our way through an awkward handshake.  He motioned to one of the side chairs but I ignored him.  "Won't you sit down," he said in a voice flummoxed by my behavior.  "Not unless you have another one of these," I replied motioning towards his chair.  "Oh Jesus, I told you he was difficult," Yolanda said as she rose to vacate hers and take a side chair.  I sat in her vacated chair and an eerie silence ensued as we sized each other up.  Closer scrutiny of his occasionally pitted face revealed that Frederick had been in more than a few serious scrapes.  His throat had an ugly horizontal scar indicating that a settlement had been agreed upon a half inch shy of piercing the esophagus.  He was most definitely a man not to be trifled with, and I had no intention of escalating hostilities, that by all appearances, were about to boil to the surface.

     "Yolanda informs me that you grow some high quality outdoor cannabis," Frederick said.  "She's right about that," I replied, hitting the ball squarely back into his court.  "We would be interested in testing your product, and if everything checks out, then buying all of it from you."  "I have no doubts that the THC content is 25% or higher, and all fertilizers used are organic.  We only engage in botanical pest control.  But, if we come to a meeting of the minds, concerning price, I'll be happy to provide you with samples." "What is your price structure?"  "Well Frederick, even though you would be a new customer, I'll sell to you for what I sell to anyone else: $1,250 per pound for orders under 10 pounds, $1,000 a unit thereafter."  "No discount for volume?"  "None other than what I just told  you.  I can sell in ten to twenty pound lots all day long, and it's to my advantage to stay at ten packs and keep the price up. The weed practically sells itself."  Frederick's jaw muscles tensed to the size of walnuts, while his eyes narrowed as if sighting prey down the barrel of a high caliper rifle as he replied, "We will pay $500 a pound for outdoor grown plants.  They're just not as good, you know."  "No Frederick, I don't know that at all.  What I do know is that what I've quoted you is what has been the standard over the last few years.  Prices used to be much higher until outside competition flooded the market with what I feel is inferior weed.  I doubt that even those growers would sell for that."  "Times change, Thomas, or do you prefer I call you Shade-leaf?  How does one acquire such a name as Shade-leaf?"  "His father called him that," Yolanda interjected, "the name just stuck."  "Call me anything you want, just don't call me born yesterday.  If there's nothing more to discuss, I'll show myself out."  "As you wish," Frederick said, as Yolanda made an expansive sweeping motion towards the door with her hands as if shoveling spent leaves into a discard pile.  I left silently not even bothering with, "good day," because all parties concerned knew that it wasn't.

     This high powered meeting had taken all of ten minutes, and had amounted to nothing more than a circle jerk of words.  I didn't know Frederick from Adam, except to say that there was no doubt in my mind that he was a thug.  His dispensary reeked  of new-found respectability, however, and I had to ask myself why would he jeopardize all that just to get a rabble of small scale mountain growers to lick his boot heels?  To what end?  How much could there be in it for him, anyway?  Yolanda was another story, altogether.  She could be vindictive and hold a grudge over the pettiest of matters.  This I knew intimately because I knew the woman well.  

     Come the yearly harvest time, Yolanda's parents began dropping her off at our place to trim when we were both twelve.  I thought that she was way out of my league, and she probably felt the same way, but I was the only one present  who was close to her age, who held remotely similar interests in music, or was marginally captivated by what was seen on the trim room television of pop culture.  Up until then, my image of myself, that was honed by what was bestowed upon me by the bullies amongst the other kids, was that of town nerd; so being seen occasionally out and about this small gossipy village with someone as hot as her evened out the equation.  Cool by association, my self-defeating self-image improved to the point where even she began to notice.  After grandpa kicked, when I was nineteen, grandma gave in and let her move in.  We went at it hot and heavy, and I loved stripping down in the garden and giving it to her standing up between the rows while she wrapped her long slinky legs around me as the gentle summer breeze washed over us, and the scrub jays chastised us from the surrounding chaparral.

     Grandma passed when I was twenty-two and left this piece-of-nothing farm to me.  Yolanda and I lived a peaceful life, and she became a good grower in her own right.  We lived for today, for the next harvest, for the joy of being footloose and fancy free. That all changed when she decided that we needed children, and to make her point, discontinued her birth control, and became pregnant with Rosalie at twenty-five.  Some would say that we fell into the kid trap, but in truth, she did most of the parenting while I did most of the gardening.  After Keith was born, things started to unravel.  She dabbled in cocaine and then went over the deep end with crystal meth.  A succession of over-paid marriage counselors attributed her drug addiction to our boring lifestyle, a lack of social acquaintances, and my inability to make her happy. In other words, this was mostly my fault, and given my inability to become someone that I wasn't, we were doomed.  She went in and out of rehab with the stays becoming progressively longer and increasingly more expensive.  During one of her dry periods, unbeknownst to me, she became pregnant with Tara.  Once again, she stopped taking her birth control thinking a baby would fill the void in her life, but with the vast majority of addicts, that void is never filled, and only death makes it a moot point.  That appeared to be her current track, and either Frederick was unaware of it or didn't care.  Gone. It was all gone now, and blown away like dust from a bumpy country road in the middle of a dry spell.  Nothing left but meaningless dust.

     I took the kids out to dinner, and then we drove over to Veteran's Stadium to watch the sun set and lay out a blanket on which to see the fireworks.  Instantly, I knew why Rosalie hadn't given me a hard time at dinner.  The boys set up a few yards away not unlike jackals waiting for the buzzards to leave, and they exchanged glances with her every few seconds. "Can I dad?  We'll be right here."  Why make the child miserable?  "Okay, but you're not to leave my sight," I replied, and I leaned in to give her an understanding fatherly hug.  Too much. Not cool.  What could I possibly be thinking? as she recoiled away from me as if I was the town pervert.  "Remember, never out of my sight - right?"  She bolted away from me, and floated over to them as light as  pollen in the wind.  Get used to it dad.  Soon she'll drift away for good.

     The low desert sky turned orange fading to pink as it had done for eons.  As darkness descended, the fireworks started up.  Tara and Keith clung to me as they marveled at the  explosions followed by sprays of arching colorful lights twinkling down to nothing.  Rosalie had escaped my vision before the grand finale, and not wanting to spoil the evening for her younger siblings, I calmly called her on her cell and told her: "Meet me by the front gate."  As expected, she told me that she wanted to stay "out" a while longer, and not to worry because she had a ride home. "You're coming home with us, and unless you want a really ugly scene, you better meet me at the front gate."  I knew she was pissed by the abrupt hang-up, but her freedom would begrudgingly come when she relented and complied with my birth control directive, and not a moment sooner.

     The ride back up the mountain was quiet and somber as Tara and Keith nodded off in the back seat while Rosalie simmered and stewed next to me.  Let it drop. Leave it be.  It can keep until morning, or maybe even be shined on until the next festive event dictates that she become miss popularity with this next generation of town losers.  For right here, right now, my family was together and soon they would be sleeping safe and sound in their beds. Nobody was ever going to nominate me for father of the year, to be certain, but they weren't abandoned, cast to the wind, unloved, uncared for, or otherwise discarded.  Like it or not, I would do my job until they were able to wing from the nest and fend for themselves.  As we pulled into the drive it became readily apparent that my job had just gotten immeasurably harder.  

     The chain-link front gate had been rammed and discarded into a mangled heap at the side of the drive.  The knobby tire tracks laid down by a large truck or SUV went straight out towards the garden.  "Oh my God, dad!"  "Rosalie, listen to me.  Take the kids in and get them into bed.  They don't need to worry about this just now.  Let them sleep.  I'll check things out and be in soon." Although visibly upset, she did as  I directed.  There were no vehicles out back by the garden.  They had rammed the gate just like out front, and then apparently stopped  As I shined the flashlight about I quickly noticed the plants leaning in all different directions. Further inspection revealed that all stems had been severed with pruning loppers just above the ground.  They didn't miss a single one. Buddy, about the friendliest guard dog around, was dead, shot square through the temple.  Fucking bastards, that made me the most livid.

     There was little doubt that this was the handiwork of Frederick the thug, and his henchwoman, Yolanda the bitch.  She knew that the kids and I weren't home, after all.  At this point I had no concrete proof, and who could I turn to in order to acquire it?  But it was them, I felt it in my bones.  I headed back for the trim house, for my pistols, a rifle, and a heaping helping of revenge in the making when the thought occurred to me to check on the most important things in my life - my children.  Entering the house Rosalie rushed into my arms saying, "What did they do?"  "They destroyed it all, killed Buddy, left us with nothing."  I left  her sobbing in the kitchen as I went to check on Tara and Keith. Staring down upon Tara's angelic face, a mirror image of Yolanda's, I remembered chasing her mother up one row and down another as she kept herself just out of reach as she teased me into wanting her even more.  Those were the best moments of my life,  and I often wondered after she left, why weren't they enough or her?  Three beautiful children, and a man who loved her with all his heart just wasn't enough for her.  Well fuck you then Yolanda.  Fuck you and that asshole Frederick.  I'll kill you both, or you'll kill me and take the kids in the bargain.  Fuck you! Fuck you!! Fuck you!!!

     I became weak as I stumbled over to Keith's room.  I sat in a chair at his computer desk and watched him sleep contentedly.   They were all I had now. In truth, in retrospect, they were all I ever had.  My senses returned to me as I went down the bedroom hall and over to the dining room table.  Rosalie sat next to me uttering, "What are you going to do?"  "Well, kiddo, you're going to have to drive my truck, 'the old hay wagon' as you call it, to school this fall. I can make enough to get by trimming for the other growers, and we will just have to wait it out until next season."  "What if they come back dad?"  "I'll be waiting for them.  I won't be able to leave at all next season.  I'll protect what's ours', but I won't leave this land looking to kill someone.  If they come for me, they'll get what's coming to them, or that will be it for me, but I won't leave this land next season.  I won't leave myself open to this.  Now go to bed dear child while I warn the other growers."  "Just one thing dad. Why do they call you Shade-leaf?  I heard mom call you that when she was here, and saw how much you hated hearing it from her. You've always refused to tell me, but I have to know.  Come on, please tell me."  "The name came from the old man.  He said the shade-leafs were the most useless things on a marijuana plant.  It was meant as a put down, but he was wrong.  Without the shade-leafs nothing grows, or not very well anyhow."

     Rosalie hugged me firmly and then went off to bed.  I got out my contact list and started dialing up the first of twenty other nearby growers.  Like Paul Revere, I would sound the warning. They could address it as they wished.  Maybe this would be the end of it.  A little mean-spirited vengeance in retaliation for not getting what they wanted before shifting gears and making other plans.  Maybe it would get bloody.  Maybe someone else would put Yolanda and her thug boyfriend six feet under.  Maybe I would if they came at me again.  Maybe, or maybe not.  About the only thing that was certain was that troubling times had once again come to our troubled lives.



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