Big Truck in the Garden
by Brian Beatty
Cale was sitting on the front porch of his crumbling farm house, plunking away on a banjo, when up pulled a pair of sheriff’s cars without their lights or sirens going.
“Lucky me!” Cale hooted. “This must be a social visit. Sorry I’m out of iced tea, boys.”
“Just looking into a missing persons lead,” said the taller, dumber-looking of the deputies.
“I’m right here,” Cale replied. “Been out here all afternoon. You can ask my neighbors.”
“It’s not you we’re looking for, old man,” said the short, fat deputy. “Or it is and it isn’t. We’re curious how well you might know this Jacobson kid used to peddle marijuana around town. According to his mother, she’s not seen him for months. Weird, right? Suddenly she’s worried.”
Cale stood, frowning. “Name don’t ring any bells, but I barely know my own grandkids. That’s the damn crime, if you ask me. Into the house if we’re not finished. Folks will start talking, they see us out here.”
Cale held open the rickety storm door for the two uniforms, before following them inside.
The farm house interior was cool and dark, dirty windows the only dim light.
“We were thinking this Jacobson kid might be eating into your business at the high school. You know, supplying his classmates.” Cale pretended he’d turned his deaf ear toward their hypothesis. “Or maybe you’re actually staying out of trouble. It’s really never too late to turn over a new leaf.” Deputy Humpty Dumpty chuckled at his own joke. “Get it? Leaf?”
Cale sighed. “I have no idea what you boys are talking about. I’ve been retired for years. The only thing I’m growing these days is my garden out back. I reckon that’s not against the law.”
Cale pushed open a curtain and nodded toward a double-ton truck, an old Army vehicle, buried halfway up its wheels in squash and tomato plants.
“Looks pretty good,” the skinny one said. “What’s your secret?”
“No secret,” Cale replied. “Good old-fashioned hard work. Used to be just stumps out there,
but I declared war on ’em. Pulled ’em out with that truck until it wouldn’t pull no more. So there it sits, a monument to itself.”
The two county dumbasses sitting in the shadows of his living room mostly shrugged at his garden story. It was obvious to Cale they weren’t really interested in that missing boy’s whereabouts.
Brian Beatty has published four poetry collections: Borrowed Trouble; Dust and Stars: Miniatures; Brazil, Indiana: A Folk Poem; and Coyotes I Couldn’t See. His next poetry chapbook, Magpies and Crows, is due out from Ravenna Press in 2021. Hobo Radio, a spoken word album of his poetry, was released in January 2021 by Corrector Records. Beatty’s fiction has appeared in Bull, Cowboy Jamboree, Floyd County Moonshine, Hoosier Noir, Hoot, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Mystery Tribune, Noir Nation, Pulp Adventures, The Quarterly, Seventeen and Shotgun Honey. You can connect with him on Twitter at @BrianBeattyMPLS