The North End Plant Snatcher was by all official reports an unknown maybe-kleptomaniac/maybe-botanophile who ransacked households mid-soiree, right under the tenants' own noses. If you asked anyone in the social-circles extending between north-north and north-western parts of the city, a guy named Steve was the culprit and irrefutably so, who could be discovered to be absent anytime someone came to notice that their jade plant or rubber tree was missing from their living room or bedroom. He had the short of shiftiness attributed to any thief. He was brittle and fearful. He looked both ways before doing something even as faultless as rubbing his nose. He had this weird, pale '90s hacker/Matrix-fanatic look, with this long trench coat he wore even while cleaning the synagogues, adding to this strange midnight malefactor Mr. Hyde kind of thing people suspected. You could imagine the lining of his trench to be decked with a display of houseplants like a Times Square street merchant trying to vend stolen watches. People speculated about all the plants in his apartment, though no one really knew where he lived.
Others scouts-honour swore on their mother's life they heard somebody saw him toss them off the Point Pleasant bridge and onto the tracks at the end of every weekend of scores. Solemnly too, like someone scattering the ashes of a loved one fresh out of the crematorium's retort into the wind. That added a real strange layer to the character of the N.E.P.S., and was an anecdote people tried not to disclose—it only aroused unanswerable questions about this weirdo's motives.
Trevor surrendered. "OK, OK, fine, fine, I'll let Rutabaga and Konrad know he's not coming then." "YOU'RE INVITING THEM TOO?!"
Trevor began going on about why it was necessary to invite those two to keep the party from being awkward or weird, and who else he had to invite to maintain a chill equilibrium, on and on, right down to local Shriners and the guy who worked at the liquor store.
Six pm: After Myles finished his microwaved dinner, he waited for his mom to zone herself out at the dinner table and tip-toed out the front door. He did his routine lurch down the driveway of the Sarah's house and squeezed into the basement through the window. Downstairs, he found the duffle bag that Welnot had returned home with the previous night. Not having seen it in the basement before and without knowing where it was that it came from, he opened the bag.
Six-fifteen pm: Trevor's room. At this time Trevor was seated on the floor amongst pillowcases stuffed with dirty laundry, making a small cut-and-pasted card out different kinds of construction paper he asked Gertraud for ("Why are you making something for Leland? Sure, whatever. Just take this, Trevor. No, I won't be needing it back." "Why? Trevor, dammit, I haven't used construction paper since the fourth grade. What do you think art school is actually like?")
Six-fifteen pm: Sarah's room. Sarah sat at her desk eating a bowl of cereal. She had resorted to her computer for advice. To access the right channels of knowledge on the internet, you need to give it the right question. Her Google search-bar auto-filled the incomplete phrase "what to do when your roommate"— with "is stealing from you," "is your mother," "doesn't look like they are breathing" and "isn't who you thought they were." The last one may tenuously apply to Gertraud, she thought. The second-last one she thought might've applied to Trevor and his sleep apnea when he first moved in. She remembered lying awake at night counting the length of the lapses between his curdling gurgle-breaths and wondering how she could get out of being the one to check in on him if he suddenly stopped snore-breathing altogether.
Myles had an experience with scattering ashes when he was eight years old. His mother's older brother Leo was a rigid circus and carnival devotee. On his death-bed he joked that despite having been to every major amusement park in North America at least once in his life he still wished he could go to Disneyland just one last time before he crossed over to parks unknown.
It was an incident that wound up getting his family banned from the Dartmouth fair for the duration of their individual existences. The fairground ride was in full-swing when Myles' oldest uncle Jimmy grabbed his shoulder and yelled "RELEASE!" into Myles' red-hot ears, thus dispensing all of Leo's ashes into the faces of everyone seated behind them, painting the sky overcast and dim, and colouring the bundles of cotton candy any kid held within 20 feet of them a lifeless Uncle Leo-grey.
The new chapter of Half-heard is published in The Coast—newspaper version—every Thursday. One week later it is published here online. So it's easy to catch up online, but best to stay ahead in print.