High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Sure, everybody thinks I’m easygoing and relaxed.  But listen.  Some things send me off the deep end.  For one thing: My newspapers.  Do not, under any circumstances, mess with my daily newspapers.

Which is exactly what was going on yesterday, as I found myself thrashing around in our front yard.  My New York Times was missing.  I looked up and down the block, trying to see a suspect so I could perform a chokehold and make a citizen’s arrest.  Nobody was around.  (Cowards always run.)

I was about to go back inside when I noticed something else was missing:  My Obama sign.

It was all too much.  Clearly, it was a full-throttle case of theft with heavy First Amendment implications.

Of course, we’d had crime in our neighborhood before.  There had been the still-unsolved case of the missing cantaloupe a few years ago.  For some reason, a single vine with a large cantaloupe had sprouted in our front yard.  My husband had looked over it fondly, waiting for it to ripen.  It was almost perfect, ready to pluck and eat, when it disappeared.  My husband was furious.  He stalked around the yard, peered out the windows at the front of the house, all of the time muttering curses and engaging in long, philosophical discourses about what kind of worthless cretin would steal another person’s cantaloupe.

Then, only several months ago, we had a suspicious-looking plant growing at our neighbor H’s house.  H had inspected the plant and brought over a second neighbor, G, to see whether it was, in fact, a marijuana plant.  G had broken off a piece of the leaf, tasted it, gotten dizzy and pronounced it as clearly and unmistakably marijuana.  The next day, someone else showed up to inspect the plant.  It didn’t even have the same number of leaves a marijuana plant did, he’d laughed.  Didn’t people in Tarrytown know what a marijuana plant looked like?  Evidently not.

I let most of the neighbors know about yesterday’s crime wave, just so they could be on the alert.  Many theories were aired, in particular, about what political stripe the Obama thief belonged to.  Another Obama supporter?  Surely not.  A Hillary person?  Well, maybe.  But jeez!  Obama had lost on Tuesday!  What kind of thoroughly tasteless thief would steal one of his signs now?  Didn’t people — fellow Democrats — have any class these days?

I notified my husband, who’d left town for a couple of days after we’d finished our taxes, that we had a neighborhood predator on the loose.  One day, theft of political signs and newspapers, next day — well, who knew?  Clearly, nothing was sacred.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” he said, when I talked to him later.  “I just took the sign down myself.  I thought — well, we could put it back up if Obama gets the nomination.”  This elicited a few choice comments from me about marital trust and communication and the general jerkiness of the male sex.

Later, I found the sign, just where my husband said it was: In the closet we use for recycling.  Not even a week after the Texas primary and Obama’s already being recycled.  Jesus.  In the meantime, the New York Times remains missing and I’m on high alert.  This perpetrator won’t get off as easily as my husband did, I can promise you that.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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