It wasn’t a premeditated theft, though it was a crime of opportunity.
I was putting out my recycling when I spied my neighbour doing the same thing.
“Quinton!” I hollered. “Do you have a coffee table?”
He paused. “Yes.”
I’m sure he felt this was a safe answer.
“Can I have it for two weeks?” I asked.
And that is how a neighbourhood should work. I’d been told to make my house look pretty so prospective buyers could imagine their own lives taking place here.
I needed a coffee table I didn’t own to hold the vase I rarely used that was full of flowers I didn’t like. On the appointed day, Quinton indeed showed up, table in tow.
Pammy came in a few days later and pointed to the coffee table.
“That looks good. You should keep it,” she said.
“It’s Quinton’s. I have to give it back.”
“Maybe he won’t miss it,” she reasoned.
I’ve had the same thoughts with some of my sister’s linens. All this good taste might have a lasting effect.
What doesn’t have a lasting effect is flowers. I’d clipped a bunch from my own garden initially, Dad’s tulips. I do like tulips, and I like them even better when they droop over and die, which is a good thing because they do that quite promptly.
The tulips from my garden are also enormous, with heads the size of small cantaloupes. As they scattered their petals one by one, as elegant a death scene as ever played out on a larger stage, I liked them even more.
A real estate agent came by and suggested I might want to liven up the coffee table. With my own garden strip mined for flowers, I looked out my front windows.
I already had a deal with other neighbours, Jan and Catherine, to babysit the cats during open houses, but noticed that Quinton had a lot of tulips. I grabbed a pair of scissors and went outside.
Jan and Catherine were puttering in their garden.
“Quinton’s not home. Do you think he’d mind if I stole some of his tulips?” I asked them.
“Probably not, but take some of ours, there’s more around back.”
Again, I have the best neighbours. I snipped a few here and a few there, figuring nobody would notice if I didn’t overdo it. The fresh recruits lasted a few more days, until the inevitable droop set in once again.
Scissors in hand, I headed over to Quinton’s again. He saw me coming and, I’m sure, went to lock his front door.
“Can I steal a few of your tulips?” I asked him.
“I have a whole bunch in back. Sure,” he laughed.
Behind his house, he had a dozen of the coolest tulips I’ve ever seen.
“What are these, Dr. Seuss tulips?” I asked him.
They had elongated petals and sprung out on long, bendy stems.
I loved them, and I clipped every one as he watched.
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” I asked when it was too late if he did.
I told him how good they would look on his coffee table.
“Take whatever you need,” he said. “Just don’t ask me to watch those cats.”
I trundled back across the street, tulips in tow. I pulled cat cages up from the basement to get ready for an open house.
And I admit I wondered, again, why I was leaving this neighbourhood.