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"There it sat, a silent sentinel, boxy and unobtrusive -- a great impediment to any further thought of progress."

Melody retrieved the sheet of paper from the old Remington typewriter she had recently acquired from a local thrift shop. She looked the words over closely, batting at her lip thoughtfully with her pencil. She liked what she had written, but it didn't have quite the punch she was looking for.  

It needs Zing! she thought.  And a tad less of the fuddy-duddy.  

Scathing documents to government officials, she decided, should have short, attention-grabbing, sentences.  There should be many exclamation points!!! and lists of ideas demarcated by bullets.

She scanned the keys, and shook her head, unable to find one engraved with a centered dot to get the job done.  “Did people not need their attentions grabbed in the forties?” Melody wondered. She sighed, and decided that if it came down to it, she would simply use a black marker and supply the bullets herself.

Satisfied, she reloaded the typing paper, spending more time than she would have liked getting the sheet aligned properly. While she loved old-timey machines and gadgets like this old clunker, she wondered how people kept from losing their minds with some of these manual steps.

"Mom," she shouted.  "Hey Mom! MOM! Momomomom."  The request for her mother's presence had become a chant to which she added a beat.  By the time Lonnie Jackson arrived at her daughter's room, Melody was dancing to this newly created song, lost in the music.

"What is it?"  Lonnie’s face was red and sweaty, as though she had previously been engaged in something vigorous.

Melody stopped, looked up at her mother, and blinked almost audibly.  "Huh?"

Lonnie said her words slowly, and loudly.  "Why did you call me?"

"Oh," Melody said, looking around her room.  "Sorry. I don't remember now. You should come sooner when I call you."

Lonnie raised one eyebrow, but didn't say anything more.  After a moment, she turned around and began down the hallway, her fists balled up at her sides.

"Wait," Melody shouted, jumping to her feet.  "I remember what it was."

Lonnie returned, this time much more slowly.  "Okay," she said. "This better not be some funny trick."

"It isn't," she said.  "I promise. I just wanted to run an idea past you."

Lonnie walked into the center of Melody's bedroom, and sat down on the bed.  She ironed out her pants with her hands, and then placed them face down on the bed as if for support.  

“You do understand that I was down in the basement fixing the dryer.”  

The Jacksons always had a regrettable relationship with appliances.  Clothes dryers, however, historically had been the most unfortunate. The belt in the current incarnation had a tendency to slip off the drum every ten loads or so.  The fix was to remove the top, reach into the machine without falling into it and slip the belt back on the track.  

Melody nodded.  “Okay,” she said, seemingly not making any connection between that act and her sudden need for her mother to listen to her idea.

“My point is,” Lonnie said, speaking determinedly.  “You could have come to me.”

Melody continued to stare at her mother blankly.

“Because your idea is more portable than the dryer.”

Melody placed her hand on top of her mother's.  “You look tired, mom. You probably needed a break anyway. So, anyway...” 

Lonnie pulled her hand away.  “Don't use that pop psychology garbage on me.”  She placed her own hand on top of her daughter's.  “Just tell me your idea already.” Lonnie leaned back on the bed and settled in.  She really did need a break actually, and Melody's bed was soft and inviting. She wondered momentarily what her chances were of convincing her daughter to make one of those fancy drinks with the little umbrellas.  She eventually decided this was about as likely as Melody coming downstairs with her idea,


Lonnie nodded.  “Very,” she said, and with a wave of her hand she added, “Proceed.”  

Melody, even by her own admission, tended to have some fairly wacky ideas at times.  Most of these went unfulfilled, not because they necessarily weren't good ones, but because the girl tended to have more of them than she could possibly stay focused on.  

“Pardon the cliché, but there simply aren't enough hours in the day,” Melody would say if anyone noticed that one of her great intentions had suddenly slipped through the cracks.

As Melody gathered some documents for what appeared to be a full presentation of some sort, Lonnie looked around her daughter's bedroom.  This project, for it truly was more project than room, was a multitude of several glorious ideas. Due to the room's small size, Melody was inspired to line all of her walls with shallow shelving and place her bed in the middle at such an angle as to maximize walking space.  She had even come up with a complicated system of categorizing all of the containers which Lonnie didn't really understand. Most of the materials had already been purchased but either sat idle in the basement, or were stacked to the ceiling in the corner of the room.

"I hope it isn't that you've decided to move into the attic now that we've bought all of this stuff."

Melody sighed, loudly.  "Don't be ridiculous," she said.  She fumbled with the paper in her typewriter for a few minutes more, seemingly forgetting that her mother was waiting next to her.

Finally, unable to contain herself any further, Lonnie blurted out.  "Well?!"

Melody jumped, and then spun around.  "Oh, yeah," she said. "Why I summoned you."

Lonnie stopped her.  "First of all, " she said.  "You did NOT summon me. And even if you did, I..."

"It's just an expression, Mother," Melody interrupted.

Lonnie clacked her tongue against her teeth.  "Really not liking the way you called me mother, there."

Melody squinted at her in a way which seemed to say, Maybe we don't need to drag this conversation out any longer than necessary. 

"So," she said aloud.  "Here's my idea." Melody clapped her hands together in a way she had seen football coaches do to rally the attention of the players.  "You know that little building across the street, yes?"

Lonnie nodded.  "The weather station," she said.  “Yes, I'm quite aware of that. What about it?"  Her eyes narrowed, warily."Weather station."  Melody snorted. "If you believe that."

Lonnie shook her head with a knowing grin on her face.  If there was one thing she knew about her daughter it was that the girl had a great imagination.  There was no telling what sort of theory she had about the true origins of that particular structure.  Lonnie, on the other hand, knew for a fact that it was a weather station.  

“I distinctly remember signing the petition which allowed it to be built in the empty field, and one of the attendants even let me peek inside during a quarterly maintenance inspection.  It's not a weather station?"

Melody snorted again.  "Doubtful."

Lonnie folder her arms.  "Okay,” she said. “This ought to be good."

"Anyway, that's not where I was going with this.  What that building is or is not has no bearing on my idea."

"Well, what's..."

Melody interrupted.  "I'm so glad you asked that."  She produced a long tube from under her desk out of which she retrieved a rolled-up, poster-sized piece of paper.   She jumped over to her bed and laid out what was soon revealed to be a blueprint. She opened it as far as she could with what little space was afforded by her mother’s lounging there.

"Okay," she said.  "This is that lot. You see how I have removed that weather station, as you call it."

Lonnie pointed at it.  "As indicated by this dramatic looking mound of rubble here, I'm guessing."

"Yes," Melody said.  "Quite. You see how this frees up another third of the lot."

"At least," Lonnie chided, "once you get the debris hauled away."

"Let's forget the debris for a moment."

"Melody," her mother said, seriously.  "Please tell me this plan of yours doesn't involve any sort of Eco-terrorism on your part.”

The girl chose to ignore her mother's comment and pressed on.

"Look, see how I've parceled this out into neat little sections."

Lonnie pulled the blueprint away so she could get a closer look.  "A community garden?" She squinted, scrunching her lips and nodded to the side all in the same motion.  It was a look which Melody had identified over the years as an indicator of mild approval.

"There's enough space for six small plots," she confirmed.

Lonnie slammed the blueprint down, almost excitedly.  Melody thought for a moment by this action that her mother was going to jump to her feet, and proclaim, "This is the best idea since walnut butter!"  Instead, she said, "I gotta tell you, I find this idea a tad shady."

Melody tilted her head in confusion.

Lonnie  continued with her train of thought.  "I mean it's a nice, environmental idea, which is probably where you're mostly going with this.  But, Melody," she continued, "You hate to garden."

"I really don't."  She folded up her arms in mild annoyance.

"I believe the quote last time I asked you to help me pull weeds from around the tomatoes was, 'But it's filthy out there.'

Melody shook her head, disapprovingly.  "First of all, pulling weeds isn't gardening. It's disgusting grunt work, and second of all I was five years old – and I believe there was a nasty looking worm giving me the evil eye."

Lonnie laughed, causing a scowl to appear on Melody's face.  She didn't especially care to be laughed at, unless it was a fully sanctioned and approved Melody Jackson bit of humor -- especially not coupled with the dissent of an idea as brilliant as this one. However, before Melody could launch a complaint, her mother added the following, apparently only with the intention of making things worse.

"Maybe we could start a garden again in our own yard this year, and see if you like it."

Melody exploded.  "THIS ISN'T LIKE GETTING A FISH TO SEE IF I COULD BE RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH FOR A PUPPY!"  She took a deep breath, calmed herself and lowered her voice. She then repeated the statement as if doing so removed the stink of the outburst.

"I'm well aware of that," said Lonnie.  "And not to poke it with a stick, but you don't see any puppies sniffing around that empty fish bowl, do you?"

Melody's face turned red, and she balled up her fists.  She thought about storming out of the room in a display of anger, but she didn't think that would help her argument any.  Deep down, there was a constant struggle to contain her anger, which over the last year had begun to gurgle from her slightly post-pubescent body, like the steady flow of volcanic magma.  While she didn't want to act like a typical twelve year old, horribly there were times when she simply couldn't seem to help it. This frustrated her even more. Melody especially didn't want to suffer the comment, "Typical teen-age behavior!"  She didn't think she could bare it.

Instead she fought to retain her initial composure, and this time won.  "Anyway," she said, brushing off the shackles of the past conversation, "this is all beside the point.  The idea of a community garden is not simply for us to grow a garden. The key word here is community."

Lonnie shook her head, and said something which would force Melody from the room finally in an uncontrollable rage.  "But, sweety, you don't exactly like talking to the neighbors, either." 

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One:  Episode One

Melody Jackson 

vs. The Woman in White

by BMB Johnson

Scene 1

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