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IT'S LOVE, BUDDY / Jean R. Matthew MY MOTHER HAS RESURFACED in central Illinois. I read it in the newspaper, Articles from Around the Nation. Stone flamingos disappear from lawns, the article said. I know thafs her. I know how she does it. No one thinks twice when they see an old lady around the neighborhood. She makes friends with the dogs and when she goes back to lift the birds, there's no trouble. Bones in her pockets and a good idea of the whole neighborhood's schedule, she'd make a good thief. When it was cement flamingos, before, she waited, crouched behind a blue hydrangea bush, until the cars passed. The birds were too heavy for her to carry. She left them under the bush and crawled across the lawn to the sidewalk. The phone booth was half a block away. I answered. "Can you pick me up?" She gave me directions and knew I would come. She waited under a street lamp, one eye on a lawn jockey. I came in her car, a cut-down CadUlac hearse. One at a time she brought the birds and put them in a wicker clothes basket in the back. "I left their legs. Couldn't dig them out." "I'm an accessory. I resent it. Every time." "Don't sound like your father." She lit a cigarette. "Thafs not aU he says. He's going to have to turn you in. You got to cut this stuff out." "He's gonna turn me in. He's gotta do his duty. You know how long? Years. Every time his piles bother him, he's gonna turn me in." It was a forty-minute drive, past the end of the bus Une. I got out and walked around to open her door. "You don't have to help me." The curtain at the front window was open. I had left the radio on, the recUner tipped back. She found dowels in her workshop, cut four of them to length. The flamingos would go behind a Bambi and next to red and white mushrooms. She turned on the floodhght. The whole width and length of her garden was Ut. It was a maze of statuary: many more than seven dwarves; several concrete The Missouri Review · 262 effigies of Bambi; wooden windmüls that set smaU woodchoppers going; sUver, green, and blue reflecting baUs, on the ground and on pedestals; three smaU black jockeys with rings in their tight Uttle fists, wearing red coats and white pants; and three upended bathtubs, in each a blue-robed Mary stood with outstretched arms. The Marys were also Ut from below, smaU spots of soft Ught upon their wimpled heads. In between groups of statues were smaU scenes: a tea service of odd cups, pots and saucers, the cups planted with pansies; a ring of colored bottles around a patch of EngUsh daisies; several old rubber baby doUs leaned shoulder to shoulder, unclothed, some with no limbs, or hands, or feet, their heads turned towards a clump of bluebeUs. She walked around the edge, dowels in hand. The dew had faUen and her feet were wet. She had left her shoes, turquoise mules, under the hydrangea. Narrow paths went around the statues and she made her way to the spot for the flamingos. In the morning she sat in her bathroom and Ustened to me and CharUe talk about her. Her bathroom was at the far end of her side of the house, next to our kitchen. CharUe said the same things every time: she was a kook and a criminal. I defended her, though never to her face. "Petty theft, thafs aU it is, CharUe. No big deal." "Theft is theft. Thafs aU there is to it. I arrest a lot of people for less." I know she sat on the floor, in the middle of the pink plush rug. The room smeUed of gardenias. Pink and black were the colors, and there were rhinestone poodles on the toüet top and the shower curtains. CharUe had refused to set foot inside the door. He had used the woods until she finished his bathroom...


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