Two large decorative pots stood guard outside of the apartment doors like stone lions, but cheap and temporary. Inside of the pots, weeds grew tall and unchecked with cigarette butts and trash as fertilizer. This was an embarrassing problem as a volunteer group was currently en route to check on their beautification project from last summer.
The volunteers were a group of well-meaning housewives from the very far north side of the city where they almost certainly did not use planters as an ashtray or trashcan.
“You,” I shouted, “Stop right there,”
A man wearing a pair of basketball shorts with skinny legs froze in action, he was caught red handed or in this case with the glowing cherry of a nearly finished cigarette that was about to be stubbed out in one of the pots. He looked up with wide eyes, aware of his unmistakable culpability in the situation.
“I need your help, Chicken Legs.”
It was not a question but a demand and a sentence for his crime against potted flowers and beautification projects everywhere.
“Hey, Miss Puney. It’s not what it looks like; I don’t usually leave these here but just this one time. Sure I’ll help; anything you need.”
Walking closer and peering into the pot, there were 15 to 20 white cigarette butts haphazardly placed as though seeds strewn by a careless farmer hopeful for tiny cigarette packs to one day grow.
“Just this once, huh?”
I shook my head at the discrepancy of his words and my observations.
“It doesn’t matter now. The volunteers are on their way and we have to get these pots ready for them.”
Chicken Legs was unfamiliar with the women who were about to descend upon us, leaving a trail of Chanel No. 5 in their wake. They would not be pleased to find a butter knife, a discarded juice pack, a tangle of weeds of an uncertain number of cigarette butts.
“Please help me to clear these pots.”
Chicken Legs heard the anxiety in my voice and nodded, “You got it.”
Together, we set out on our mission under the hot sun of late May. By the time the women arrived, we were sweating and suspiciously dirty but the pots were ready for their petunias, begonias and ivy for a fresh summer look.
I gave wink and a thumbs-up to Chicken Legs when it was all over and released him from his sentence.
Many hands do make light work.