ANNOUNCER’S VOICE: THE STORY YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE IS TRUE. THE NAMES WERE CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT.
Not the previous announcer’s voice: This is the city: Brooklyn, New York. It’s not easy being green here, not in the mean streets of the asphalt jungle. Some people don’t really care about green, some people just don’t care for it. It’s a free country and everyone gets to have an opinion. When the people who don’t like green start acting on their opinions, I go to work. I carry a badge.
It was Tuesday, July 14th. It was hazy, hot, and humid in the city that never sleeps, primarily because of all the noise and stuff, so hot and humid that even the roaches in my apartment were sweating bullets and swearing at their neighbors. We were working the dayshift out of Brooklyn South Herbicide. The boss is Captain Dan DiLion. My partner’s Bill Burdock. My name’s Ragweed.
Bill and I were eating our lunches at our desks. It had been a busy day for the Herbicide Squad and we needed to catch up with our paperwork. I had a ham sandwich and coffee. Bill had pizza.
RAGWEED: Are you really going to eat all of that?
BURDOCK: Sure thing, Joe. Why do you ask?
RAGWEED: I don’t know. I was wondering if you could fit any more toppings on that slice, that’s all.
BURDOCK: Joe, the toppings are what make the pizza so nutritious. Otherwise, all you’d have here is a lot of empty calories.
RAGWEED: Is there a topping you’ve missed?
BURDOCK: Not if I could help it. I’ve got green and red peppers, onions, garlic cloves, sausage, cheddar cheese, pepperoni, jalapenos, mortadella, stewed prunes, sagebrush, two hard-boiled eggs, fried gecko, roast beef, mayonnaise, a slice of haggis, and seven fresh anchovies. That’s a complete meal, Joe, no two ways about it.
RAGWEED: If you say so, Bill.
BURDOCK: I’m surprised at you, Joe. I’d have thought a bachelor like you would know about this sort of thing. Saves time and energy. You don’t have to waste time cooking an entire meal and dirtying your kitchen. It’s right there for you. Do you want a bite? I have plenty.
RAGWEED: No thanks…did that anchovy just move?
BURDOCK: I said the anchovies were fresh, Joe.
BURDOCK: You don’t know what you’re missing, Joe, you really don’t.
RAGWEED: I’ll just have to live with that.
[A harried looking man comes into the squad room and goes directly to Ragweed’s and Burdock’s desk.]
HARRIED LOOKING MAN: Bill, Joe, can I talk to you for a moment?
RAGWEED: Sure, Sam, what can we do for you?
[RAGWEED’S VOICE: Sergeant Sam Sumac was a fifteen-year veteran of the Herbicide Squad and in those fifteen years he’d seen the worst the city could throw at any cop. Sam was not easily shaken, but he was shaken now.]
SUMAC: Joe, I’ve got an old woman in Interrogation #3. Pretty bad case.
SUMAC: Yeah. She’s a tough old bird, as tough as they come.
BURDOCK: What do you have her in for? 714PC?
SUMAC: Exactly. Arboricide, botanicide, herbicide, it doesn’t get much worse than this. The thing of it is, I’m fifteen years on the job and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so cold-blooded about it. No pity, no remorse, no nothing. A back yard full of evidence and she acts like there’s nothing wrong.
RAGWEED: I’ve seen that type before. You’ve got your work cut out for you.
SUMAC: I know. Joe, I was wondering—
SUMAC: Could you take over the questioning for a little while? I need to take a break.
BURDOCK: She’s getting to you, isn’t she?
SUMAC: Yeah, I guess so. I know it’s unprofessional but there it is.
BURDOCK: Those old granny types always do. It makes you wonder how they can live with themselves after what they’ve done. Doesn’t seem to bother them, though.
SUMAC: That’s about the size of it, Bill.
RAGWEED: Okay, Sam. Give what you’ve got so far and we’ll see what we can do for you.
SUMAC: Thanks a lot, Joe. I’ll bring the files right down. [frowns] Did that anchovy just move?
SUMAC: I’ll say it is. I’ll be back in a minute. [leaves]
[RAGWEED’S VOICE: While waiting for Sam to return with his case files, Bill and I finished our lunches. Afterwards, we played table tennis with a hard-boiled egg Bill couldn’t fit on his slice. Bill won the set, three games to two. Sam returned about five minutes later and Bill and I spent the next half hour familiarizing ourselves with the case. It wasn’t pretty; herbicide never is. Gloria Murphy was eighty-three years old and still active for her age. She was a widow and a native of County Galway, Ireland, and had come to this country sometime in the early 1950’s; the reason why she left Ireland was unclear. What was clear was her record. Since immigrating to the United States, Mrs. Murphy had racked up more than a dozen arrests for violating Penal Code Section 714—arboricide, botanicide, and herbicide. Sometime after her arrival in this country, she’d fallen in with garden clubs and other radical specieist organizations. The evidence of her beliefs was in the crime scene photos: pruned tree limbs and pulled up plants in heaps on the ground. And then there were all the sick instruments of specieist torture: hoes, rakes, trowels, and cultivators, among other things. Like I said, it wasn’t pretty.]
BURDOCK: [shaking his head] I just don’t understand it, Joe, I really don’t. I don’t know how anybody in their right minds gets mixed up in this sort of thing. I just don’t see the attraction.
RAGWEED: You start small, partner, that’s how it usually starts. Maybe you want to be one of the gang, you don’t want to be a square or a nerd or a goody two-shoes, so you go along with the rest of the kids when they go knocking the seeds off of dandelions. Little things like that, you know, and then it starts getting bigger with cutting hedges or mowing grass and if you don’t get out in time, then brother, you’re stuck. They’ve got you and they know it. Did you see the picture with the bags of potting soil?
BURDOCK: Yeah. That’s bad stuff.
RAGWEED: You bet it is. And once they’ve got their hooks into you, you’re in for it, you’re in for the whole, long, sordid trolley ride down to the bottom of the compost heap, and there’s no way to get out or get off, even if you are a nice old Irish lady like Mrs. Murphy.
BURDOCK: I hear you, Joe, but she’ll be a tough nut to crack. She’s been at it for over fifty years now. She doesn’t think what she’s doing is wrong.
RAGWEED: Then we’ll have to make her see it, won’t we? [Burdock nods in agreement] Okay, let’s go have a talk with her.
[RAGWEED’S VOICE: Gloria Murphy was exactly what Bill had said she was: a nice old Irish lady. They’re the worst; they get away with almost anything they want to. It’s the accent, I think; it makes people think they really couldn’t be the monsters they are.]
RAGWEED: Mrs. Murphy, this is my partner, Officer Burdock. My name’s Ragweed. We’ll be continuing the questioning for Sgt. Sumac.
MRS. MURPHY: Ah, ‘tis that pleased I am to meet you, officers, but what happened to the other young fellow?
BURDOCK: Sgt. Sumac had to attend to some personal business, ma’am. He’ll be back a little later.
MRS. MURPHY: That’s grand, that’s grand, he’s such a nice young man, so he is. I noticed he was very upset when he left. I hope his troubles aren’t as bad as all that.
RAGWEED: No, ma’am, they’re not. As my partner said, he’ll be back later. Now, Mrs. Murphy, did Sgt. Sumac explain why you are here today?
MRS. MURPHY: He did, but I could make no sense of what he was saying. All I know for certain is that one of the neighbors came by while I was working in my garden and no sooner than you can say Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, here I am.
RAGWEED: That’s right, ma’am. Your neighbor reported a 714PC was occurring at your house. We responded accordingly.
MRS. MURPHY: Ah, she is the little tattletale, isn’t she? I knew that one was trouble from the moment she moved into two years ago. Saints preserve us, she’s a prodigious minder of other people’s business, so she is. I’m surprised you haven’t arrested her years ago, what with the way she invades other people’s privacy. She’s no right to do that, no right at all.
BURDOCK: Maybe that’s so, Mrs. Murphy, but in this case, she was reporting a crime. That’s not invading anyone’s privacy, that’s a civic duty.
MRS. MURPHY: Oh, go on with you now. Crime? What crime is that?
RAGWEED: You know what crime we’re talking about: Section 714 of the Penal Code, the law that says killing plants because you just don’t like them is illegal in this state.
MRS. MURPHY: [pleadingly] But I was only tending to my rose garden. I have such lovely roses, you know. Have you seen them, Officer Burdock?
BURDOCK: Yes, ma’am, I’ve seen the pictures. They are lovely. But that doesn’t change anything, you know. You just can’t kill plants you don’t like to get the rose garden you want.
MRS. MURPHY: But why not? How are you going to get a beautiful rose garden if you can’t get rid of the weeds? Where’s the crime in that?
RAGWEED: [angrily] Okay, lady, you listen to me and you listen good. I’ve seen more than my share of you fanatical loons over the years and I’m sick of you and your specieist garbage. Tell me something, would you? Who died and elected you God? That’s what I want to know. Who gave you the right to decide which plants have value and get to live while other plants die because you have no use for them? Maybe once upon a time you could do as you please, lady, but that day is over. We live in a new world now, lady, and people like you are going to have to learn to live with it whether you like it or not.
BURDOCK: Joe, calm down. There’s no need to jack your blood pressure up.
[Mrs. Murphy starts to cry. She pulls a small afghan out of her pocket and began to dab her eyes with it.]
RAGWEED: [shouts] Bill, watch out!
[The small afghan jumps out of Mrs. Murphy’s hand and crashes into the door, exploding a moment later. Mrs. Murphy sprints out the door and down the hall. Captain DiLion rushes out of his office across the hall, his service pistil in his hand.]
DiLION: [shouting] Check Burdock, Joe. Make sure he’s all right. I’ll get the suspect.[Runs down the hall after Mrs. Murphy.]
RAGWEED’S VOICE: I went over behind the table. Bill was coughing and trying to get up. He wasn’t doing either one very well.
RAGWEED: Bill, are you all right?
BURDOCK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m fine, Joe. Just some ringing in my ears, is all. Joe, I don’t get it. How did she get that afghan in here?
RAGWEED: Beats me, partner, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough. She won’t get very far, not at her age.
BURDOCK: I know. Say, Joe, I still have some of that pizza left. You want to split a slice?
RAGWEED: No thanks. I’d rather not spend the night drinking bicarbonate of soda, if it’s all the same to you. Here, let me help you up.
BURDOCK: You don’t know what you’re missing, Joe.
RAGWEED: I guess I’ll just have to live with that.
ANNOUNCER’S VOICE: THE STORY YOU HAVE JUST SEEN IS TRUE. THE NAMES WERE CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT. ON OCTOBER 9TH, TRIAL WAS HELD IN DEPARTMENT 183 OF THE SUPERIOR COURT, IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF KINGS. IN A MOMENT, THE RESULTS OF THAT TRIAL.]
[Inane commercials for a variety of products you neither need nor want follows. Screen fades to a picture of Mrs. Murphy looking helpless and shifty at the same time.]
ANNOUNCER’S VOICE: GLORIA MURPHY WAS FOUND GUILTY ON SEVEN COUNTS OF VIOLATING SECTION 714 OF THE PENAL CODE: ARBORICIDE, BOTANICIDE, AND HERBICIDE. ARBORICIDE, BOTANICIDE, AND HERBICIDE ARE PUNISHABLE BY A SENTENCE OF NOT LESS THAN FIVE YEARS AND NOT MORE THAN FIFTEEN YEARS ON EACH COUNT.
[Titles superimpose on Murphy. The titles read:
“Gloria Murphy is now serving her sentence in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women.”
Labels: Afghanistan, Dragnet, old people, plants, police, political correctness, Roberta Vasquez, vintage television