crime and punishment

Dear Uma: A crime wave has struck Watson Lake, with yet another torched business to mar the townscape until such time as it can be cleared.

Dear Uma:

A crime wave has struck Watson Lake, with yet another torched business to mar the townscape until such time as it can be cleared.

This latest fiery event was apparently an act of passion, a heart scorned finding a vehicle to express his rage and sorrow by allegedly burning down his own home and place of business. Fortunately, his wife and children did not go up in flames with his property, like many other acts of violence resulting from a love gone wrong.

The other crimes are not nearly so picturesque, nor so focused; the usual run of B&Es;, stolen trucks, shoplifting, rape, violent assault, drug dealing, etc. etc., all leading to a mood of edginess and suspicion on the part of the residents of our town. It seems it is part of the dog days of summer to suffer through the meanness and nuisance of property theft and damage, or the truly horrific criminal acts against people themselves. Rumour, which is often not without a sound base, names some of the criminals, but their ages make prosecution unlikely. This adds to the frustration of the victims as well as the police and certainly is not sending a good message to the perps.

Pete has us covered, in a sort of way, with his surveillance cameras all over the damned place. Last time he was home we watched squirrels, ravens, and lots of songbirds going about their business, all actions that may hold some fascination for people who study such creatures, but boring to those who do not find short flights and scamperings worthy of more than a passing interest. We were watching with the sole objective of seeing if anyone has been trespassing, or ‘casing the joint’. As the cameras shoot more or less continuously, this does not make for great entertainment.

“Look,” I said to Pete at one point, “Stop the film – there’s someone in the bushes there.” He did, and we peered at the dark and sinister figure crouching in the willows near our garden shed, feeling our hearts beat with apprehension.

“I can zoom in,” Pete said, and immediately the figure became clearer, and with the new clarity, its nefarious purpose was mercilessly revealed.

“That’s you,” Pete peered at the screen, “What are you doing?”

“Oh, never mind, move on,” I said carelessly, “It is me; we don’t need to watch this part.”

Pete started to laugh “You’re having a pee,” he said, “Why were you peeing in the bushes? We have indoor plumbing, remember?” He started to zoom in for a better look.

“Jeez, Pete, you don’t need to look any closer; it’s not like you haven’t seen that part of me before. I was working in the garden; I didn’t want to be bothered going into the house,” I muttered, “Come on, let’s just keep watching the damned thing.”

Another long period of nothing much, and then “You’re doing it again!” Pete nudged me, “What is this about? How often are you pissing in the yard these days?” he peered at the screen, “You aren’t even trying to hide yourself, this one’s right in the middle of the lawn. I don’t know if that’s good for the grass, honey.”

“No one can see in our yard, and so what if they could – it’s my property and I’ll do whatever I like on it,” I said defiantly. “If you must know, it happens again a few times; it’s too much bother to go in the house and have to take off shoes and stuff.” I got up from my chair in front of the computer screen. “I’m going to make some iced tea. I’ll bring you some and you can watch the rest of this by yourself.”

“I’m OK with it,” Pete said hastily, seeing my rising discomfort, “Wow! I’m absolutely OK with this!” I looked over his shoulder to see myself sprawled in splendid abandonment on a blanket on the grass – stark naked.

“Omigod! I forgot about the cameras! Turn it off, quick!” I was suddenly remembering how one sunbathes when one is supposedly unobserved; there is no holding in of the tummy, or graceful stretching of the leg, there is simply unabashed, uncensored lolling.

Pete ignored my plea, continuing to watch as the film went on to record for posterity my rather lumpy nakedness as I rolled (thankfully) from my back to lie on my stomach. I was reading a magazine, and drinking from a can of Pepsi. It was a scene of peace and happiness, albeit not one of complete grace.

“Nice butt,” my husband commented, “Hey! I thought you said drinking from a can was vulgar, or is that only when I do it? And is that a People magazine I see in your hot little hand? Another vulgarity, if I recall. You are so busted, sweetie,”

I stomped off to the kitchen to get my iced tea, silently vowing to let Pete get his own drink, if he could tear himself away from his sick voyeurism.

As I was settling myself onto the couch with my refreshment and a good book, I heard him hooting and laughing. “Pig,” I muttered to myself, “I’d like to put a 24-hour camera on him for a week and see what happens.”

“Hey, Heather!” he shouted a while later, “This is quite the excavation you’ve got going on,”

Curious, I had to go and look, and there I was, standing to the side of the garden with a hoe in one hand and picking my nose with the other.

“That’s enough, Pete,!” I hollered, “This is such a violation of privacy that it is sure to be illegal and it sure as hell is not a very nice thing to do to your wife; it could probably be called abusive, this kind of spying, and for your information, in this particular scene, I had been weeding and my nostrils were full of dust and dirt and I didn’t have a Kleenex. Would you rather see me holding one side of my nose and blowing out the other, like Pat? Or wiping it on my sleeve?”

Pete was unmoved; “You haven’t any sleeves to wipe on, you’ll notice,” he turned to grin at me. Blushing, I saw I was naked again except for my big straw gardening hat. “I guess you could’ve blown into your hat,” he teased.

Seeing my genuine embarrassment, he got up to give me a hug. “I’m finding this kinda cute, actually; it’s a whole side of you I’ve never known, and I am not put off or disgusted. I love you.” The man can always talk me down, and we were just getting snugly and interesting when Pete, who could still see the screen, let go of me to get his face closer to the monitor, sniggering and snorting as he did so.

“Well, now this is news to me,” he exclaimed, “I thought only guys scratched there.”

That was the end of the moment of ardour; Pete continued to watch the recording right till the end but had the great good sense to say nothing more about what he saw except to reassure me there had been no one lurking in the vicinity of our currently less-than-happy home.

He has refused to take down the cameras or shut them off and he won’t even show me where they are concealed, let alone how to close them down.

It has changed the nature of my behaviour, at least in the yard; I go out, even to weed and water the plants, fully dressed and with my hair combed. I made Pete swear he has not put any cameras in the house, and I believe him when he says he has not because if he’d watched any of those recordings he would probably be treating me differently.

As it is, I feel annoyed at the whole thing. Here I am living in a small town, and we have surveillance equipment everywhere, and there you are living in southern California and you have a simple old-fashioned burglar alarm – a dog.

I have stepped up my campaign for a dog of my own. Not a puppy, been there and done that times two and learned my lesson, and my limitations, but I would like an adult dog, for company and for security purposes; the latter to please Pete.

Once he discovers how boring his tapes are going to be from now on, he may just relent on the matter of the canine companion.



Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.