Boo barked and danced in a circle, which meant Ethan Salazar was at the door. Ethan grew strawberries and vegetables on his truck farm in Madison, CT. He was something of a celebrity at the county’s Farmer’s Market. His Latin good looks and charm drew females to his stand. He knew how to flirt without being a tease. His grandparents and parents were seasonal workers from Puerto Rico, working in the apple orchards.
The land used to be a chicken farm, but when he won the property in a foreclosure auction, he sold the chickens and tilled the garden over; it had been fertilized with manure for decades. The compost Ethan developed sold for $5/lb. He sold every bag.
“Hey Ethan,” Cate said from the porch. She was the daughter of the people who'd originally owned the land. It broke her heart to have to let it go, but had no choice. Her cousin disagreed; accused her of being a traitor to the family. She was prepared to go back to her job in NYC, but Ethan had encouraged her to stay and take anything she wanted from the house.
"I have to go turn the pile.”
“It’s almost dark.”
“That’s okay—I won’t disturb the worms.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
Ethan laughed. Boo danced around him as he went out back.
Cate went to the kitchen. She heard a knock at the front door.
“You don’t need to knock, Ethan,” she called, “this is your house now.”
“It shouldn’t be...,” the male voice replied.
Cate spun around, frightened. She looked at the man and relaxed. “Al Pearson, you scared me. What are you doing here?”
“Cate, you had no right selling this property.”
“We’ve already been over this, Al.”
Boo heard the shouting before Ethan and barked. Ethan burst through the door, grabbed Al, spun him around, and punched him on the jaw.
Al had Cate backed up against the sink, pointing his finger in her face, yelling, “I know the truth about you. You’ll be sorry you didn’t cooperate.”
Suddenly, he was on the floor. “You fuckin’ spic,” Al shouted and rubbed his chin. “I should call the cops on you, you bastard.”
Kate grabbed her cellphone. “I’ll call the cops—let them know you assaulted me.”
“You’re a bitch, just like your fucking mother,” Al said.
Ethan pulled Al up by his collar, grabbed the back of his belt with his other hand, dragged him to front door, and literally kicked him off the porch.
Boo nipped at Al’s ankles until the man was tossed out.
Ethan returned to the kitchen. “What was that all about?”
“I don’t know. He just showed up and began threatening me.”
The Farmers’ Market was always abuzz Halloween weekend. Folks who usually shopped at the megamart off the highway flooded the Farmer’s Market for apple cider, caramel apples, a visit to the pumpkin patch, and the hayrides.
Some vendors wore costumes and handed out caramels or popcorn balls.
Ethan wore a straw hat and chewed on a strand of straw. When kids asked him what he was, he said, “a scarecrow.” When they challenged him, he’d reply, “Do you see any crows around here? No? That’s because I scared them all away.”
Ethan had developed two hybrid pumpkin/squash vegetables—larger than a gourd but smaller than a pumpkin one called a squashkin that made a tasty side dish and one called a pumpash that was used in velvety pies. Bakers claimed they made the best pies.
Both vegetables were in demand and Ethan started taking orders for the crop in Aug. A long line of mostly women and teenage girls were in line to pick up orders. Other than several bags of compost, squashkins and pumpash were the only items in his stand.
Squeals from children being chased by Zombies, cheers from hayrides, and a cackling witch at a kettlecorn booth drowned out the sound of police sirens. Because so many people were in costume, Ethan thought nothing of the two officers approaching his stand—that is until they cut in front of the line.
“Mr. Salazar,” the tall policewoman said. Her hair was tucked under her hat. The police radio next to her right shoulder and the policecam on the left, made her shoulders look as wide as a linebacker. Her voice was deep and resonant. “I need you to step out from behind the booth,” she continued. Her name was Kathryn Withers. Born and raised in Wisconsin, the buxom blond enlisted in the army when she graduated from high school. She was sent to Fort Dix where she trained as an MP. On her second tour of Afghanistan, she met a mechanic from Connecticut. They married, moved to Madison, but the marriage didn’t last. Kathy had already been accepted at the police academy and decided to stay.
“Is there something wrong, Officer?”
“Please follow my request,” she said.
Her partner took a step forward, his hand on his belt, next to his Taser.”
“Puerto Ricans are American citizens,” a teenager called. “He has a right to be here.”
The lady cop kept her gaze on Ethan. Her partner, a thin man in his late twenties, seemed nervous. He turned to the line and yelled, “You folks need to clear this area. Make your way to another booth.”
“I prepaid for my order,” a man shouted. “And I ain’t leavin without my squashkins. Most of the people in line agreed with him.
“What is this about?” Ethan asked again.
The woman stepped closer and leaned in. Her partner was still trying to shoo the line of customers away like they were crows in a cornfield. Instead of dispersing, more people moved over, curious as to the police presence.
She whispered, “Al Pearson’s body was found on the Green property. We have a witness; says he saw you assaulted Pearson there.”
Although Ethan was, as the girl had said, a citizen, as a Hispanic male, he'd learned at a young age not to contradict the police. He nodded, stepped around his booth and called out, “Folks, there’s been an emergency at my house.”
The young, eager cop, Sam, went for his handcuffs but the woman, clearly his senior, gave him a hand signal, like a master telling her dog to stay. He complied.
Ethan continued, “The officers came to alert me of the problem, so I gotta go. I promise to deliver your orders to your homes. If you want a refund, please email me.
“Thank you, Mr. Salazar,” Withers said. “Follow us.”
Sam was disappointed he wouldn't get to collar the Hispanic suspect.
The Farmer’s Market was abuzz before Ethan and the officers made it to the patrol car.
“Ethan, wait up,” a voice called.
Ethan glanced at Withers—she nodded.
Marcus Williams trotted up to Ethan. The youngster was the only African-American in the Shoreline Chapter of the Future Farmers of America. Ethan was FFA's advisor and Marcus' mentor.
“You want me to run your booth?” Marcus asked. The FFA was sponsoring the hayrides to earn money. “We’ve got plenty of folks over at hayrides.”
“Thanks. My truck is in the vendor lot.” Ethan reached in his jean’s pocket, which caused the Sam to flinch and rest his hand on his holster. “Here's the key.” He felt Sam’s hot breath on the back of his next, but ignored the eager policeman.
“Can you just load everything up and take it back to my place?” Ethan asked.
Kathy cleared her throat. She took Ethan by the elbow and led him to out of earshot. “We may need to impound your vehicle. I can't let you to turn it over to—him,” she said, eyeing Marcus, “or anyone else.”
Ethan sighed. He walked back to Marcus. “On second thought...”
“It’s ok. Dad let me borrow his van. I’ll take your stuff back to my place.”
“Thanks.” Ethan left with the police.
He heard Sam muttering under his breath about the damn spics in this town and felt his blood boil, but he knew there was nothing he could do, not unless he wanted to be thrown to the ground with a knee on his neck.