Oysterback: Alonzo Deaver goes straight

November 15, 1995|By Helen Chappell

OYSTERBACK, Maryland -- The one thing that used to be certain in Oysterback, aside from death and taxes, was that if a theft had been committed, Alonzo Deaver was the culprit. The Deaver clan has always been a bit shaky on the concept of other people's personal property, but Alonzo is so bad at it that he always gets caught.

Now that he is out of the Detention Center following that Shallow Shores Doublewide Park shrubbery-stealing incident, Alonzo has sworn that his sordid criminal past is behind him and from now on, his yard-care business is strictly legitimate. But, if it weren't for a timely intercession from the Boone Bros, Alonzo might have continued his life of crime.

It was early November, and Gabe and Mike were paddling their canoe along the shoreline of Razor Strap Creek in search of the evening's entree (you don't want to know) at the Boone Bros We Fix and Road Kill Cooked Here Cafe, when they heard yelling over at Colonel and Mrs. Mad Dog Tutweiler's.

Since Gabe and Mike came in off Uranusville Marsh, where they'd been living off the land since 1968, to rejoin civilization, they've gotten a reputation for fixing things. So they tied up their canoe to the Tutweilers' osprey platform and waded ashore. Mad Dog, Maisie and Alonzo were all standing around the pool, which is on the creek side and Mad Dog and Alonzo were engaged in heated debate.

''If I'da known last March that you was a crook, I never woulda hired you to take care of my yard!'' Mad Dog is yelling, all red in the face.

''I was a crook last March, but I never stole no pearl necklace! I'd never steal nothing so sissy!'' Alonzo replies, deeply insulted.

''Now, boys,'' Maisie says, but they aren't listening to her. She sees the Boone Bros and waves them in to mediate.

Seems like last spring, before the Tutweilers went to Maine, they hired Alonzo to do some garden work for them. They retired here, they don't know his reputation. Now, Maisie Tutweiler had a pearl necklace, real pearls, not cultured, that belonged to her grandmother and she wore them almost all the time, even when they were taking up the last of the daffodils around the pool, while Alonzo was over on the other side of the house turning up the garden.

It was a warm day, so when they finished, Maisie and Mad Dog decided to take a swim in the pool. Maisie took off her watch, her gardening gloves and her pearls, laying them on the bench while she went in the house to change into her swimsuit and turn on the pool heater. The Tutweilers are in the house about a half-hour, they tell Mike and Gabe.

When they come out, the watch and the gloves are still on the bench, but the pearls are gone. No one else could have come or gone from the road, the Tutweilers would have seen them. No one could have come by because the ospreys were nestling on the platform in the creek, and if a boat had come near, those old fish hawks would have set up a big fuss. Still, the pearls are gone. Vanished into thin air.

''Or into Alonzo's pocket,'' Mad Dog growls, ''and if I'd known he was a thief, I woulda called the police then and there,'' which sets Alonzo off again, saying maybe Mad Dog took 'em for the insurance money like this Rockford Files he saw in jail.

While they are feathering up on each other, Mike and Gabe look around, all around. They don't say anything, at least nothing that anyone else can hear. Finally, they nod to each other and head for the Tutweilers' garage, where they pull out a ladder and carry it down to the creek, wading in about waist deep, 'til they get out to the osprey platform, about 20 feet offshore from the pool. The ospreys are all gone south by now, so there's nothing left but their big old lair up there on the piling. And while Gabe holds the hTC ladder steady in the muddy creek bottom, Mike shinnies on up into the nest.

Reality sandwich

Of course Alonzo and the Tutweilers have stopped arguing to watch this. They're convinced the Boone Bros, who most people think are a slice of cheese short a reality sandwich anyway, have really fallen off the lunch counter this time.

Mike's up there, legs dangling out of the nest, which is about as big as he is, tossing out twigs, mud, fish-hawk dung, bones, rope, crab shells, a man's shirt, shredded inner tube, all the scavenged plunder that fish hawks use to make their flimsy aeries. Of course the Boone Bros know all about fish hawks, having lived with them in Uranusville Marsh.

Suddenly, Mike gives a whoop and holds up a matinee length string of pearls coated in dried-up osprey poop and feathers.

''My pearls!'' Maisie cries, because she'd know them anywhere.

''Them ospreys is like magpies and pack rats. They're great ones for pickin' up bright objects when they're nesting,'' Gabe points out after he and Mike have waded in and picked most of the feathers and osprey guano off themselves. ''While you was in the house they must have cruised them pearls and decided they was the perfect grout for the south wall. Just swooped right down, grabbed 'em up in them great big talons and carried 'em off. Wouldn't take but a second. Them fish hawks is fast bunkies.''

''It was almost the perfect crime,'' Mike added.

Anyway, now Alonzo Deaver says he's swearing off a life of crime. He says it's no fun when even a fish hawk is smarter than he is.

Helen Chappell is the amanuensis of Oysterback.

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