Editor’s note: This story is a work of fiction.

No one responds when I knock on the front door of the old farmhouse. So, I walk around to the back of the property. There I see an older couple, maybe in their 60s, staring at their ravished garden.

“Hello, I’m Norm Taylor,” I introduce myself. “I’m with the Division of Probation and Parole. I’m looking for Raymond Vincent. Is he here?”

“Just look what they done to my beans,” says the old man. “Same as last year, and the year before that.”

“And the year before that, and the year before that,” the old woman comments shrilly.

“It’s groundhogs what done it. Every year, just when the bean plants get to bloomin’, groundhogs eat ‘em right down to the stalks,” the old man says matter-of-factly. He knows his beans and groundhogs, that’s for sure.

“That’s too bad about your beans,” I tell him. “Are you Mr. and Mrs. Vincent? This is the Vincent residence, am I correct?”

“Yes, we’re the Vincents,” the woman replies. “I’m Ruth Vincent, and this old wreck is my husband, Chester. Let’s go up and sit on the porch. The sun is hot this time of year. What’d you say your name was again?”

“Norm Taylor — I’m with the Division of Probation and....”

“Well, you can see my husband Chester ain’t walkin’ so good. That’s on account o’ him hurtin’ his back — and I’ll tell you how he done it. He done it baitin’ traps that he set out for the groundhogs. That’s how Chester hurt his back — same as last year, and the year before that.”

“And the year before that,” Chester Vincent comments with a certain stubborn pride.

“He crouches down to bait the traps — that’s how he hurts his back,” says Ruth. “I tell him he should shoot ‘em, but Chester won’t do that. He traps ‘em and he drives ‘em to the other side of the county. But just that quick, they always come back.”

“Groundhogs really like my beans,” says Chester somewhat proudly.

“Yes, well, this is the address we have on file for Raymond Vincent, and I really need to speak to Raymond. Does he live here with you?”

“May I ask what this is all about?” says Ruth.

“Raymond has missed his last two appointments,” I reply. “If I don’t talk to him today, an arrest warrant will be issued.”

The old couple stare at each other knowingly, as if they share some secret knowledge. Evidently the old woman, Ruth, decides to share a bit of it with me.

“Nobody what knows him calls him Raymond. Everybody calls him Nobe, after his old uncle, Noble. Don’t ask me why — it ain’t like some people think — he always favored his uncle Noble more than he favored his daddy.”

(I make a note on my tablet: Raymond Vincent — aliases Nobe, or Noble.)

“Now, the first thing Nobe does when he gets out is he gets his motorcycle out of that old barn there,” says Ruth. “He adds fresh gas, and then he gets it started.”

“Six years ago it wouldn’t start,” says Chester.

“He had to change the spark plugs, then it started,” Ruth says quickly.

“That’s right,” says Chester, nodding his head.

“Don’t interrupt me, Chester. Now where was I?”

“He gets his motorcycle started...” I prompt her.

“That’s right. He gets his motorcycle started, then he goes to see his girlfriend. He always has a girlfriend waitin’, and he always goes to see her just as soon as he gets out.”

“After he gets his motorcycle started,” says Chester.

“I told you not to interrupt,” says Ruth, narrowing her eyes at Chester. He looks away and smiles a little smile.

“This girlfriend,” I interject. “Do you have a name and address for her?”

“Oh, no — we never get that friendly with Nobe’s girlfriends,” says Ruth. “He might bring ‘em around a time or two, but we never get to know ‘em by name.”

“And after he sees his girlfriend...?”

“After he gets caught up with his girlfriend, he always gets a job. Nobe has always been handy like his daddy. He can do most anything he sets his mind to, really.”

“Is Raymond...Nobe, is he working now? Do you have a name and address for his employer?”

“You say he missed his last two appointments?” asks Ruth.

“That’s right — yes, he has.”

“Then Nobe most likely will be along directly. You see, he works a job for a couple or three weeks, just long enough to get a couple paychecks. Then Nobe and his friends, they have a big old party. They party till all the money’s gone — then Nobe is ready to go back to the big house. If he’s missed two appointments, then he’s ready to go back.”

The whiny sound of sirens shatters the calm country quiet. The rumble of a motorcycle also can be heard.

“That’s probably Nobe now,” says Ruth.

A wild-looking man, 40ish maybe, with a sleeveless white T-shirt and long black hair, steers a big black Harley-Davidson motorcycle onto the Vincents’ property. Two county police cruisers follow close behind.

“Yeah, that’s Nobe,” says Ruth. “I told you that he’d be along directly.”

An officer briefs me while he handcuffs Raymond Vincent — Nobe.

“We got him on speeding, reckless driving, failure to stop, eluding the police, and maybe DUI,” says the sheriff’s deputy. “We’ll give him a breath test before we take him in.”

“Don’t bother with the breath test,” I tell him. “He’s violated his parole. He has two years left on a seven-year sentence — and now he’ll have to serve it.”

“I’ll call you when I get settled,” Raymond hollers at his parents.

The Vincents both ignore their son. Apparently they’ve been through this scene too many times to care.

“Give me a hand, would you?” asks Chester. “I need to put this machine back in the barn.”

Chester steers the handlebars while I push from behind. The barn is dark and cluttered, but there is a vacant spot where we park the motorcycle.

Ruth is waiting for us outside when we emerge from the old barn. “They took him — he’s gone,” she says without emotion.

“I need to be leaving now, too,” I tell them. “Thanks for all your help.”

Old Chester mumbles something that sounds like “Harrummmph...”

As I walk to my car, I hear the old woman speak quite plainly. Either she thinks I’m deaf, or she wants me to hear. “I thought he’s supposed to help Nobe stay out of prison. How does he think he can help anybody? He didn’t know a thing about Nobe. He didn’t even know his name.”

“City folks,” says Chester. “They don’t know a blessed thing.”

Driving back to town I think: ‘Tradition is one thing, but that was just plain crazy. I’ve never seen people so set in their ways.’

I glance at my watch, and then I speed a little. It’s Friday, and I always go out with friends from work for Mexican food on Friday.

Mark Heinz lives at Nolin Lake. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.

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