The Garfield Follies
By Kenneth J. Clarke
I had known Garfield Higgins since he moved with his father to our town in Cornwall, England, his mother having died in the London Blitz. He always was a large boy, muscular, fit and quick on his feet, but not as quick with his mind. His mental restrictions extended beyond purely a matter of education to reach far darker and unfathomable depths.
Shortly afterward, Garfield’s schooling came to a close, and only a few months later his father passed away, casting him adrift to continue his path through life alone and unprepared.
As in most small towns, during the early fifties, teenagers gathered at a local cafe for ice cream, soft drinks, and to share gossip. One morning the cafe was abuzz with the news of how Garfield and a friend had stolen a hen from a farm and decided to cook it behind the farmer’s haystack. This latest escapade was possibly the first where Garfield crossed the gray zone from childhood prank to criminal act.
In those days, stealing a chicken for food was a misdemeanor, although that same act in that same town 150 years earlier would have earned a hanging on the gallows outside the gates of Bodmin prison.
Time slid by and Garfield’s escapades increased in severity, yet his modus operandi continued to ensure that that he would never dominate this field as a criminal mastermind. Garfield’s next faux pas came the day he stole a motorcycle. He had hardly managed to ride it a mile before a police cruiser pulled him over. The motorcycle belonged to our local constable.
Then came that night when the local vicar awoke to the sounds spluttering from the garden behind the vicarage. He rushed to a window to see a man huffing and puffing as he struggled to hoist the vicarage safe into the back of a small car.
The vicar raced out just in time to note the number of the license plate as the car tore away. The vicar was apoplectic, for the safe contained all the previous day’s collection. Finally, he received his possessions intact, for the thief, unable to open the safe, abandoned it in a ditch on the outskirts of the town.
The following morning, while the police searched for the culprit, we in the cafe, realized that this modus operandi could only belong to Garfield. Finally the safe, plastered with Garfield’s fingerprints, led the police to arrest, and the judge to try and sentence Garfield to a period of rehabilitation at a reformatory for juveniles.
Garfield soon escaped, trekking five miles through the moorland in the pouring rain. Finally, muddy, cold and desperate, he stumbled onto the highway where he tried to hitchhike home. Car after car tore by, but no one wanted a soaking, dripping passenger in their vehicle. Eventually a sweet elderly lady pulled over, “Jump in, young man. What terrible weather. Where are you bound?”
“To Plymouth, I’m visiting my grandmother,” he replied.
“Well, you just sit there and wrap yourself in this blanket or you’ll catch your death of cold. I’ll make sure you get to your destination, but first I have to stop at a village on the moor.” She chatted away endlessly, as Garfield buried himself in the depths of the woolen blanket. When the car slowed down, Garfield peeked out the window to see that the woman he had considered a sweet elderly lady was driving him through the gates into the reformatory. “Here you are young man, back home where you’ll find some nice dry clothes.”
She was, as Garfield later discovered, the warden’s wife, and of course, she would, and did, recognize the prison-type tie that Garfield was still wearing.
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