(Editor’s Note: This post is part of a monthly feature in which Ryan takes an actual letter written to “Dear Abby” and answers it himself. For further background see the introductory post here, or maybe also here. Please note that any legal advice contained herein is intended to be used for entertainment purposes only and constitutes neither a binding legal contract between the author and the reader, nor is a it an American Bar Association-sanctioned form of legal representation. Except maybe in Texas.)
This month’s Dear Abby is short and sweet, but nonetheless, still of grave consequence to the reader in need. It was published on November 13, and quoted in full, reads:
DEAR ABBY: My friend left a plant for me to take care of while she was out of town. The plant died. Do I replace the plant? — NO GREEN THUMB IN LUBBOCK, TEXAS
DEAR NO GREEN THUMB IN LUBBOCK, TEXAS: I’m glad you came to me before going to the authorities. Don’t worry, we’re going to get through this together. After all, you may be in some serious trouble, mister. Actually I have no idea what your gender is, but I’m sticking with mister since the vast majority of human-on-plant violence comes at the hands of men. Something about photosynthesis envy, I think. God I wish I could convert sunlight to oxygen.
So I did some very, very quick research for you into the Texas criminal code, and you Sir, may be in some hot water. Vegicide is listed as a capital offense. And even if the plant was threatening to photosynthesize you, that isn’t grounds for self-defense. Actually, there’s some bits about kings and queens in that specific article, so maybe they meant to write “regicide.” You know what they say about Texas: everything is bigger there. Even the typos.
So as I see it, you only have two options for dealing with this potentially fatal situation that do not involve convincing the judge that the plant you killed was not of noble lineage. I’m going spell them out for you in bold headings below because that’s the kind of mood I’m in. formatting is fun. (Sorry, I’ve been laying out in the sun all day trying to photosynthesize. I think it’s starting to get to me.)
Option 1: Identical Plant Switcheroo
What if your friend never found out her precious plant had expired under your care? What if, instead, she came back home to see an identical plant, perfectly healthy, definitely still alive and photosynthesizing (show off). Problem solved. It would be our little secret. And since we’re sharing secrets, maybe we could be friends and hang out sometime too? There’s this great new art exhibit opening in town….oh, I see. Well maybe next time.
So how do you pull off the old plant switcheroo? Easy. You just need to go to the nearest florist, unattended greenhouse, enchanted wooded area, or wherever it is plants are sold and look for an identical match to your friend’s plant. If it’s a rare plant you may need to look on the internet or find a magic bean dealer, but if it’s common enough you should be able to find a decent match.
Now, this is the most important part of the plan–I cannot stress this enough–but the day you spend in search of this plant absolutely, positively, must be filled with comedic mishaps. I don’t know exactly what, but something like buying the perfect plant and dropping it as you walk out of the store, trading your car for the plant only to realize plants are a poor mode of transportation, killing a clown, etc. And most important of all, make sure you get the plant just in time so that you’re racing to your friend’s apartment to do the old plant switcheroo right before she gets home, running in slow motion, barreling through neighbors’ yards–ideally one with a children’s birthday party going on where you knock a clown face down in the birthday cake (take that other clown!)–with that sweet song from Ferris Bueller playing in the background.
If the plant isn’t an absolute perfect match you may need to make a few slight modifications to it. Maybe tape on a few branches or leaves. Get back that healthy “I’m not dead” color with a fresh coat of paint. If your friend somehow notices the differences and asks why there’s paint on her plant, tell her you were so enamored with the plant you had your art class over to sketch it during their still life week. Then show her the sweet painting you drew of her plant. You know, the self-portrait of you burying her dead plant deep in the woods (next to the clown).
Option 2: Lawyer Up
Let’s say you searched far and wide and just can’t find a plant that looks remotely like the one you murdered. Time to get your alibi straight and lawyer up. Did the plant really die of criminal negligence at your behalf, or was it of natural causes? Did you feed it, talk to it, bathe it, and shake it violently as instructed? If so, do you have any witnesses who can verify this? If not, are you willing to sign a sworn affidavit saying as much? And while you’re at it, can we discuss my legal fees?
Ring up the most respected, corruptible forensic botanist in town. Maybe the plant isn’t really dead after all. Maybe its leaves are just turning a shade of withered black as we settle into the fall season. Isn’t the foliage beautiful? Be sure the ask the jury that! If they say no tell them they wouldn’t know beauty if it walked up to them and died like Exhibit 2A.
Or maybe, just maybe, the plant was murdered, but not by your hands. Is this the only plant in the house or were there others? You know, potential plant rivals. Ones that may have an axe to grind with the plant in question for stealing all the sunlight, photosynthesizing through all hours of the night, or making fun of their crooked stamen? If this was the only plant in the house, maybe a jealous pet was responsible? Ideally a vegetarian pet who was left forsaken and starving during their owners absence, with little recourse for survival but to eat the plant. Unless you were supposed to take care of the pet too. God, seriously, did you even remember to bring the mail in?!