One morning, the melons were gone.

The evening before, they sat right where intended – attached most certainly to the lovingly-tended but misplaced vine that refused to grow past spindly. We had done these melons wrong in planting them where the neighbor’s garage and dusty red Jeep stole the sunshine for most of the day, and despite our best efforts and our loving applications of worm tea and compost, we could only watch with anticipation as a few melons bulged slowly, grudgingly, into being.

And one morning, they were not there. Sheared cleanly off the vine, leaving no clue or hint as to where they might have gone. Our melons were somewhat stunted and most definitely unripe, but they were ours, and we lost them. It must have been an animal, we hypothesized; an animal came into our yard
in the night and ate our fledgling melons. Perhaps it was that opossum that teeters along the top of the chain link fence in the dusk, or the raccoon whose eyes we’ve caught slinking in the yard next door.

This reasoning suited us, for a time. Then the thoughts crept in – neither of the animals we proposed would have been large enough to pick up and steal off with one of our precious melons, much less all three. If they had eaten them all on-site, impressive in its own right, would there not have been seeds or woody pieces of rind left as a clue, or evidence of chewing off around what had been a still very solid connection between fruit and vine? And there was the clearest piece of contradictory evidence – the vine had been sheared off quite cleanly, as if cut with a sharp knife or perhaps a small but powerful laser (the latter suggestion clearly a distraction to the most obvious next step of logic, which neither of us wanted to take).

A human had stolen our melons.

A human being had come into our backyard in the night and cut our rather large, highly unripe melons off the vine.

This is an unsettling prospect, as I’m sure you can agree, and it took quite a while that day for either of us admit that this is what had happened. Instead of considering the ramifications of a person coming uninvited into our backyard, merely feet from our sleeping bodies, we decided instead to attack this phantom melon thief with barbs concerning his or her intelligence. Their skills in covert operations were obviously fairly sound, but what sort of person might use those skills to steal the unripe fruit of our obviously malnourished agricultural efforts? Did they not know the first thing about picking ripe melons? Could even they not see that our sad little plant was obviously unworthy of such efforts? And then, the million dollar question: Of all of the things in our backyard that stood available for the taking – two bikes, unlocked; an easily transportable and decently nice fire pit; expensive certified-sustainable foldable outdoor furniture; and most likely some assortment of belongings that didn’t make it inside after returning home from work (to note, we lived in a place where theft was not *usually* an issue) – why the melons? And if they were strictly edibles-focused, did they not notice the garden on the side of the house, practically smothered to death by a harvest of heavy, ripe tomatoes?

And then – how did the thief even know the melons were there, when they weren’t visible from the front of the house?

That was the question that did us in, and that night we rather unceremoniously dug the remainder of the vine out of its rather poorly chosen plot of dirt, along with its sickly lettuce and pepper neighbors, and shut down our rather ill-fated backyard garden for good. Melon thief 1, Closes 0.