Salient: most noticeable or important; prominent; conspicuous
Inconspicuous: not clearly visible or attracting attention; not conspicuous
I admit that I may be a bit obstreperous when my creative energy explodes out into the world. But I knew I could be inconspicuous too, and I wanted to prove it to Mrs. Carp. I planned it all out that evening and slipped my notes under my pillow for safe keeping. Unfortunately, I don’t sleep very soundly and in my stirring I seemed to have drooled on my notebook. But that was okay because my mind is like a steel trap; I don’t forget a thing, unless it has to do with math facts or dates in history class.
I dressed all in black. I learned from movies that spies wear black, preferably leather. I don’t know why they do that because aren’t they supposed to be inconspicuous? Isn’t it the point that people aren’t supposed to notice them? But as soon as you see them all in black with their black sunglasses on, you know they are spies. It’s their most salient feature. But who am I to buck tradition? I embraced conformity and dressed in black, settling for my black sweat suit because I don’t own any leather.
I put on my brother’s sunglasses and my red canvas sneakers. I wasn’t about to paint them black. Not for Mrs. Carp, mission or not. My mission that I chose to accept was to prove to Mrs. Carp that I can be inconspicuous. She’ll have to take back calling me obstreperous.
I casually walked around our yard, stopping to smell the roses, literally. I didn’t want to appear like I was in a hurry to get anywhere. When I got to the fence that separates my yard from Mrs. Carp’s, I slipped between the wooden posts. That had been a breeze, a snap, easy as pie. I don’t know what’s so easy about pie, but it was no problem sneaking into Mrs. Carp’s yard. Not that this had been my first time in her yard. I’ve chased many a ball into her yard. I’ve chased our dog into her yard. I’ve chased my brother into her yard. And I’ve been chased out plenty of times. Not that day. I was inconspicuous. No one would notice me, and I would prove that my salient feature was not obstreperousness.
I slinked and slithered over to her tool shed in the backmost part of her back yard. I slid to the ground and pulled out my notebook. I wrote down the time and location. Check point one. I did a commando roll and crawled across to the azaleas. I pressed into the bush, snapping a few branches. They were a necessary casualty so that I could hide among the pink blooms.
I logged my time and location. I learned about keeping a log from reading a biography about a navigator named Nat. Google him if you don’t know him. Or just take it from me that a log is for writing down what’s going on and is named after a log they threw in the water to measure a ship’s speed. My speed was zero. I was stone still. Now that’s a figure of speech that means something. I didn’t move. I was practicing my inconspicuous skills.
I sneezed. Blew my nose and my cover. I made a dash for the shed, opened the door and ran inside. I abruptly stopped because I knocked over something that knocked over something else with a boom and bang and a thwack and a tap. I have no idea what it all was. It was pitch black in there, as black as Mrs. Carp’s pupils, as black as my brother’s nose hair, as black as when you are asleep on a moonless night and the electricity goes out. I don’t like the dark. I couldn’t hear anything except my thoughts and my panting like a dog. I was thinking whether I would rather stay in the dark or face Mrs. Carp.
Before I could decide which was worse, some light was shed on the subject and on me. Mrs. Carp stood in the open door, shaking her head. She asked me what in the world I was doing in her shed. It’s redundant to ask like that because obviously whatever I was doing I was doing in this world. I wasn’t out in another galaxy or something.
I didn’t answer. I had to think. A spy wouldn’t reveal his mission, would he? What was I doing in the shed? “I sneezed” is what I told her. That was why I was in the shed. It was the catalyst that provided the thrust to propel me toward the shed. She didn’t know what to say, so I took the moment of silence as a chance to make a quick getaway. Across the yard, through the fence, in the house, up the stairs, into bed I went with record speed, not that they have that as an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. But if they did, my name would be there.
I needed a new plan. An inconspicuous plan. A plan that wouldn’t end with me being in Mrs. Carp’s shed. Thinking it over I realized that somehow Mrs. Carp needed to know that I was there so she would know that I’m not obstreperous. If she never knew I was there, how would she know how inconspicuous I could be?
I walked down to the kitchen to get something to suck on. I think better with something in my mouth, and this paradox had me stumped. She had to not know that I was there and she had to know that I was there. I started listing my options: taking pictures of myself there, leaving a note saying I was there, doing something that she would notice and realize that I was there. I was stumped. I put a popsicle in my mouth, cherry. And there it was, my idea.
Mrs. Carp had a cherry tree. I decided I would pick her cherries for her. I could leave the basket of cherries for her and let her figure out the rest. I left on my spy clothes and slipped back over to Mrs. Carp’s yard. I had to stack up some pots from the shed to reach the bottom branch. After that I had no problem climbing up. I had decided to just pick the cherries and throw them down and then I would gather them into baskets.
I started picking and dropping. Some of them just popped right off the branch and some I had to pull really hard to get them off. I guess all that rattling of the leaves attracted some attention, despite my best efforts to remain inconspicuous. A flock of crows started landing on the branches. They started eating the cherries as fast as I was picking them, okay, maybe faster than I could pick them. At first, I tried to shoo them away, but then I realized I was camouflaged in all their blackness. I figured that would help with my inconspicuous mission.
With the help of the birds, I got that tree cleared off in no time. Unfortunately, I had failed to think the whole crow thing through. While I was camouflaged, the berries were not, and the birds had found them all. There weren’t any left to put in baskets, not even one. Well, there were some smooshed on the ground. Those got smooshed onto my shoes.
I decided right then was a good time to end my mission. I had been inconspicuous, and it was the birds that had eaten all the cherries not me. Acting nonchalant, I slipped back into my house and remembered to slip off my cherry stained shoes. I raced upstairs, changed out of my spy clothes and worked at washing the cherry stains off my hands. Then I waited. Then I got bored. Then I got distracted making bubbles with dishwashing detergent and hangers.
I had the kitchen floor nice and slippery with popped bubbles when Mrs. Carp came by. She had zucchini. My mom invited her to come in and bring it into the kitchen. She hadn’t known what I’d been up to. Mrs. Carp slipped and fell. She didn’t get hurt, but she did get a bit slimy. She didn’t mention my being obstreperous, but words like slapdash and slipshod were coming out of her mouth. It was becoming more and more salient that she was upset. She went on and on about how I ruined her cherry tree.
I trudged up to my room and logged the last data into my notebook, writing across the page, “Mission failed.” I had failed to prove my salient quality was inconspicuousness, not obstreperousness. One way or another I was going to prove to this woman what a dream kid I really am. But before that day came, I was sure she would be over to see my mom with more garden gifts, just as sure as I was that her salient trait was carpiness. Is that a word?