Do it any way we liked best.
Poison. Explosives. Lizzy Borden.
A Lecter-like skinnin'.
Whatever the mode, our teenage
droogie gang had a mission, and
that mission was clear:
our neighborhood's "Mr. Wilson" was
about to take the hit, and when
the sap began to flow, his
prized flowering dogwood would die.
As hormonally-addled pre-dads,
we were NOT junior James Watts by any
stretch of the imagination, I assure you.
We were simply programmed,
hapless, zit-plagued goons with
spankin' new driver's licenses
and a well-defined vandalism imperative
(albeit an imperative well within the
acceptable range of social mores, of course).
Now, the "hit," and the blessing
for it, came from on high --- from
one of our gang's misguided dads ---
Mr. Griffey, God rest his dadly soul ---
a passive-aggressive sort who actively
sought to make good on his
consuming, obsessive vendettas whenever
he could pull 'em off by proxy
and walk away clean.
Griffey (a.k.a. "The Grif"), loathed
the neighbor two doors up for one
reason and one reason only:
Each and every day, day after day of
the Grif's Sisyphean little life, old
Furman would try to sell him
Universal Life, and then take to
his postage stamp tree-lawn where his
twiggy dogwood was finally turning the corner
into fully-blown tree-dom.
He'd feed it the finest of
fine fishy fertilizers. He'd pamper it
with salon-style poodley prunings.
He'd read it Donne and Yeats.
That day, the Grif, trying to unwind
with a cold one in his thread-bare
grease-spattered Dickies, was once
again approached on his front porch
by old Furman, who again brought his
pitch for the untold riches of
Declining politely through gritted teeth,
the Grif quickly breezed through
his cross-buck aluminum door to take
refuge from all that Universal Life
portends, leaving Furman, mid-sentence,
in a vapor trail of solvent and diesel oil.
Angry, blotchy red rosettes burst out
on Griffey's troglodyte face and neck.
His blood pressure skied.
Universal Life was killing him.
He bit his lip with his upper plate
loosing a rivulet of blood,
squeezed a dent in his steel beer can,
and peered through a crack in his
wife's taffeta window treatment
as Furman slowly returned to
the dogwood, a sonnet on his lips
for his deciduous Juliet.
"That tree," said the Grif,
"is the FIRST thing to go."
There was a new moon that evening.
An oppressive humidity hung on,
refusing to burn off with the coming
of the night. The clock had ticked past
midnight when in neutral gear with
its 327 cut, the three of us rolled down
the block in a beat gold and rust Malibu,
gliding to a halt in front of
Two doors down, the Grif anxiously
peered through the window, clean as a
bean from a Mr. Bubble and fresh in his
jammies, waiting for the hit to go down.
Of course he had no way of knowing,
nor would he have probably much
cared, that we had scored some
Boone's Farm Apple from our favorite
beverage store --- the one with the
geek everyone called "L.D.P.C."
(which I later learned stood for
"Large Deluxe Pizza Chest"),
behind the counter. LDPC'd also
sell us smokes, but because of his
demanding moral system drew the
line, selling Thai stick hidden
in the ceiling panels
only to chicks he hoped to boink.
We were ripped, stupid and clueless,
and in the ninja night, we stumbled
and shambled through the execution
of the hit, belching up Boone's and
forcing the unstoppable torrent of
giggling through our noses to keep from
waking the Furman family.
One of us stayed at the driver's wheel,
poised to crank the Malibu.
(Turbines to speed).
The rest of us opened the
Malibu's generous trunk where we had
already anchored a heavy chain
on an equally heavy eyehook.
We slipped the other end of
the chain which we had fashioned
into a sort-of noose
around the base of the dogwood
after two or three anxious and
Jumping back into the Malibu through
the opened windows, we hit the
ignition and dropped that beater into neutral.
The Grif's eyes went supersized.
We floored the Chevy and dropped it into
gear, screaming down the street
as fast as GM specs said we could.
Out of the rear window, I saw that sad
dogwood's every root seizing the
clay soil around it to hang on for dear life
as it flailed violently back and forth,
oscillating like a giant
jaw harp gone berserk---
You couldn't wipe the grin off the
Grif's face the next day. Old Furman,
however, was reduced to near tears
with his catastrophic discovery.
His "baby" was now more of a
stripped 12-foot stick --- every branch
violently torn asunder ---
drawn and quartered by a Chevy Malibu.
At this point, you may be harboring
strong sentiments of revulsion, o dear dads.
But this repugnant tale is a
cautionary one, I assure you.
With the coming of Spring in the
Northern Mind if not quite on the calendar,
this is a tale of renewal and rebirth
not unlike Persephone's perennial
return from you-know-where.
Furman, you must know, nursed his
dogwood stick to a full and flourishing
recovery. It towers mightily on that
suburban tree lawn; he will most
certainly welcome all your Arbor Day sentiments.
The Grif never ever bought Universal Life
and was never ever offered it again, though
after his untimely death he was condemned to sell
it to an indifferent clientele in Hades for the
balance of eternity.
And me? Well, some 20-odd dad-years later,
snail mail delivered the two
Mountain ash trees (sticks) required
in our community for the beautification
and forestation of our own tree lawns.
Oh, I fed 'em ("Mir-acid" even --- I
learned from a book I hunted down at
the library that Mountain Ash, like Timothy Leary, are
acid-loving, you know).
I watered 'em day-in and day-out.
Three years later they had finally
developed enough girth that I was
thankfully no longer tortured with
maudlin Bobby Goldsboro "Honey"
flashbacks every time I tended to my twigs.
One fine day, I awoke, brewed up a
caustic pot o' joe, and ambled outside
in the fine, fine summer sun to find
both trees viciously snapped in half;
one hanging by its xylem,
the other only by its phloem.
I shook my head, swigged a long, slow
Colombian swig and looked to the blue heaven.
"Guess I never did say I was sorry, did I?" I whispered into infinity.