I ran into my old friend Dudley the other day, and frankly I’m sorry I did. He was in quite a lather over a tree his landlord had refused (several times) to remove from the front of his apartment building. It’s really a beautiful tree, and I made the mistake of asking why he wanted to be rid of it.
“It’s such a messy thing!” he fumed, “and my wife yells at me every day because of it. You see, it’s some silly kind of pear tree that doesn’t ever have fruit.” “So what?” I wondered. “It’s pretty, and provides great shade in the summer.”
“I know,” he said, “but you don’t live with it. That #@^”+&! tree sheds crap 5 times each year, and just sure as hell I track all that stuff into the house and she thinks it’s MY fault.” He was on a roll now, and I knew I’d started something that wasn’t going to finish any time soon.
“To start things off,” he said, “at about this time of year it spits out these little brown things that are so small you can’t even sweep them away. There are millions of the &%)-! things on the ground right now, and you can’t even tell where they’re coming from! They just drop for a week or more and you reach the next level: stink! That lousy tree stinks exactly like cat urine, possibly the third worst smell on earth. And it’s not a flower that smells, it’s the @&%* trunk! It oozes this liquid that stinks to high heaven.”
I needed a break, so I started: “Surely, Dud, there are worse things around than cat urine. And it’s a tree so…” “Yeah, yeah,” he interrupted, “I told you it’s ‘third’! Right after human decomposition and skunk spray!” He was actually ticking them off on his fingers, so I didn’t dare cut in.
“Well,” he said, “the stink lasts a couple of weeks, and then the flowers start to grow. I guess they’re actually pretty nice, but I can’t enjoy them ’cause I know what’s coming next: Those dang flowers are made up of five or six individual white petals each, and they start to fall after about a week. Freakin’ snow storm in May every year, and those things are flat and wet and stick to everything they touch!”
“Oh Dud,” I put in, “flowers are flowers and everybody likes those. Besides, that should be all that happens until the leaves turn.” He grinned an evil grin. “You really don’t know a _*&$$* thing, do you?” He flushed a bright red as he spoke.
“Those flowers grow in threes, on a little tripod of a stem. And the darn STEMS fall next. wilting little twigs all over the place, and they last for at least 2 more weeks.” I could see he was picturing them as he spoke. For a moment I thought I’d lost him to his mental horrors, but finally he continued: “After that you begin to think you’ve out lasted the freakish tree because for several weeks (it’s now June and nice outside) the tree does nothing. It’s leaves are green and full, and it gives a nice shade from the summer heat” He stopped again, as if in a reverie, and I thought he might be finished.
“But in the hottest August days it begins to drop these strange round nutty-looking things that split in two when they hit the sidewalk…or your car. They seem to be covered in a sticky sap of some sort that takes 4 or 5 washings to be removed from your paint job. Even the pros at the car washes can’t clean it up in less than three washes.” At this point I decided to just let him talk. I didn’t want to push him.
“You know? When the other leaves begin to turn and the roadside is alive with color THIS tree hangs on to its green leaves ’til almost Christmas; Sometimes longer. And when they finally turn and fall, they’re just yellow/brown blotches on the clean white snow.” He was finally calming down, as though just the discussing of it had helped. His closing words (sorry, Greenpeace): You know something? I actually HATE that @^$*+#!!^&? tree.”
My friend Dudley can be very emotional at times.