11,041 vagabonds plus:
the majestic tree
"I know what...who you are".
I spoke just above a whisper, my heart pounding, the morning woods silent, yet my shaky voice carried. A limb of the magnificent tree started, rustled briefly, and was motionless once more.
"And I know you can hear me". I took one step closer and looked up as though searching for eyes.
"Your primary roots are majestic...still".
A breeze rode in from the white-fenced pasture, only a few leaves of the reluctant mighty tree rustled.
"Can you talk?"
"I can". It was elderly, a strong harmonious chorus. For any street performance you would have dropped a coin into a cup. "Why do you come to me?"
"A dream brought me". I moved closer. Moss was saturated into the bark on all sides like a late spring knitted sweater.
"I know of your dream, my friend".
I smiled in my complete surprise. "And I know of yours".
"The movie...all those years ago".
"Yes, well, the girl liked me. I was fond of her". Two limbs trembled. "And the Tin Man too".
Silence. The breeze faded. I circled the tree slowly, yet stumbled on spiny roots.
"Won't you tell me"?, I pleaded.
What appeared to be a glistening slug was oozing out of a knot on the north side.
"You are NOT a weeping willow"! I regretted immediately the scold in my tone.
"I'm sorry", I said, stepping back, arms outstretched.
"They gave the part to a man in a tree costume. A..tree...COSTUME"! All the limbs swayed for a few moments. In the stillness afterwards I thought I detected a deep all-expiring sigh from the green leaves. I struggled for the right words.
"May I sketch you"? I asked with my eyebrows raised. I held up my compact leather-bound sketchbook, but decided quickly not to exhibit the yellow wooded pencil.
"I'd be honored".
A few minutes later I noticed a small gathering of bluebirds settling into the treetop.
Petergate, with a view of York Minster, York, UK photo by Tess Kincaid
"You take the wrong turn and look what it gets you. Narrow road to the ministry". Bells began to peel the misty air of York, too loud to hear conversation. "It's only the lunch bell, soon a crazed male secretary, one eye spinning faster than the other, you've seen them in their tight collars, will push and shove to get first in line for their tea and cakes".
"You think they're off to tea and cake?"
He glared at him. I just said that drowned in bells, he thought.
It was quiet after the last stinging echo.
"Speaking of wrong turns - did I ever tell you about Porky Mcdougall back in the States? Back, lets' see, yeah, nineteen twenty-three". He laughed.
"No, I don't believe so". He scratched his chin to appear smart.
"Porky just about became president".
"You don't mean it".
"Granddad recounted this twice-told tale dozens of times".
"What happened"? They stood at the end of a long slumping line to Tea.
"Ok. Harding get's a bad batch of chili and he explodes. A million miles away, in little sleepy Vermont late at night, somewhere out on a darkened farm with no electricity, Cal is curled asleep, cobwebs holding him down in bed. The local judge, perhaps the mayor and constable along for the ride, speed out into the moonlit night in a flivver. Nobody remembers the way, or they can't agree on the route. They ease over a splintered bridge and take a wrong turn. All those farmhouses look the same anyways to those tight collars, red-eyed like these clowns in front of us". The man in front of them turns and glares down his nose and quickly blinks his disgust. "So, they pretend they're high and mighty sure as they stop in front of Porky's farmhouse. Two of them are pounding on the front door around two A.M., screaming, 'Harding is dead, we're here to swear you in'! Confusion, people hollering and sweatin', dogs barking, fingers scorched whilst attempting to light candles. The constable drags fetched, sleeping-capped Porky down the narrow staircase, tie his spatula hand to the bible, oaths a poppin'. Poor terrified Porky". He shook his head, laughing. "Poor, helpless, Porky. Took him a half hour to convince them he wasn't Coolidge, and they still didn't believe him".
"You don't say". He rubbed his chin and narrowed his eyes for full effect.
"Of course Gramps mumbled a lot. Just like you". He looked around and scowled. "I hate tea".
"You want me out"? She shuddered. It was more of a man's tub, chilled and unwelcoming, even filled with sudsy hot water.
"No. Take your time. We've got all the time in the world". She could tell he said it through gritted teeth, hidden beyond the door.
She threw the washcloth against the tile. Squinting, she observed water seeping out, escaping between tile and the settled edge of the porcelain. She smiled and spoke firmly, secured by her own Walther P38 pistol under her folded pink bathrobe, smuggled easily past a puffy-eyed guard.
"There's a leak in your thousand-year bathtub, Adolph".
"That's not funny", he would end up saying, those famous last words. Sitting in lukewarm water, she would freeze, the sound of struggling from the other side of the bathroom door, shots fired, yelling and cursing, booted feet running away, ultimately retreating deeper into the dark winter forest. And then silence. Moments later an American Soldier peeked around the door as she was standing, toweling off. Her eyes widened.
"Ma'am?", she heard in an unusual drawl, perhaps a voice from somewhere in the deep south. "You about done?"
photo: Lee Miller in Adolf Hitler's bathtub, Munich 1945, by David E. Scherman
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