“Good morning, squirrel,” Mr. Oaks said with a grandfatherly voice to his lovely guest searching for food. His name had caused much confusion in the tree world – for he was a Maple – and he detested meeting Oaks due to their largely negative attitude toward life and bad temper. Luckily the closest ones were a couple spots down the street from where he resided.
Mr. Oaks lived right in front of a particularly cheerful Jennings family, just outside Boston. He did not grow up there, of course – very few of his acquaintances were lucky enough to live where they grew up – but was hastily removed from his original home and plopped into a new neighborhood where others would need his services.
What services he could offer, Mr. Oaks knew not, but he did like his new neighborhood and eventually settled into it and got to know the other creatures and trees that accompanied him in this area. He grew particularly fond of the squirrels, who would run up and down him to find food for their family.
Ms. Reynolds – another Maple across the street – waved at him in the breeze. He waved back, sometimes not knowing why he would do it. He assumed the breeze wanted him to be polite.
“How are the squirrels this morning, Mr. Oaks?” Ms. Reynolds said in a slow, slightly raspy and definitely grandmotherly voice. “My birds took a dump on Debbie’s car again.”
They both chuckled in the perhaps the slowest and least-exciting manner possible. Mr. Oaks had come to accept this as an identity of his age – he was, after all, an eighty year old tree.
“Yes, my squirrels are doing fine,” Mr. Oaks replied. “The mother found some seeds and brought them back to the family. It was quite a treat for the young ones.
“Oh, here come the Jennings,” Mr. Oaks said, slow but somehow still with excitement.
The youngest of the three kids flew out of the door, excited to head to school. Their daughter, the eldest, took care of the middle boy’s backpack as they walked out of their house and began their walk to school. Their mother, behind them, gave them good wishes for a good day and blew two kisses as they disappeared down the block. Their mother then went back into the house and, after a short delay, reversed out of their garage in their Porsche with her husband seated next to her.
“What a wonderful family,” Ms. Reynolds said. Mr. Oaks nodded, slowly.
By noon, then sun was up in its full glory and some of the older folks in the neighborhood began to walk to their neighborhood cafe for lunch. Mr. Oaks had counted about fifteen cars that had passed the street, all of them residents in the area. The wind had calmed and in doing so unintentionally inflicted paralysis on the trees.
“It is a beautiful day,” Ms. Reynolds chirped with her birds.
“Yes, it is,” Mr. Oaks said. “Even the grumpy oak tree down the street is enjoying the weather.” Mr. Oaks saw that the tree that was supposed to bear his last name was noticeably more calm and relaxed than he usually was.
“So, what game will it be today, Mr. Oaks? Hangman? Two truths and a lie?” Ms. Reynolds inquired.
“How about a good round of two truths and a lie? That should get us through most of the day,” Mr. Oaks replied.
“Okay, let me start.” Ms. Reynolds suggested. Mr. Oaks tried to accept but the paralysis inflicted by the calm winds made his efforts to move futile.
“I…” Ms. Reynolds hesitantly started, “I grew up in Canada, I once spoke with a tree from Africa and I used to live in Washington state.”
“Well that’s easy,” Mr. Oaks said. “Everyone’s from Canada, and you can’t have spoken with a tree from Africa. That’s nearly impossible.”
If Ms. Reynolds could grin, she would’ve.
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong, Mr. Oaks. I did speak with an African Wild Date Palm once, though it was long ago. I never lived in Washington state.”
Mr. Oaks, disappointed to have gotten it wrong, didn’t respond.
“Oh don’t be upset, Mr. Oaks, it’s just a game,” Ms. Reynolds tried her best to beckon. “Alright, your turn.”
Mr. Oaks gave it a thought and said, “I had one of my branches sawed off me once, I have three squirrels living in me and Sparky has never urinated on me.” Sparky was one of the neighbors’ dog.
“Well I’ve seen that last one happen,” Ms. Reynolds said, “so definitely not that. I’m going to guess you had never been sawed before.”
“Nope, I have,” Mr. Oaks replied. Too much snow on me back at home once and one of my branches nearly killed someone. They sawed it off the day after.”
“Unfortunate,” Ms. Reynolds said with sympathy. “So you don’t have three squirrels living in you? That’s a lie?”
“Nope,” Mr. Oaks tried to grin but didn’t have any method of doing so. “I have four. They gave birth to a new one just yesterday.”
“You cheap bastard.” They both laughed as trees do, and welcomed the sound of the Jennings’ children as they turned the block and began their final steps home.
The air smelled of roasted chicken, carrots and asparagus outside the Jennings’ house. They were having a feast. Debbie had walked over to the Jennings’ since she had gotten the invite.
Amidst the laughter and jokes being told inside the house, two trees sat outside next to the pavement, stargazing.
They talked about which ones they could find, which ones they knew and which ones they didn’t. They imagined which ones looked like the Jennings, and which ones looked like Debbie. Which ones looked quite good and which ones didn’t look anything like what they were meant to. They wondered if there were trees in other galaxies, if they saw this planet and what they were thinking. They wondered how big the universe really is.
And as the feast ended, and the lights in every house on the street began to fade to black, the trees said their pleasantries and drifted into their nightly rest. Their deep and soft breathing only noticeable to those mischievous kids who stayed up late to stare intently out their window.
Tomorrow would be more of the same, Mr. Oaks thought. And life could not be better.