Friday, January 15, 2010

Ghosts and Oaks

My online source of coffee has failed me. I ordered coffee last Friday and it isn’t here yet. There is a five pound bag of beans with my name on it somewhere between here and Atlanta. At five this morning Bert decided he wanted to give kisses. Sam decided if Bert was going to give kisses then he wanted to be petted. The Puppy Lucas decided if there was going to be some sort of lovefest, he ought to be on top of me. It’s not as cold today and it was yesterday, and it’s beginning to look all the world that this ice age that has gripped us is on its way out.
I got to the Awuffle House for breakfast because they have coffee, or at least dark liquid with caffeine. I’m off today because the tree people are coming to take down the Oak, and there isn’t anything I can do about it. It started dying before I got here, nine years ago, and since then it’s slowly been shedding limbs and life. Tropical Storm Fay took out most of the green limbs, leaving only three. Two stretch out to the east, long, hale, and healthy limb pointing towards the rising sun. The last is near the top, in defiance of the death all around it, the dead limb and rotting braches below. The main truck is riddled with woodpecker holes, and there’s a piece sticking straight up that looks like it might fall tomorrow. It’s this piece that worries me, because if it fell and hit me, or someone, well, it would be fatal.
I’ve done this before, you know, taken down a large Oak, but my elbow isn’t well. This is my first surrender to old age, to my own physical limitations, and I’m not happy about it, but the tree has to be brought down before it falls on something, and the longer I wait the worse it will be. These are the thoughts I have at the Awuffle House, stirring bad coffee, and wondering about the old man in the booth across the room. He’s white haired and sitting there staring at the menu, and I wonder how old the tree was when this man was born. I think about asking him how old he is, and I wonder if this is something older people get once they reach a certain appearance.
The hyper waitress brings me more coffee, or what passes for it, and when I look back at the old man he’s gone. The menu is lying on the table, right where it was, but he’s gone. I look around, and I’m the only one in the place this early. No truck drivers, no lovers, no writers, and no old man near the window. My life is like this, you know. Reality isn’t as solid for me as it seems to be for everyone else. I drink coffee and think about the Oak tree, and the hyper waitress has lost her new dog. The old one died in the house fire.

I’m more than a little tempted to get the tree people to leave the stump of the tree up about ten feet and putting my anvil on it. Why? I have no idea, but I think it would be neat. They told me they would cut the tree up so I could use it for firewood, and it’s better than having them haul it off, or me trying to turn it into some super bonfire. At least I’ll be warm, and there is very little I do more poorly than handling the cold. If this sounds a lot like a man trying to talk himself into believing something bad has a silver lining it is exactly that. This is the fourth Oak I’ve lost in the last five years. One just fell. One died and I took it down. Fay got one. This one died, like all living things do, but it should have, by all rights, been here when I left, dead, or alive.

The waitress brings a new cup of coffee because it’s faster than pouring, and I’ll look like some old drunk with many bottles surrounding the grave of his sanity on the table. The old man is back, and I don’t realize what I thought earlier until I look over to find him gone again. It’s the shadows and reflections on the windows, part of my brain tells the other parts, it’s just the wind, you know. I get up and walk over to the other table, and put the menu up, and wait for the waitress to tell me someone is sitting there, but she doesn’t.

I drink another cup of coffee and I realize this, what you’re reading now, is what I’m trying not to do. Writing it is the first part of it becoming real, and the tree is going to be cut up for firewood, and I know, I know it has to be, because I cannot have pieces of wood hundreds of pounds massive, to just fall out of the sky, and the tree is dying. Let me take my dog home just one more time, let me hold him again, let me ignore his pain, and the loss of who he is, just to comfort him just one more time, just one more day, it will be easier tomorrow, and I can do it later, but not today, okay?

Today.

Take Care,
Mike

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