Fiction by SLIM RANDLES
To The Desert Independent
May 6, 2020
Like a doctor removing something important, Herb Collins gently peeled the wrapper back from the root ball and tenderly placed the baby tree in the hole. Then he stood and walked around it to see which way he should align it. Actually, looks pretty good just the way it is.
So, he took his bucket of mixed sand and compost and began sprinkling it down onto the roots and then packing it in gently with his fist.
Every few minutes he’d stop and read the directions again. When he ordered the tree, the nurseryman had written back “Are you sure?” Well, that made ol’ Herb laugh. Yes, he was sure. He’s always sure this time of year.
He was still chuckling to himself when Janice Thomas walked along the sidewalk.
“Hi Herb,” said the high school art teacher. “What is it this year?”
“Papaya, Janice. Nice healthy one, don’t you think?”
Janice took a close look at the little dark green tree.
“Isn’t that a tropical tree?”
“Sure is,” he said, tucking more dirt around the roots. “I have to read the instructions carefully to get this right.”
Janice thought carefully before speaking. “Papayas sure taste good, Herb.”
“Sure do. Wouldn’t it be nice if this lives long enough to produce fruit?”
“But you’re not expecting …”
“Of course not. The first nippy day in autumn will turn this little guy belly up.”
He looked up and smiled at Janice’s consternation.
“You know that banana tree almost made it to Christmas last year. That was my best so far. We’ll see how this little guy makes out.”
Each year Herb plants something in the front yard that has no chance at all of being there the following spring. He’s done it for years. It gives the neighborhood something to look at and talk about, and it’s fun.
“You know, Herb, if you’re looking for fruit, a cherry tree will produce …”
“I’m not looking for fruit, Janice,” he said, gently. “I’m looking for glory. Glory!”
He laughed. “Where’s the glory in planting something that will grow here? Anyone can do that. But a papaya? Ha! There’s glory in that.