UP IN SMOKE, ODDLY

Mother had my photograph taken next to the tree.

There was this tree that grew at the corner of the house in our back yard. Under my window it grew. It had amazing leaves; broad and fragrant. Shiny on the top; brown bumps underneath, and abundant. I loved that tree.

My father also loved that tree. And apparently, our neighbors did as well. They could be seen coming into our yard and whispering something to my father, who would bring them around to the back of the house near my window. Many times, they traded things. The man next door would get three or four leaves. My father would always get money.

Talk around my street was that the men who came to take a part of our tree would burn the leaves rolled up in papers and breathe the smoke that hung in the air above their heads. It made me laugh when Mr. Jameson burned his bought leaves just beyond our fence, near our tree that grew under my window. It made me very hungry too, but mostly I laughed.

But it stopped being funny when they caught Mr. “J” trying to dig up our plant with the broad leaves from our backyard. They said he had gone a little berserk, ranting about how high he got from breathing the smoke near our fence. I didn’t understand why he said that. The tree was only three and a half feet tall. That wasn’t very high at all! It was a shame daddy had to shoot him.

Shortly after they had sent my father away when Mr. Jameson died, Mom and Grandpa Morse moved us to the big house on the hill with the money my Father had taken in trade for the leaves. But before we left, Mother had my photograph taken next to the tree. It was a strange picture, indeed. And in his last act before we left our old home, Grandpa burned the tree to the ground. The whole neighborhood was a very happy place to live from that day forward. And very hungry! What an odd tree.

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