The Taking Tree

When I finished moving into the apartment on sixth street, my landlord gave me one piece of advice: don’t park under the large walnut tree at the edge of the property. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue. After all, I had my own assigned parking space a short distance away. I never questioned my landlord’s advice. I figured since it was a walnut tree, previous tenants had an issue with following objects damaging their vehicles.

If I had only known…

It wasn’t what the tree produced.

It’s what the tree took.

The first few months were uneventful. 

The only issue I ever had with the property was the line of downtown bars directly behind the apartments. Occasionally the noise level would get too high, especially on the holidays or summer. Fortunately, during those times, I’d just turn my fan on high and fall asleep with little issue.

I kept a wide berth from the tree in question, but that didn’t stop me from noticing weird things right off the bat. Every week there was a cat stuck in the tree. A fire truck frequently stopped by the apartment once a month to save the yeowing cat. That’s when I noticed it was a different cat every single time.

Several squirrels scurried through the yards, but they seemed to steer away from the tree. I would have thought a walnut tree would be a prime target for them, but instead the squirrels followed a broad circular path around the tree, even if it meant cutting into the road and nearly getting squashed by oncoming traffic.The squirrels avoided the tree at all cost.

Unfortunately, not much later, some drunk jerk from one of the bars parked in my spot before sauntering off to the bars. It was in the evening when it happened, so I couldn’t simply call to have his car towed, and I had no wish to get into a fight with a belligerent drunk, so I did the only thing I could do.

I parked beneath the tree.

Since the Midwesterns winters were known to be quite dangerous, I kept a spare change of clothes in my car just in case I was ever stranded somewhere during my mid-day commute. However, winter had long since concluded, with robins chirping away in every tree…except the one I had parked under.

I remembered my landlord’s warning, but the only alternative was parking several blocks away. Besides, I drove a clunker anyway, and I wasn’t worried about a couple scrapes from falling walnuts. I parked the car and headed off to bed.

The next day I woke up and immediately headed off to work. As I passed the back of the car, I noticed through my hatchback’s glass window that my trunk was conspicuously empty. I looked up to see my back-up shirt and pants hanging from a tree limb.

“How the hell…” I said to no one in particular.

My first thought was that one of the drunks from last night did it. But there were more than a couple problems with this notion. First, I had interacted much with anyone to become inflicted with their ire. Secondly, I knew I had locked my cars. And thirdly, I had serious doubts a drunkard could break into my car and then climb a tree in order to place it there in the first place. I suppose he could have tossed it up there, but even from the ground, I could see the pants and shirt were perfectly hung from a tree branch as if they were placed there by a careful hand.

I cursed audibly for a few moments before calling my landlord. He came with a ladder and helped me retrieve my clothing items. He never quite said “I told you so…”, but the wry look he gave me told me practically everything.

In the weeks that followed, I arrived at one inevitable conclusion.

The tree took things. I had seen how the animals avoided it. I had seen how every cat seemed to get stuck in that tree in particular. And it had somehow taken my clothes out of my locked car.

At first I resolved to simply avoid parking in that area again. But as the days become longer and warmer, I knew the bars would only get more crowded. Sooner or later I would be forced to park under the tree once more.

So I went to the store and I bought some countermeasures.

A few weeks later, someone parked in my spot again. I could have called the landlord and had him get the offending car towed. He seemed to indicate the trouble was preferable to him hauling a ladder to retrieve my items all over again. I also could have simply parked a few blocks away.

But this was my spot.

I was tired.

And I wasn’t going down without a fight.

I kept my countermeasures in the truck, in the exact spot my clothes had been.

Then I turned in for the night.

When I came downstairs the next morning, I left through the doors to see the tree’s leaves looking paltry and shade. The entire tree appeared wilted and sickly.

“This is why you shouldn’t take things,” I told the tree.

Sitting in the branches, I spotted the countermeasures I had intended for the tree to take. A couple bottles of vinegar along with a can of herbicide. 

“I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” I told the tree. I should have quit when I was ahead.

As if on command, the tree relinquished its booty. It started the vinegar and herbicide, which fell on my trunk, creating a slight dent. What followed was a deluge of odds and trinkets.

I spotted a few toys along with several Nerf guns, a Super-Soaker and more than a few frisbees. Several pairs of shoes followed. Then at least a hundred walnuts shattered my windshield.

“Touche,” I told the tree.

I moved out the next month, having learned my Pyrrhic lesson from the tree.  I had to use my security deposit to cover the cost of fixing my cars. But I made sure my next digs weren’t anywhere near a walnut tree.

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