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Bruce's Tree
A Widow Morning in Colgate, Maryland: 7/24/21
It is Saturday morning.
I woke early to beat the heat while repairing the sinkhole in Georgia's front yard.
Megan was off to work at 5:30 AM. I had been leaving with her—as I hardly know Georgia—and then walking up into Northeast Baltimore after such visits. Georgia, having found out I walked through Cedonia, told me, upon my next visit, “You don't have to leave. You're the only boyfriend Megan's got and she doesn't need to be mourning you after those blacks get you. You're like Bruce, figure you can beat the world—but the world gets you. Stick around for a while.”
So here I am, in Colgate, The Mexican men sleeping off their Friday night revel and Georgia's 20-year-old grandson getting off his 12-hour shift at the drywall mill, when I discovered that the shovels in the shed, were all snow shovels.
Three weeks past, while playing soccer with Georgia's great-grandchildren in the 20-by-20 foot front yard, I noticed the little tykes rolling in a clover-grown depression and offered to fill it. Since we were shopping at a food club that day, I grabbed two 20-pound sacks of unscented clay cat litter.
There were bricks in the back yard.
But I lacked a shovel. Drew, the grandson, handsome and tattooed, and polite, found no shovel in his father's shed while he smoked his morning reefer. So he introduced me to John, a man my age, who had some shovels. Outdoors tools are always in short supply in urban areas and tend to be cheap, one-time purchases that get lost in the back of a shed. John had his to hand. So I took a spade and a coal shovel.
There was a rat hole in the depression that had not been used in some time. I used the spade to cut sod [mostly clover and dandelion with crab grass] from the interior of the 3 by 2-foot heart-shaped hole.
Setting the sod aside, I cut out two inches of clay and soil with the coal shovel and placed it on the sidewalk.
The base was now lined with bricks I got from the back yard—which is paved.
The forty pound sacks of clay were emptied and their canvas/plastic bags used as a liner, in hopes of slowing the sink of the clay as it gets wet and breaks down.
Over that I shoveled the clay and soil.
Then, the potting soil from the plastic planter on the porch, about 20 pounds worth, went on top.
Finally, the meager ground cover was placed on the outer ring of what was once a hole.
After tamping and soaking, and then squirting off the sidewalk, I announced, to Georgia as she sat on the porch, “Come spring I'll get sod and put it on top, because it will sink some more. The sod will have a mature root system.”
Georgia responded, “It always does sink. I'm glad you tried bricks. It was a sad day when that tree came out—looks exactly like it did after it was removed, with that potting soil where the trunk was. Bruce was a good man—strong as all get out, worked hard and long and even cooked on Sundays, since I had to work Sundays in the supermarket. He didn't eat much. Would sit in the shade, and later, in summer, in the air-conditioned basement. There he would drink his beer. Well, when he got sick [stroke] –he was about your age, late fifties—I'd sit him out here under the tree. But then one day I found all of these carpenter ants on him, and said, 'Oh no,' and moved him up onto the porch. Those ants had got to the tree and I had to have it taken out. Thank you, it looks better and will be safe for the children.”
As I write this, Georgia's oldest grandson walks in with a suit for her to iron and says he is going to Walmart as she sets up the ironing board and asks, “What are you getting?”
He, answered in his deep voice, a short, muscular bearded man of about 25 who is a millwright at the drywall mill, and says, “Socks.”
As Georgia wets the iron she says, “Well, don't get white socks. All of those fags are wearing white socks these days—and don't be all day!”
“He must have had these dam pants sittin' by the cat! I tell ya, that boy, he'd drive you ta drink! Would you like anything to eat?”
“Thank you, but no.”
“You're not hungry?”
“Yes, I'm hungry. But Rick says I'm not supposed to eat in the morning?”
“Who the hell is Rick?”
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