An Autumn Farewell
The Department of Public Works truck parks across the street. The driver steps out and posts a notice. This happened once before, about 10 years ago.
“The Town wants to cut down the tree in front of Number 9,” the woman at Number 11 said to her husband back then. “I wish they wouldn’t. It’s so comforting to see when we come around the corner after getting off the train at the end of the work day.”
The people at Number 9 said the sidewalk could be fixed without taking down the tree. The Town just wanted to do it at that time because the Power Company offered to do it for free. It would be one less tree to trim back from their cables each year.
A few weeks later, the neighbors stated their objections at the public meeting. No one had ever protested taking down a tree before. The Board of Selectmen didn’t know what to do, so they didn’t do anything.
A decade later, the neighbors say the new notice means it is happening all over again. The sidewalk to nowhere – it ends a few yards away at the next corner – needs to be fixed and the Power Company has offered again to take down the tree. The Selectmen will meet on November 17. “Let’s write letters and go. It worked last time: let’s do it again!”
I’m not so sure. Things change in 10 years.
Out-of-towners bought the non-profit book store and the Carnegie Library. The Selectmen approved variances to convert both buildings into grandiose private homes.
The kids in Number 15 who used to skateboard down the hill to catch the school bus, just as their parents before them did, grew up and moved away. Pretentious people now pay to sip overpriced wine there.
A new owner gutted Number 8, a former boarding house where fishermen and quarry workers lived, to construct vacation rental condominiums.
The owners of Number 2 paved their large yard and turned it into a parking lot. This last one particularly irks the man at Number 9. “She dresses and talks like a hippie, but she didn’t bother to object when her tree was taken down,” he says to his wife. “Now her son rakes in $200 a day for beach parking all summer.”
I am an American Elm, Ulmus americana. A hundred years ago, Public Works planted me and several others on both sides of this street. As we grew, our branches met overhead and formed a canopy. Over time, storms felled some and ax-wielding homeowners took others. When disease killed so many more of us across the land, I survived because I stood alone. Now, they say, the Town does not allow residents to remove trees just because we block a view or take up space. I am different because more powerful people want to take me down.
Chipper in tow, the bucket truck parks across the street. With my last few autumn-gold leaves I wave goodbye.
Kathy Sanford lives in upstate New York and coastal Georgia with her husband and two senior coonhounds. After retiring from a career of bureaucratic nonfiction, Kathy has returned to the loves and aspirations of her childhood – walking dogs, riding a bicycle, reading, going to the beach and writing fiction. She is surprised to find herself participating in online short story challenges and contests. The American Elm in this story and its fate were real, although creative license has been taken with other facets of the story.