Posted on April 29th, 2011
My name was Tree, like the woody plant; first name, Fig. I was forty-two when I was murdered on September 18, 2010. In landscape plans, most looked like me: foundation plantings with flappy green leaves. This was before fruits of all shapes and flavors started appearing in grocery stores or on menus. It was still back when people believed things like that didn’t happen.
At my duplex I had the height advantage behind the pink azalea and the lavender. Most fig trees grow because their planter liked the idea of Mediterranean fruit, and I was among them, I suppose. I wasn’t a cherry or an apple like those white picket Plebes all have in their yards; I was Biblically exotic. My delicate fruits weren’t even available in grocery stores—most people around there had only heard of my cousin, that vapid Newton. But I was huge in Italy and the Middle East. They knew true glamour. My favorite human was Mrs. Anderson, who visited with her baby stroller on late August mornings.
I wasn’t killed by Mrs. Anderson, by the way. Don’t think that everyone you’re going to meet here is suspect. That’s the problem. You never know. Mrs. Anderson came very early in the day, before the heat was too much, and filled the foot rest of her son’s stroller with my figs. Her own fig tree was sick, so I let her take as much of my fruit as she wanted, and didn’t drip sap on her head or anything. She loved my figs, turned them into a sweet jam with caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar. Her tree died a few months after I did. It had twig blight, but I never saw it in my heaven.
My murderer was the man who owned the duplex. Mr. Butcher (yes, that’s his actual name) bought the apartment in 1997. The azalea liked the way he kept the leaves cleaned up, and the lavender liked that he watered with Miracle-Gro. My murderer believed in neatness in the garden, things like hedges trimmed into precise cubes, the way his own mother had preferred. The lavender joked about how Mr. Butcher’s garden may be beautiful, but that only perverts like a perfectly-trimmed boxwood.
But on September 18, 2010, I was dropping figs all over the sidewalk and the cars in the driveway. I remember we were having an Indian summer because everyone was talking about how warm it was. Crows came and pecked up my sticky fruit with their broad beaks. Six feet from where Mr. Butcher stood, I stuck out my stem and dropped one more fig.
“What a disaster,” Mr. Butcher said.
I was a disaster, but that was none of his business. My own fruits were split and stuck to my leaves, and the ants were all over it, gathering up the nectar to hurry to their narrow subterranean tunnels. My branches were hanging low, resting on the old white Chevy pickup in the driveway, too heavy to hold up.
“I guess it’s time for a little trim,” he said.
He tried trimming me, but I gummed up his loppers with so much latex that he had to throw them away. I was so alive then, milky sap flowing out of me onto Mr. Butcher’s shoulders and hair. I thought about Mrs. Anderson and her son, about the jam she had in little wide-mouth half-pint jars on her countertop.
I thought of the azalea.
She would be wondering if it was autumn yet. She loved autumn, because that meant it was time for the new leaf blower to come out. “No more rakes scraping my roots,” she told the pine shrub, a shrub who didn’t drop leaves and couldn’t care less about rakes.
The azalea would be worried about all this debris falling on her, but more angry than worried, at my detritus.
Mr. Butcher then started to drag a pruning saw across my branch. I tried to leak more sap or drop another fig, but I was too afraid and too tired from the fight. Then the maintenance crew came. Their chainsaws were loud and the jagged edge of their blades should have snagged, but were spinning so fast I didn’t feel a thing but the heat and vibration of the motor. They cleaved off my branches, one by one, starting at the top and working their way down my bare trunk, chucking my limbs into a whirring wood chipper as they went. I felt cold and exposed, and then I felt nothing.
“Stop dripping on me,” Mr. Butcher said.
Gently, I did.
The end came anyway.