Gary's Estimate

Just called to tell you, thought you might want to know,
the giant willow in the backyard came down sometime last night in the storm.
Big wind came through round midnight.
I was at a birthday party on the other side of town.
Somebody picked up a guitar after dinner
and we all sat around a bunch of candles on the living room floor.
A couple people fell asleep on the sofa.
Their mouths were closed though,
so you know they weren't really all the way out.
They were listening to the rest of us
talking in and out. Rising laughter. A few choice chords.
One of those American cliches really.

Then the wind kicked up. The candles blew and made us all aware of the fall.
Saying thanks and I gotta go, I walked out into the wind for a taste of it,
raised my arms to fly, drove home, and went to bed.
Today I woke up late. There wasn't any sun.
Felt the champagne in my head and wondered how long I'd have to fight the sheets.
First thing I knew to do was raise the shade,
look outside and decide whether to accept the day.
And there it was in the soaking rain, lying across two separate fences.
Took both of them out on its way down.
All I could say was 'shit, it's gone.' and I wondered who knew.

Everybody loved that tree. Must've been almost a hundred.
I mean the thing had a trunk that was six feet wide.
How does something like that just snap off at the base?
That thing's seen forty storms worse than this.
I went back into the kitchen, opened the back door to get a better look.
Then Gary my neighbor appeared on the porch.

'What's up?'
'You see the tree? Big willow came down.'
'No shit,' is all he could say, and he ran to look.
Gary just came back from the hospital.
Major complication after minor surgery
left him with a heart attack and both lungs full of fat.
They say he basically died and came back.
And after a week asleep he finally went home,
wasted and nauseous, but starting over.
Gary's fifty-one.

Later on the sofa he lowered the Sunday paper and said,
'Willows aren't particularly strong trees, are they?'
'No, not really, but they usually bend.
That one weathered a hundred storms. You know that tree.'
'Yeah, probably more than anything, it was just its time.'
'Yeah, I don't know. Yeah. I spose you're right.'
We couldn't say anymore.
He lifted the paper and started in on the box scores.


A.G. Vermouth



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