Article"The Cherry Tree" by Lowell Uda
He began to notice the tree again. Sometimes, in the dead of the night, when he made that last trip to the garbage can, he would pass under the cherry tree, and suddenly at the back of his mind would spring the cherry tree in all its splendor; and he would kick at the exposed roots and take hold of a branch or run his hand along the trunk--to feel the leaves against his face, the bark on his skin--and stare up at the swinging moon. "My tree," he said, though he knew that some farmer, long ago, had planted it.
Then the tree began to change. Oscar knew the exact day—June 21, the summer solstice and the first day of summer. There were hard green cherries on the tree, and as he bit into one, and tasted the bitterness, he felt all the windows opening up, all the walls of his life crumbling. Who, who gave me this wonderful body? he wondered. What a marvelous tree!
All through July, he watched the tree. The cherries grew plump and yellow-green. He watched the sun dry the grass, but feed the cherries a golden light. He himself fed on that golden light.
And then the cherries began to turn pinkish yellow, then red. Blushes of red. A child's cheek. Finally, lips. Red lips, lascivious lips.
Lying in bed, Oscar could hear the birds outside, and beyond the crust of his eyes, the low shadow of his furrowed brow, he could see the translucent leaves of the maples and the elms, the clear blue sky. Soon the summer storms would begin in earnest; the sky would be lowered, and lightning like golden winter branches, would hang from the gray sky. Bare golden branches would touch full green ones, and limbs would crack, fall; and more grayness would appear. Iowa often experienced tornadoes. Perhaps, the wind would come up—-swirling fifty, a hundred miles an hour--and he would have to pack his family down into the basement.
Meg stirred beside him. There was a wan smile on her face, and he looked down at her bare shoulder, at the umber mole-like skin tag on her bare shoulder. "Umber," he said, noting that the skin tag, which he preferred to call a mole--was darker than the skin of his sun burnt arms. He did not miss the Hawaiian sun because the Iowa sun tanned him well and blessed him with a good sweat when he worked their vegetable garden. Meg snuggled closer, smiling broadly. She had a surprising number of skin tags on her back and shoulders. Hanging from her light skin like so many little figs, they made him want to shudder; they weren't a part of her, she had said one sleepy morning like this one, when they were talking about her own suspension of graduate work. They were something outside, clinging, just as the fruit he had seeded in her was outside, clinging.
What did Meg mean? He didn’t understand her, or didn’t want to understand her, and even now feeling her rounding belly against his, he was at best confused, at worst in denial about something critical to their relationship as husband and wife. It was evident to him that the baby was nestled safely inside her. But she went on to say that any pregnancy, any child was outside, as it was for him, clinging, not inside as Oscar wanted to believe it was for women.
But he was so overjoyed about the pregnancy, he didn’t want to argue just then but took what he called “the peacemaker’s way out” and said, “I don’t understand . . . I take your word for it.” Yet lately, the image of the skin tag kept recurring to him and he wondered: Was it true that for him children were something outside, clinging? Perhaps it was. What about Meg, who had borne two children and had a third one coming? All, outside, clinging? He wanted many more children. Was there no difference between a man and a woman? Such hard thoughts for a man in love to bear. Meg made him question himself at moments when the heat of his passion was greatest. Was it love he felt when his mind exploded, when sleep overwhelmed him, and she rolled up and nestled beside him?
And he was so sensitive to her touch, to her rousing breathe, her white teeth and warm odors. They had established a killing rhythm that even the pregnancy did not halt. He could not touch their bed without being roused. She could not touch the bed without being roused. Night could not fall without their thoughts turning to lovemaking. They could do it three times a day, or more, and it would not be enough. She had opened some little gate in him and through it flowed some never ceasing effluence.