Article"The Cherry Tree" by Lowell Uda
"I don't mean to sound angry, but . . ."
"I have a lot of things to get done today."
"The shelves in the closet for the baby things."
"I'll call Mom and tell her we can't go."
"Well, what time is the picnic!"
"I'm sorry. What time is the picnic."
Oscar looked at his watch. It was 12 noon. "If I can't pick the cherries this afternoon, then I'll pick them later this evening, when we get back."
"Oh, my darling," said Meg. "You're such a romantic. You're still wanting me to bake you a cherry pie!"
"Well, I do," said Oscar. "I really do." And as he approached the bed, he felt himself trembling again.
"Oh, my charming one, I can bake pies. I can buy cherries in cans even in this little town."
"It is just not the same, Meg."
Oscar had said good-bye to the birds, ushered the children and Meg into the old Chevy and rushed off to Iowa City and the lumberyard. He needed three eight foot lengths of one by twelve, finishing nails, oak stain, putty, and a nail set. It made Meg laugh to hear that he had lost his nail set, something he’d told her that his father, a carpenter, always got after him for misplacing. He had trouble fitting the lumber into the side window of the Chevy, and while he struggled Billy had an accident.
"Why do you do that?" said Meg. "Why don't you tell me when you have to go?"
"It snuck out of me," said Billy.
"It didn't sneak out of you!"
The poor guy began to cry.
"Hang on," said Oscar. "I've got the lumber in. We're going now. You know, we're going on a picnic with Grandpa and Grandma."
"You scratched the car, Daddy," said Susie.
"We might as well go to the store," said Meg. "I need stuff for the picnic."
It wasn't till after two o'clock that they got home. Everybody was cranky. Oscar went immediately onto the back porch for a pail, then headed for the flapping cherry tree. He banged the pail and shouted, and the wings rose up over the little tree and lighted in the elms and maples. Not only were the birds at his tree, but also flies with green eyes and zebra wings.
His neighbor across the roadway had said that she forbade her children from picking and eating the cherries when they were ripe because they were full of worms. He bit into a cherry. It was sour, but nice, without worms.
"You're not picking cherries now, are you? Aren't you going to help me get ready for the picnic? These kids are driving me crazy!"
Oscar set the pail on the grass. The birds were brazenly fluttering overhead. "Hah!" he yelled. "Hah!" Then headed for the house.
As he closed the door of the Buick, Oscar looked across the moonlit lawn to his cherry tree. All was still in the tree. The last black bird he had seen was a crow--that speck of flesh--winging across the lake where they had had their picnic. He leaned into the car window.
"Mom, Dad"--he still had difficulty with those words, applying them to Meg's parents--"Thanks for everything. It was a fun picnic. The kids always enjoy being with you."
By “everything,” Oscar meant the cash Meg’s father had slipped him, for the children and for the baby when it came.
"They look so wonderful," said Meg's Mom. "You're so good to them. You're so good to my Meg."
"Remember what I told you," said Meg's Dad, an ex-Marine Captain and from an old Iowa farm family. "The heat of love passes, the heat of love passes." And indeed, he had told Oscar that at the lake, as he watched his strange son-in-law pull in a croppy. He had also told Oscar, "Every night I tell my wife I love her before I go to bed, every night I tell my wife I love her before I go to bed." Oscar had held his tongue. He had wanted to say, "The heat of love burns forever, and I make love to Meg every night before I go to bed." He wondered why Meg's Dad always uttered these pronouncements twice.
"Good night! Thanks! Thanks!" Oscar called. He watched the lights of the Buick blink around the corner, then for a long moment he stood staring at the house. Meg had taken the children in for a bath. He could see her in the dining room where the new crib was. She was certainly beginning to show the fullness of pregnancy. There, under the canopy of leaves, he felt suddenly a great love and yearning for her, for all the warm houses in the town, the stubble fields, the full moon up in the sky. He felt obligated to things, a part of everything about him, not just some stranger from some faraway Pacific island where there were few picket fences and no cherry trees.