7 Stumped @StoryADayMay

So “Stumped” is my story today. Wednesday is food day on this blog, so I had to tie today’s randomly numbered picture of stuff in my house to some kind of food. The stump turned into a crabapple tree. You can make crabapple jelly, but I wouldn’t recommend making it from the fruit of this tree.

Stumped

by Marian Allen

Stumped“Damnedest thing I ever saw,” said the arborist again.

Bill left him staring at the stump in the middle of the yard and went in to help Elle carry the iced tea and glasses out to the patio.

She asked, “Does he think he can get rid of it?”

Bill could only shrug. “So far, all he’s said is, ‘It oughtn’t to be like that.’ So I’m guessing he’ll be a washout, too.”

The baffled tree-guy joined them, his eyes reluctantly leaving the stump under consideration.

“It was here when you moved in?”

Elle said, “It was part of why we bought the place. There was a crabapple tree in the back yard where I grew up, and I loved watching the animals come eat the fruit in the morning. But this stupid thing only ever had two blooms and two apples. Always two, wasn’t it, Bill?”

Bill nodded as he swallowed tea, then said, “Yep. Two. Then it shed leaves in the fall and I got sick of raking them up. Damn thing’s right in the middle of the garden, too. So I had a guy in to cut it down. All the limbs came off all right, but he couldn’t cut it down any further than what you see right there.”

The stump – if “stump” was the word for something that size – was seven feet high.

The arborist said, “How long ago was that?”

“Ten years, now,” said Elle. “It’s partly hollow, but it still won’t cut. And you see what it does. Every year. Every year.”

She was referring to the two small branches sprouting randomly from the trunk, each one bearing a small, perfect, red crabapple.

“They don’t fall off,” she said. “Nothing eats them. They hang there until they shrivel up. Then a different two little branches come out the next year. It’s creepy.”

“I guess it is,” the arborist said, with feeling, and both Bill and Elle knew that he was going to turn down the job.

He did.

Elle tried the power of a woman’s pleading eyes, but she was at that awkward age between beautiful young woman and sweet little old lady, and the man was unmoved.

“Don’t think I can help you,” he said. “Maybe get a botanist over here from the college; they might know exactly what kind of tree this is, maybe know how to get rid of it. If it’s an invasive species, like from another country, they might hook you up with people who specialize in getting rid of those.”

Bill and Elle exchanged delighted glances.

Bill said, “Never thought of that! Matter of fact, it is from another country! The husband was pissed because the wife had smuggled one of the dried-up fruits over when they immigrated. She said it reminded her of home.”

“I thought it was sweet, at the time,” said Elle. “Little did I know, eh?”

The arborist said, “You know where they came from, or where they went? They might be able to point the college guys to where to look on getting rid of it.”

Bill shook his head. “We bought the house and that was that. We could try asking the realtor, but it’s been twenty years. I don’t even remember their names, do you, honey?”

Elle shook her head.

The arborist left. Bill and Elle had dinner, watched a little television, and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, Elle said, “Adam. The man’s name was Adam something.” But Bill was asleep, and she had forgotten by morning.

~ * ~

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: As always, feel free to use the same photograph I used. Also: frustration, garden, helpless professional.

MA

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About

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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