Orange Tree

The orange tree in my yard does not seem to be aware that we are on lockdown. I can see it framed by the large picture window from my perch on the couch. The TV is on again. The design team at MSNBC has really done a bang-up job with the Coronavirus graphics package and it’s the 14th Skype interview today and this just in: more dreadful statistics, but we go now live to the orange tree in my yard who is oblivious.

The orange tree in my yard has branches that wave back and forth in the soft wind like a bunch of haughty jackasses. Look at us! Not a care in the world! Just leaning into the neighbors yard a little. Mixing it up with the camphor tree. It’s wild branch-on-branch action out there. A friend came by to drop off a few things and I made him stand at the end of the driveway and we didn’t shake hands. We just said, “What a strange time to be alive!” while staring at the pile of stuff between us, wondering how long a virus can live on a cloth tote bag full of XLR cables. Every single branch of this orange tree is a disgusting display of noncompliance.

There is a treehouse in the orange tree in my yard. We built it back when we could leave the house for scrap wood and screws. It was going to have a nice roof and maybe even a bucket with a pulley and string so we could pull the bucket up and down, but telecommuting is interrupted with homeschooling until it is dark out and I have nothing left to give to this stupid, stupid tree.

It’s spring and the orange tree in my yard is blooming with small white flowers — what an absolute dickhead. There are squirrels who run up and down the trunk. They eat the middle out of an orange and leave the empty husk to dry in the sun. The squirrels shit on the floor of the treehouse and they don’t care about toilet paper at all. They shake the petals from the fragile flowers and I sit inside still wearing the same pants from three days ago and it looks like my yard is covered in confetti. The orange tree in my yard is an unmitigated mess.

There is overripe fruit on the orange tree in my yard. The boys and I collect the last of the winter oranges and put them in a bucket. The patio is stained and sticky from where the boys have been spiking the oranges onto the pavement. The juice we make is so saccharine and tart and woody with pulp you can only sip it. “Nu-uh,” says the eight year old. “I can drink it.” But he can’t. His face puckers up as soon as it touches his tongue. But if we’re just swimming in Vitamin C then that will be something, right? The orange tree has made liars out of us.

When we bought the house the neighbors kept saying “you’re going to keep the orange tree, right?” and we were thinking about getting a pool, so I’d say, “Maybe.” I used to see the neighbors when I’d walk to the corner and get a bowl of oyakodon, or maybe teryaki chicken from that spot on the corner, but I take my meals in the back yard now. I wander under the branches with a bowl of Cheerios. If I stop chewing for a second, I can hear a caucophony of bees, 1000s of them, swarming in the clusters of white flowers, and in this small moment, I suddenly can’t even imagine my life without this dumb tree and from the bottom of everything I hope, beyond reason, that there will be oranges next winter.

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Johnny Huscher

Johnny is a writer from Sacramento, CA. He tries not to break things. Sometimes that’s the best he can do.