By E. P. Ned Burke
Living in the south, especially as far south as sunny Florida, sometimes results in strange relationships. For instance, one summer I fell for an exotic palm tree. Maybe it was the intense summer heat that year that melted part of my cranium. You know, the part usually reserved for rational thinking.
Anyway, as I recall, it all started out innocently enough. I wasn’t looking for any companionship. All I wanted was a little shade from the tropical sun. But, that’s how it started: a touch of bark, palm embracing palms, and before I realized it, our limbs were entwined in a passionate embrace.
Alas, mine was a deep-rooted problem with no earthly explanation and no clear-cut solution. To an outsider, I guess my palm tree looked no different than the hundreds of others rooted in the warm Florida sand. But, to me, she was exquisite.
There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my tree. And, at certain times when the breeze was just right, I believe she felt the same toward me.
To tell you the truth, I’ve always had a weakness for a well-proportioned, woody perennial plant, especially the sensuous palm. The way those delicate, manicured leaves wave in the breeze always reminded me of a beautiful woman drying her fingernails by dangling them out the side window of a moving eight-wheeler. Then there’s that rhythmic round trunk gently swaying back and forth. Such natural beauty can only be described in the words of the Joyce Kilmer poem that begins: “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” I just know he had my tree in mind when he added: “A tree that may in summer wear, a nest of seagulls in her hair ...” or whatever.
Anyway, for months, my tree and I would sit palm in palm, our sweaty bodies silhouetted against the majestic moon. It was truly a romantic sight: man and tree against a backdrop of sand, sea, and stars.
(Deep sigh here, please.)
Oh, we were both too much in love to realize such a relationship had little hope of surviving. Yet, we still wished, and hoped, and dreamed.
“So, what if we are just a little different,” I told my tree one night. “Mixed marriages have worked for others.” I reflected a moment and said, “I’ll convert, if you want.” Then it hit me. “Maybe I can get a transplant. That’s it! I'll get a transplant and be just like you. You'd like that, wouldn’t you?”
My tree remained silent, but I'm certain I heard a sigh.
A few weeks after my transplant, I noticed my toes were forming sinewy roots. I became ecstatic. The transplant was working! I rushed to tell my tree the good news.
When I reached the beach, however, I found my lifeless, uprooted tree decaying in the hot sand. Her killer, a behemoth-looking bulldozer, sat nearby with an evil, sadistic grin on its curved, iron face. It appeared pleased to have destroyed God’s handiwork for yet another ugly, concrete condo.
“It’s not fair!” I fell to my knees and wept into my beloved’s limp palm. Then I raised my head to the heavens and cried out, “Whatever will I do now?”
I mean, let’s face it, who wanted to be around a guy with green hair, bark for skin, and roots where his toes use to be?