Jenn and I were walking along the path, underneath a patchy canopy of trees that bordered the coastline. In a clearing of burnt grass and exposed earth, we encountered Matt, a groomsman from our friend Bob’s wedding. He was sitting alongside a faded green Ford Escort that likely dated to the early 1990s.
From a keyhole atop the thin back hood grew a scraggly fruit tree just a few feet tall. Although the summer air was unbearably hot, the tree was covered in a thick frost, like the walls of an old freezer that had not been defrosted in many millenium.
The two of us asked Matt if he could explain, and he simply said that the tree was known as St. September. An odd feeling rushed over me, as if this woody creature, with a name like that, had something to do with the local art and music scene.
Upon closer examination, I could see the tree was broken at its base but not completely severed from its roots. Typical of most broken trunks and branches, it remained attached by thin, stressed strips of bark and wood, its upper half resting on horizontally on the trunk. I reached out to touch it and could feel the cold — and also the sweat as it thawed under the sun. The tree was definitely laboring.
I grabbed the tree and raised it back vertical, but realized it needed some support to stay in that position. Looking around, I saw in the dirt what looked like soda can tabs with rubber rims, like the colored jackets people buy to put around their house keys. I jammed two of these in the gap between tree and roots, then let go. The gap was filled up sufficiently that the tree once again stood tall.
Time appeared to pass, and I caught a future glimpse of the plant. Gone was the Ford Escort, and the tree was now planted firmly in the earth. A tight, 3′ x 3′ chain-link fence surrounded and provided it with all the protection it was missing. It was a taller tree, but it appeared to be just as skinny as before. Its greater height was reinforced with various hardware such as C-clamps and makeshift braces. But up it went, a truly magical thing.
Matt reappeared and informed us this would now be a magical and famous place. On cue, Jenn pulled out a sign that appeared to be printed from the side of a Pioneer baking mix container. It read “Texas Peachtree Memorial”. We posted it under the canopy of trees near the water, then stepped back to ponder/admire our work.
Then I woke up.