The Humor and Life, in Particular Web site
author:  Margie Culbertson

May/June '98 Humor Writing Contest Winner
Best Short Humor!

Up A Tree


Paul Molyneux

I sat staring at a baseball game on the tube, but I couldn'tget my mind off the tree. It was part of the family. My kidsspent much of their childhood on swings hung from its branches.I'd wager the hours we have spent lounging in its shadeprobably equal a couple of years.

Not one drain in the house worked because the tree's rootsclogged the main line to the sewer. My wife and I have astrong cultural compulsion for washing dishes, doing laundryand taking regular baths. This situation caused great changein our lifestyle. The walk to the Texaco station at the cornerevery time we felt the call of nature strained our qualitytime. How could such a long–time friend suddenly turn on us?The neighbors laughed, but my wife grew downright surly.

Shattered by the sound of the doorbell, my thoughts vanished.Opening the door, I came face to face with a roly–poly fellowdressed in a three–piece suit. He carried a briefcase andsported a Homburg.

"Yes," I said.

"I am Luther Greenfield, special agent, Department of HUG. Iam here on a matter of the greatest urgency. May I come in?"With no offer of his hand, he pushed his way past me into theroom and flashed his wallet, revealing a shiny badge.

"What's the problem?" I asked, taken aback by this suddenintrusion. "Have I violated some zoning code or something?"

"I said, 'HUG,' Mr. Abernathy. That's H–U–_G_, sir, not H–U–_D_. Department of Habitat for Urban Greenery." He took astep back, fiddled with his tie, and glanced around the room.

I responded quickly in an effort to bury the affront. "Oh,yeah! I've heard of you guys. You're the ones they call GreenMen–G–Men for short."

"No sir," he said with a drone. "Wrong name again. G–Man is anickname for any government agent. We are the T–Men–Tree Men.That, in itself, is a misnomer. Since the department has nogender bias, we are actually TP's–Tree _Persons._" He boldlycrossed the room, turned off the television, sat in my favoriterecliner.

"Sorry, Mr. Greenfield." I involuntarily sat on the end of thecouch wondering why I was apologizing to this man. "What doyou want with me?"

"I'll be brief, Mr. Abernathy. Did I or did I not see aDrains–R–Us truck leave these premises three days ago?"

"Yea. So?"

"Have you or have you not engaged their services to remove oneSilver Maple located just west of your patio?"

"No! They don't do trees; they fix pipes. My life's a wreck!I've gotta get my drains working."

"I knew you were naive, Mr. Abernathy, but I had no idea thedepth of your ignorance." The pudgy man rattled on like abored professor in a required course. "Drains–R–Us is a frontfor several organizations who engage in the wholesale slaughterof trees. They are heartless mercenaries. They even compoundtheir profits by dismembering the bodies of their victims andselling them for fuel! HUG requests your cooperation inthwarting this abominable practice."

"Look," I replied, "just go away and leave me alone. I don'twant any part of your political agendas. I just want a workingbathroom. I'm only gonna open the drain by carving out a fewroots. I've gotta do what I've gotta do."

"Do you realize the trauma such an operation will induce inyour tree?"


"Let me put it another way–how would you feel if your feet wereamputated just because they stuck out beyond your mattress?Today the roots, tomorrow the tree. Can't you see theprogression?"

"Come to think of it, they mentioned it would be a recurringproblem...possibly eventual removal... This is ridiculous.Get out of here, don't waste my time!"

Greenfield rose and came over to me. "Please remain calm,Abernathy,"Greenfield said as he placed a firm hand on my shoulder. "Youknow, modern society has had enough of wanton murder. Not onlyare we here to protect the life of your tree, but we intend toensure the quality of its life, too!

"Just leave, you bleeding–heart weirdo. How did you knowDrains–R–Us was here anyway? I've half a mind to call thepolice."

"You still don't get it, do you, Abernathy? We _are_ thepolice." Greenfield placed his right hand in the center of hischest and whispered, "We've been watching you."

His voice crescendoed as he continued. "We have molesthroughout the country and, I assure you, each is registeredwith, and trained by, the CIA. One of our more attuneddevotees heard your maple crying out in anguish over thehorrors you planned, right in its presence. We've beenmonitoring you ever since."

I heard commotion in the front yard. I looked out and sawabout thirty people gathered at the end of my driveway.

"What's going on?" I stammered.

"These are THUGs–Tireless Helpers of Urban Greenery–volunteerlaypersons who donate their time to make a better world fortrees and other flora. They are here to help you understandthat the safety and comfort of your tree are of paramountimportance. We are prepared to remain with you until you seethe light."

As I watched, several of the protesters brought out signsbearing slogans such as "REMEMBER THE MAIMED" and "TREES AREOUR BROTHERS." Mothers carried small children and encouragedthe tots to help with the chanting — "NO MORE SLAUGHTER! NOMORE SLAUGHTER!"

I sprang to the offensive. "Those flyers and posters they areputting on the fence and throwing all over the lawns...aren'tthey made of paper? Doesn't paper come from trees? You're allhypocrites!"

"I assure you, Mr. Abernathy, we only use paper products fromthree sources: paper that has been recycled from waste; paperthat was humanely manufactured from forest denizens that passedon from natural causes; and, in rare emergencies, paper fromextremely dedicated arboreal patriots who volunteered asmartyrs for the good of the cause. Sometimes, the end doesjustify the means."

While he spoke, a late–sixties Volkswagon van with flowerspainted all over it pulled into the driveway and positioneditself so the side–door was visible from the window. One ofthe THUGs stepped up and pulled the door open.

"Martha!" I cried. "You've got Martha!" My wife lay, boundand gagged, on the floor of the vehicle.

"Yes," the TP replied. His face grew darker. "We don't havetime to waste. We gave her a ride home from the gas station.We'll see to her welfare while you determine your course inthis matter."

He signaled for the THUG to close the door. "When you've madethe proper decisions, she'll be released."

"Look, Greenfield. I'm just a quiet neighborly man who hasworked hard all his life, raised his children, and wants tolive out his days in a little comfort with running water andworking drains. Is that too much to ask?"

"At the expense of your tree's happiness? That tree didn'tchoose to live here. You planted that tree on Arbor Day of1961, I believe. The simple act of forcing its residence doesincur certain responsibilities, don't you know."

"Okay." I glanced again at the growing assemblage on my lawn."I'm not an Einstein, but I do know a loser when I see it.What do I have to do to get my plumbing fixed, protect my tree,and get your THUGs off my property?"

"Congratulations!" The fanatic grinned. "I knew you wouldprove to be a reasonable man. There are two acceptablesolutions. The first is rooticure."


"Rooticure–a pedicure for trees. It's a little pricey, but oh,so worth the trouble!"

"What do you mean pricey?"

"Oh, for a tree that size, say ten to twelve thousand."

"You've got to be kidding–just so my tree's toesies won't hurt?That's outrageous!"

Greenfield made a show of gazing out the window at hiscompatriots. He glanced back and forth between the street andme.

"Not really. Rooticure is a complete package. Properanesthetic will be administered so Brother Maple will feel nopain. A boom crane will raise it gently from its bed while ateam of experienced Japanese bonsai artists gently reshapes theroots. Six months of counseling by certified treepsychologists will follow to minimize the aftereffects andsignificantly shorten the regeneration time."

"You jerk! Before I'd do that, I'd just abandon the place andlet the tree have it."

"That, Mr. Abernathy, is the second alternative. It, mostcertainly, would be a kind and magnanimous solution."

©Paul D. Molyneux

ABOUT the author
Paul D. Molyneux is a graduate of Capital University, Columbus, Ohio with a B.M.E. degree. Paul is a member of Mid–Day Toastmasters(Toastmasters International) and has just completed his CTM (CompetentToastmaster) designation.

After seventeen years as a band and choir director in Ohio publicschools, he turned hisattention to writing. Since that time his byline has appeared numeroustime in print and World Wide Web publications. Credits include: WideWorld of GUFF, Electronic Writer's Group, Wordology, The SullivanReview, The Sullivan County Tourist Guide, NOVL Writer, ProfessionalWriter's Club, Skunk's Life, Greg Bulmash's Humor Page, and others.

Paul lives with his wife Doris and daughter Erika, in Baltimore, Ohio.Older daughter, Felicia, and her husband Adam have presented him withhis first grandson, Justin. His interests include music, stampcollecting, and the breeding and exhibition of pedigreed show rabbits(Holland Lops). He also does extensive rabbit judging at many countyfairs and 4–H shows.

His vision of a humor magazine for readers and writers of clean humorbecame a reality on February 6, 1996, when Wry Bred Magazine was born.He is the editor and publisher.
Click HERE to visit Paul's website, Laughter Loaf.

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©Margie Culbertson

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