John Scholvin

John Scholvin

still can’t fit a half-stack in the trunk

29 Jul 2020


let the night air cool you off
tilt your head back and try to cough

It had to be fifty years old, the pine that had been felled earlier in the afternoon, and whose trunk was now stacked for pickup by the curb. It didn’t know it was dead yet. The woody cells hadn’t gotten the memo, and were still engaged in the same capillary action they were that morning, leaving the cut surfaces wet. I wasn’t sure what I expected when I touched it, probably something watery and thin, like I remembered from that maple tree farm tour I took as a kid. But the sweat on the cross-section was thick and sticky, and anything but sweet-smelling. It would linger on my fingers the rest of the walk.

don’t say nothing ‘bout the things you never saw
let the night air cool you off

There was no stump I could see on the parkway, so this had to be a private cull from someone’s yard. I wondered why they took it down. I’m no expert, but the large sections of the trunk that I could see appeared healthy. The bark was robust, the wood solid through to the core. Maybe it dropped a pine cone into someone’s pinot grigio, or drizzled some sap onto the Jag. Or maybe it got a little too tall and was shading the solarium in the afternoons. Trees’ll do that.

I ain’t living like I should
a little rest might do me good

So you make the call. Listen, you don’t make partner at that law firm or vulture cap shop unless you know what decisiveness is—how to swing that axe, if you will. The power of your words can make men jump, and have literally moved the earth and sky. I was a boss once, too. I remember the feeling of wielding the power to build giant things and to risk other people’s money. And I remember without fondness the companion responsibility to manage careers, and even to end them. To sometimes march people into failure. To put families into sudden financial distress, possibly impoverishment. I work alone these days, and I miss none of that. I never developed the taste, or even the tolerance, for delivering into ruin.

got to sinking in the place where I once stood
now I ain’t living like I should

Early on, before I carried that axe myself, I wondered how those guys (look, they were always guys) were able to turn it off when they left the office. I eventually realized that most of them don’t. They take it it right home with them every night, practicing on easier targets. It’s how the healthy trees come down for the crime of being trees. It’s why the kids sit in their rooms and surf all night. It’s making the help ask how high when you say jump. And it’s thinking of the teachers as the help.

god forbid you call their bluff
like the nightmares ain’t enough

I rounded the corner for home, glad again to see the For Sale sign in my neighbor’s yard, though not without wondering what sort of person would buy that place, would move out here, would be like this. I should be more careful what I wish for.