Practical jokes dot the countryside of my life’s landscape.
In my college house, it was not uncommon to find rubber bats hanging in the shower or fake mice in the cereal box in the morning. A batch of cookies was always suspect, the probability of finding one filled with hair quite high. We woke a friend one morning to the national anthem belching (literally) from a tape player under her bed, then ran laughing all the way to campus while she chased us down the street in her pajamas.
Plastic ants littered the head table at my wedding while an unruly bridesmaid was handcuffed to a door. My husband and I wore earplugs during our reception.
With a high school teacher in the household, we’re accustomed to rinsing egg yokes from the siding and late night calls asking whether our refrigerator is running, among other things. I’ve looked out the window in the late evening to find a dozen teenage boys lined up shirtless in the street, a cryptic message spelled across their collective abs for Coach Lindquist.
So pranks, they’re really nothing new. I can even deeply appreciate a particularly clever one.
Early Sunday morning as I drove away to church, I glanced out the side window and saw a tall leafy branch standing in a small pile of dirt, evenly spaced between two trees in my front yard. I assumed one of the boys had picked up a branch from the recent tree-trimming project and stuck it in the ground.
After lunch, we discovered it wasn’t a branch. It was a young apple tree, hastily dropped from a pot into a small hole dug in my lawn sometime between midnight and sunrise. I worried about the tree. The root was barely into the dirt. The hole wasn’t deep enough and it needed more dirt packed around it to protect from the weekend’s extreme heat. I could hear Mr. Sloth shouting from across my college friend’s nursery where we worked weekends potting trees. Keep those roots wet, Delilah!
My husband dug it out and replanted it deeper to protect the tender root, then called the local landscaper to see if he was missing an apple tree from his nursery stock, believing this to be a mischievous combination of theft and, umm, vandalism.
Who plants an apple tree in someone’s yard in the middle of the night?
Most fresh fruits are forbidden to me, allergic reaction taking most of the fun out of tasting the sweet juices as they drip down a swelling, itchy throat. Apples, at one time, were etched on the do-not-touch list. About the same time as an overzealous puppy peeled the bark off our apple tree in the back yard and killed it, I discovered through a chance experiment — and a deep desire for the taste of an apple — that if I peeled the fruit first, I could eat it and even keep breathing.
The landscaper hasn’t come for the tree. It must not be his. I slipped my thumb and index finger in a circle along the slender trunk as I poured fresh water on the black soil this morning and thought about how peculiar the whole matter is.
You take a risk, follow a little ache, and the next thing you know someone is planting an apple tree in your yard by the light of the moon.