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A thief in the night
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“Mom, do you think we could go buy a video game today?”

“By ‘buy’, don’t you mean ‘rent’?”

“No, I mean ‘buy,’ as in, ‘I’ll own it and won’t have to return it.’”

I turn my face up toward the ceiling, acting is if I’m contemplating an answer.

“Well son, run outside to the tree that the money grows on and let me know if there is enough on it to buy you one!”

He dashes out the door. Oh, the sweet hopeful innocence of youth. Notice I didn’t say “gullibility.”

He comes running back in, breathless, “Ma, which one is it? Is it the one with the dried up apricots on it or the one with the black nuts?”

“Those aren’t black nuts, son, those were supposed to be peaches. It’s the one with the golden branches.”

Out he goes again.

Several minutes go by.

He comes back in, exasperated.

“Ma. I looked at every tree. Can I have a glass of chocolate milk?”

“Sure!” I get busy whippin’ up some milk and Nesquik.

“I don’t see a tree out there with ‘golden branches.’ They’re all ‘gnarled up and brown.’”

I turn around and put my hands on my hips.

“What? No tree out there with golden branches? What the heck! Show me!”

He takes his glass of milk and gulps it as we head out the door.

On the slow walk through the yard, we pass lots of gnarled up little fruit trees and a couple of sad pines.

I clap my hands to my mouth and stare at him with horrified eyes.

He gets the signal and slaps one hand over his ear while clutching his glass with the other and runs behind me to hide. He is not one to cover his eyes when he’s scared. He claps his hands over his ears, in case he hears a scary noise. Apparently, it’s not as freakish a thing as I once thought it was. I’ve seen lots of kids do it, and I still think its funny.

He cowers behind me, trembling with fear.

“What is it? Did you see a ghost?” he nearly shrieks.

“No! Someone stole our tree! It’s gone!” I walk to a spot in the yard that has a slight dip to it.

“Come ‘ere ... feel this ... walk over this...” I instruct him, showing the way with my hand.

He walks down into the little dip and stands right in the middle of it.

“Right here? This is where it was?” he asks.

“That’s exactly where it was! It had big golden branches and huge gobs of money hanging off it ... don’t you remember? You were just underneath it a couple of months ago ... around your birthday...”.

Dang. I’m a good story-teller. Notice I didn’t say “liar.”

He looks at me for a minute, trying to decide if he’s in a dream or if I’m just telling one big fat fish tale.

“I don’t remember a money tree,” he says, cutting his eyes at me, swishing the last of the chocolate mix in his glass.

“Yes you do. I told you to go stand under it and count how many dollars were on it so you could see if you could get the present you wanted for your birthday!”

“Oh! Now, I remember....” he said, nodding slowly, with a smile coming across his lips.

I watched him, thinking how great it is that he’s still buying into Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, despite what his little hoodlum friends tell him.

“Yeah ... see ...? The tree was right there ... I was taking pretty good care of it so we’d have some extra to go on that mini-vacation we were talking about.”

He shook his head.

“Man. Who do you think stole it, Mom?”

“I don’t know, son. Someone who obviously needed it more than we did.”

“The government?”

He’s a conspiracy-theorist from way back.

“Could be ... I’m not sure. They must’ve had a covert op to come in here and get it ... in the middle of the night.”

“Those danged blood suckers ... how am I gonna get a new game?” he asked, stomping his foot into the fake hole.

“Guess you’re gonna have to get it the good old-fashioned way, kiddo,” I said, with a hug around his shoulder.

“You mean ... earn it?” he asked weakly.



“Dang is right, son.” Kiss kiss. “Gimme your glass ... broom’s right there ... get to work.”

He starts sweeping the patio ... working toward that goal ... cursing those middle-of-the-night bloodsuckers.

I breathe a couple of puffs on my nails and shine them on my shirt. Mama still gots it...