Marge had just told she'd quit her volunteer position as a "tree" at the arboretum. She felt encased in glass as she sat alone at her table with an empty coffee cup. "Yes. That's what trees do."
Her daughter was running water in her sink. This seemed always the time when Karen called, when she was doing stuff; clatter of silverware into the dishwasher, mad bristly scrubbing of some pot. Marge's grandson fussing in the background, in his highchair with some shaky toy.
Her daughter's obsession with getting Marge out of the house started after Marge made the mistake of confiding to her about how her dead husband had come to her in on a full moon night and stood beside her bed.
"You were dreaming, Mom," Karen had said, in her squeaky-clean brand new perfunctory tone. As when she would tell Marge how she should toss out catalogues piling up in her house.
"I couldn't really see his face but it was really him. And he was angry."
"Daddy had no reason to be angry. You should be angry with him, for never listening."
Really, if anyone was angry, it was her daughter. 'What was he thinking?" she'd wailed, when Marge had to call and tell her that he'd keeled over from a massive heart attack one too-hot summer day while mowing the lawn.
For some reason, he had refused to acknowledge his heart condition, and that steamy morning, she'd watched as he'd hauled the push mower out from the garage. She'd even once suggested investing in a ride-on mower. "Why don't ya just get me a motorized wheelchair?"
Too damn hot to argue. She'd just wanted to get into her air-conditioned car, to get a couple of cans of tunafish for a tuna salad lunch. If she had protested, he would only have pretended not to hear: "Say what?" he'd yell, over the roar of the old gassy lawn mower.
This was all some years ago now, but she would think back to that, when she was a tree, when she'd quit, and when her daughter began telling her what to do. When their roles seemed to be reversing which left a metal taste in her mouth every time they hung up their phones.
What she'd never told her daughter was about her falling into the web of children at the arboretum, the real reason she'd finally quit; that back then, her balance was already deteriorating. When her grandson, the one fussing in the highchair at the other end of the phone, was still a toddler.
Now he was seven. She hadn't thought about the tree thing until this spring when she'd found herself telling him about it.
"You were a tree?"
"A maple. Just like that one," she'd said, pointing to the big one in her backyard. They'd been visiting for Easter. New leaves were just beginning to sprout.
"Wow. That's kind a cool. . ." He was scraping at the ground with a stick. "Do you believe in moon trees?"
"We have some. In our yard. At least I think they're moon trees...the way they look when the moon is out. Anyway, I hope that's what they are. Because I promised this kid at school I would trade him moon tree seeds for seeds he has from this cool really rare tree, I guess, in his own yard."
"What kind of tree does he have?"
"Not sure. But it's supposed to be the only one on earth..." He shrugged. "He has a chicken coop too. When we had chicks in school, he took them home to their coop." He finished his drawing. It was a dragon. With two heads and breathing fire.
"Anyway, yes," Marge said.
"Yes, what..." He was distracted now, crouched over his dirt drawing, adding tiny clawed feet.
"I think there is such a thing," she said, vaguely remembering something about seeds being taken into orbit and then brought back to be planted on earth. Whether or not she learned that at the arboretum or just had it stored up with other odd bits which come with age, that she didn't know. Or remember.
"I do believe. In moon trees," she said, with a surety that she didn't necessarily have about much else.