Photo by Zachary Keimig on Unsplash
When I left home, we still didn’t have power. Closer to Jansen’s, there were fewer broken trees, downed power lines, and debris. The traffic lights were also working. My mind wandered back to Alex.
What is on this SD card? What lengths will Cora go to get it? What kind of danger am I, and now Mom, in? Is that why Cora brought an armed back-up when we met? Can Alex be trusted?
On my way to Jansen’s, I noticed the library’s lights were on. That was when I started planning the rest of my day. I patted my pocket, reassuring myself the SD card was still there. My mind whirled again. Had it fallen out of Alex’s pocket? Or, had he deliberately hidden it there?
JJ, Jeremiah Jansen, waved as I pulled up to the repair shop. “What the happened to your baby? It looks like a wild beast chewed it up and then spit it out,” he shouted. He was still jabbering as I got out. “That was some nasty hail last night. Surprised your windshield survived.”
“Do you still have a loaner available? I need to run some errands.”
He nodded and pointed to an older white pickup. “Betsy can be temperamental. You’ll need to sweet-talk her or you might see her stubborn side.”
The truck is not luxurious by any means. It’s clean yet still had the distinct smell of oil. And it was quickly revealed to be terribly sluggish taking off from stops.
When I returned home, Mom and a neighbor were in the front yard. The neighbor was setting up a container of flowers. Mom held a plastic bag and appeared to be supervising. I shook my head her ability to convincing others to do her bidding, especially me.
I couldn’t let the neighbor do all the clean-up. So, for the next two and a half hours, we cleaned up the yard while Mom gave orders. We gathered up twigs, righted containers of flowers, and tossed broken plastic. I cringed at each comment about cracked pots and flattened plants. Another lengthy trip to Olsen’s Greenhouse is not part of today’s plans.
While Mom fetched cold drinks, the neighbor and I sat down on the porch. He mentioned that the broken tree in his yard would be replaced with an Amazing Ash Tree. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about those trees. One of those would have easily survived last night’s storm. Do you suppose they will start building homes out of them? Can you imagine? They would likely withstand tornadoes and hurricanes.”
“Aren’t you worried that there’s something strange about a tree that doesn’t burn easily? It isn’t natural.”
The neighbor looked shocked. “It’s wonderful! And just think how it would help the environment if we stopped having forest fires.”
I rubbed my chin. “But what about when you go camping? You need a camp fire and if all the trees are the new ones, you couldn’t make one.”
At first, the man looked perplexed. Then he said, “Well, I don’t go camping. So, I wouldn’t be worried about building a fire.”
Frustration rose in me despite knowing little about these trees. It irritated me this man couldn’t fathom how such a tree might be harmful. In the past, I rarely thought about the environment. But something Alex said about the balance of wildlife being disrupted alarmed me. “What about burning wood for heat? Or, what about people who enjoy wood burning fireplaces?”
The neighbor started to say something when Mom emerged with drinks. After distributing them, she sat down and took over the conversation. “Oh, those trees aren’t real. That’s a sale’s gimmick. Save your money and get a regular tree.” True to form, she had been eavesdropping.
She turned to me. “Mikey, we need to visit Olsen’s this afternoon. I can’t have the yard looking such a mess.” She waved a scrap of paper.
My amusement disappeared. I gulped down my drink and patted my pocket. It was still there. “They will be so busy today. Tomorrow might be a better day.”
As I stood up, I added, “The library has power and we don’t. I’ll be there for a few hours to do some research” I said. Mom looked hurt, but nodded in agreement.
Before guilt derailed my plans, I went in the house to round up my laptop, cords, a spare flash drive, and case. The sooner I discover what is on the card, the better.