Arbor Day
By Ravi Mangla, Jul 20, 2009

We couldn’t come to a decision on what genus of tree to plant. The Rotarians wanted an orange tree—a ridiculous choice in this climate—and were using their influence in the community to sway the Parks and Recreation council. They wanted fresh-squeezed orange juice at the start of each Rotary meeting, for its immune support and restorative properties, which, they argued, would, in turn, albeit indirectly, benefit the local economy. Unfortunately for the Rotarians the council had already begun drafting up ballots for a town-wide vote. Four choices—maple, elm, birch, dogwood—or, alternatively, a write-in selection. On Saturday the townspeople gathered to cast their ballots. On Sunday the ballots were tallied. A dead heat. All four families of trees received an equal number of votes. The council regretted their decision to allow write-ins, as well as their consent to open voting, age be damned. Several votes, scrawled in crayon, endorsed fictional trees: the caca, the jigumbo. Other votes lent their support to the fuck tree, the morningwood, and the shitting willow. A town hall meeting was called to resolve the issue. My wife, a respected teaching professional, suggested an evergreen be flown in from Nova Scotia or wherever. The freakishly large variety, like the trees erected each year in Rockefeller Center. By her estimates, four helicopters and two cranes were all it would take. The Rotarians, in their matching tangerine jumpsuits, shook their heads, sneered at her, which prompted me to sneak outside during the snack break and slash their tires. The council outlined the annual budget, thin as a twig. Our town was not a money tree, they reminded us, and opened the floor to money tree possibilities. A retired banker proposed a rubber tree, which could be milked for latex. He calculated that the tree would yield a return in seven to seven and a half years. However, an inquiry into latex allergies found that nearly a third of the town was susceptible. Cross-pollination was proffered, to curb the anaphylactic reaction, sparking a fierce ethical debate among churchgoing members of the audience. When the room settled, the owner of a bicycle repair shop—a short, ruddy man in a spandex onesie—stood and put forth the idea of a bicycle rack, against which no protests could be raised. Simple, practical, aesthetically-pleasing, cost-effective. The gavel slammed. So it was that a bicycle rack be installed in place of a tree. It was ordered from a manufacturing plant in Schenectady, New York, powdered coated in a custom shade of blue. Visitors to our town have noted the fine craftsmanship of the rack, the comeliness of the hue; it charms without diverting attention from the principal function of the rack. At any given time, there may be one, two, three, four, or five bicycles slotted in the rack (seven bicycles can fit, if you wish to lean your bicycle against the side of the rack). I, personally, have seen as many as four bicycles in the rack at once. On warmer days we take turns in the shade, with our books, our spirits concealed in paper bags. Our bodies are pinstriped with tan lines, of varying darkness depending on the time we’ve spent lying perpendicular to the rack. But we don’t mind our private prisons. If viewed from far enough away, the lines are slimming.

Ravi Mangla lives in Fairport, NY. His short fiction has recently appeared online at Storyglossia, Hobart, Wigleaf, PANK, and Monkeybicycle. A collection of very short fiction, Hear Ye Knives, is forthcoming from Achilles Chapbook Series. He collects lists at Recommended Reading.