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"Your lemon tree"

A short story by

Payman Pirnazar

Part 1

One day, you receive a gift. The gift is a young lemon tree full of promise. You go home and plant it in your yard, next to a bed of your favorite roses, away from all your other trees. For the next several months, you care for the tree. You often find yourself watering it and tilling the soil around it. Those around you don’t understand what is so special about this tree that you are spending so much time with it and putting out so much energy caring for it. Yet you continue to because you feel a connection with it that no one else seems to understand. To you, it has become an unusually special one. You call it a one-in-a-billion because it is like no other. You enjoy it very much and appreciate your time with it. It is your tree, your special tree, and that’s what matters.

As the seasons change, you take care of the tree and nurture it. Together, you weather many storms, hot days and cold nights. Before long, to everyone else’s surprise, your tree starts to blossom. Your tree’s branches stretch out and blossom into beautiful flowers. Before long, the tree is filled with lemons. The largest, most plump lemons you’ve ever seen. Friends come over and sit with you under the shade of your tree. They marvel at the beauty of the tree and how its grown. They help gather and slice up the lemons. To you, they are the sweetest lemons you have ever tasted. To them, they taste sour. For some reason, you love the taste of the lemons so much that you feel that perhaps only you can appreciate them. In fact, you are so proud of your tree that you go and plant several other trees. Trees of a variety of other fruits, everything other than lemons. To you, there can only be one special tree, your lemon tree. You continue to take care of the trees, the flowers, and the grass. Everything in your yard looks wonderful.  

One day, running up the stairs, you trip, fall, and break your leg. You have emergency surgery and spend a few weeks at the hospital and rehabilitation center. Returning home, you find that there has been a problem with the irrigation system around your lemon tree, and the area around it hasn’t been watered since you’ve been gone. The grass has browned. The rose bed has wilted. Your lemon tree has become dry and leafless. As you stand in the hot sun beneath your tree, you notice that the shade it once provided exists no more. The branches remain stretched out but are bare and lifeless. There are no signs of any fruits to be seen.

Over the next few months, you try to revive your lemon tree. You water it. Add fertilizer. Till and turn it. You take care of  it unlike anything you’ve taken care of before. Eventually you notice that the grass around it has become green again. The bed of roses next to it once again blossom with an unusually rare and captivating scent. The leaves of your tree start to grow again and bright blossoms soon fill its branches. As you stand in its shade, you soon see that your tree is once again full of lemons. You realize and appreciate its beauty and growth. You reach and pick a lemon. You slice it and with great anticipation, you lick it. To your dismay, it tastes sour. Sour enough to gather tears in your eyes.

Part 2

You stop and put down the lemon slice. You are confused. As you wipe your tears, you step back and take a long look at your tree. It’s the same tree, the same beautiful tree. Your special tree, surrounded by plush green grass, next to the fragrant bed of roses. You step up to the tree, reach up and pick another lemon. You slice it up and with great reluctance, you lick it. It tastes sour. You reach up and pick yet another lemon. You slice it up and take another lick. Sour again. You pick another one. Sour. And another. Sour.

Disappointed, saddened, and bewildered, you stop and go inside your home. For days, you think about your tree and sometimes stand on the porch looking at it. Its looks great, still covered with leaves and full of fruit. Standing tall, among the other trees and flowers, it still feels special to you but now in a different sense.

A few days later, as you are standing on the porch, you feel drawn to the tree. You walk over, reach up and and pick another lemon off the tree. You take it inside your home and cut it in two. You squeeze its juice into a tall glass. You add ice and water. You reach to the top shelf and pick up a jar. You open it and from it you stir in a spoonful of sugar into the glass. As you look out the window at the tree, you raise your glass to it and savor it.


Part 3

Over the next few weeks, you notice that what had initially needed a spoonful of sugar was soon requiring two, then three and then even more sugar. You also realize that all the sugar that you have been adding isn’t healthy for you and the once daily making of lemonade has become less and less frequent. You realize that it seems to take more time and more effort to make lemonade, which had once been so effortless. What had once been a labor of love feels more and more like just labor.

As the seasons come and go, your yard becomes richer and more wonderful. Where there was once grass, there are now many more fruitful trees and flowers, each with their own beauty, scents, and some with thorns. As you sit on your porch, you notice how their branches as well as their roots are now intertwined. They are no longer what may have once appeared as a random collection, and yet each is still unique, with its own special stories.

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