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Crimes Against Nature

It all started with the tree in the back yard.

It's a nice young tree, with branches evenly balanced and a long strong trunk. We compare this "perfect" tree to the tree in the front, the one we don't like. The tree in the front is split into three branches near the base of the trunk, perhaps ten inches from the ground. It isn't balanced at all. The unbalanced tree.

We decided to remove the tree from the front, and put that cute backyard tree where the unlikeable, unbalanced tree was. A simple task, we thought. They were young trees. How hard could it be? Those roots couldn't be that well developed yet. We don't need no #$&% professional to do the job. We have shovels.

So we got down to work. And we killed both trees.

"Too much damage to the roots" would probably be the cause of death if we did an autopsy. I insisted that we plant the good tree as we had planned, and we are now slowly watching it shrivel and die. The unbalanced tree, on the other hand, is now kindling.

As I was spray painting the swing set the next day, Andrew, with the all-powerful eyes of an eight-year-old, screamed "YOU SPRAYED A CATERPILLAR!!!" He picked the newly-camouflaged creature off of the swing set and held it in the palm of his hand. My son stared at the caterpillar with such sorrow, it touched my heart.

I looked down, and saw that, yes, it was mortally doomed, but imbued with a lovely shade of grey: rust-proof, even.

"It shall die," I pronounced.

Andrew was no longer looking at the bug. He had fixed me with a look resembling horror. I tried to explain the circumstances of the accident to him, but he didn't seem to hear me. He was engrossed with the death wiggle of the caterpillar on his palm. I told him why the caterpillar would die, but I don't think he was ready to accept it.

He took the little bug into the house and tried to remove the paint (very carefully) with a piece of kleenex. It didn't work. The twitches were coming less frequently. You really had to stare hard to see if it was still alive. Andrew decided to give the caterpillar a bath in a small jar lid. It didn't work. (At this point, I wondered if drowning is a better way to die than poisoning.)

Profoundly, Andrew said "I don't know what to do with him. Even the birds can't eat him now or they will be poisoned." On top of killing this bug, I've broken the circle of life! Finally he laid the caterpillar down on some moss that is growing on a rock in the house. A soft spot to take your last breath of toxic poison.

My child will never look at me in the same way. He will give me that same look the neighbors have given me for killing the tree. A distrustful look with a touch of disgust on the side.

Now I have these miniature ants coming up through the floorboards due to the recent rains. Is Mother Nature watching me? Waiting to see what crimes I will commit next?

© 2005 - 2012 Hal Levy and the above captioned author.