By midnight, I knew all the trees were evil.  They were darker than before.

Shadow owls flitted confidently in the blackness.

I peeked out from behind the blackest shed, waiting for the obese man from number 328 to appear.

The obese man had told me about the secrets of the trees.  He had sat there in his cinnamon shirt in the dilapidated room, the creaking sounds of his rocking chair making the only disturbance.

“The tree killed my brother,” the obese man revealed, his shirt wrinkled with the folds of his stomach, the strands of his remaining brown hair dripping past his ears and onto his shoulders.  “The tree with the walnuts.”

I had endured plenty of dreams about the trees.  The dreams usually came at night, after I had drunk too much anise liqueur and watched old Shelley Winters movies on the small black-and-white TV in my room.  I knew about the dreams from my dream journal, where I’d written entries like, ‘Last night, I had a dream that a tree split down the middle and gave birth to a giant cocoon-like armless ghost that proceeded to disturb the entire neighborhood.’  And, ‘Last night I had a dream that I was lost on a deserted World War II beach when a group of trees blocked my way.  They bushwhacked me and humiliated me in front of the troops, and then I disgorged several oysters.’

It was a relief to hear the obese man confirm my fears.  My sister, Angelique, had just laughed at me.  She had interrupted my sleep, poking me in the stomach with a splintery broom handle.  “You freak, shut up!  Lionel needs his sleep.”  Then she would laugh her bitter laugh. 

As I peeked out again, I could discern the obese man.  He was where he had promised, crouching behind the doghouse with a Black and Decker flashlight.

I scurried over to his side.

“Did you hear them?” were his first words to me.

“The trees?”

“They’re onto us.”  He had explained his theory earlier.  That the revolutionary war ground that we lived on was dense with the bodies of decayed and unidentified British soldiers.  Desperate to regain access to the atmosphere, the buried soldiers’ souls had forced their way into the begrudging trunks of the trees, only to find themselves unable to extricate their spirits from the bark.  In the ancient, weathered trees, the spirits whispered to one another of their undying hatred for Americans and their American ways.

“I heard them,” he continued.  “If we try anything they’ve planned to do something terrible with their roots.”

There was then a sharp breeze, and the branches above us creaked and whispered, casting aspersions on our national pastimes and typical choice of dessert items.

“Blast you, blast you all to hell!” I cried, running with ill-considered ardor at the nearest trunk and beating on it with my frustrated fists.

It was then that Lionel, Angelique’s boyfriend, came running out of the back porch, his pajamas aflutter, firing his rifle in the air.  “Goddamn it!  Goddamn it, Anson, get your butt back in bed so I can get me some sleep!”

It might have been the report of the rifle, or the increasing shrieks of the Brits in the wind, or the loud howls of the poorly fed Labrador from the doghouse, but it was then that the obese man clutched his chest, dropped the flashlight, and cold beads of sweat began to make a slow dance on his forehead.

Angelique attended the funeral, with its large coffin and treeless grounds, but I stayed home.  I had to watch the trees, exultant in their moment of triumph.

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