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The Unauthorized Biography of Trench Coat Tim (An Elaborated Version of My Poem Why Does That Tree?)

Inside of my mind I have a lot of weird memories, memories that float, preserved forever in comic book thought bubbles. It's a little strange, but on occasion I like to walk into my mind and hop into the bubbles. I usually enter my mind through my iris, although sometimes I take the left ear in. You have to watch your step, though, there are a lot delicate parts in here.

We all have moments we want to relive, right? Well, when I enter a thought bubble, it's like that memory is happening all over again. It's as if time never moved on. Typically, my memories are distorted in a few ways, probably on account of insanity. When I relive them, it's kind of like playing an old vinyl record that got left out in the sun on a hot summer day. Everything is warped and sort of out of tune.

How about hopping into this next thought bubble with me? After all, you've already walked into my mind. Hurry up, the bubble is floating right towards us! Too late, man, we're...

Resting on my back in the grass with my hands behind my head, I watched the summer sunlight trickle down through the twisting branches of the maple tree. The purple leaves of the tree and the warm orange glow of the sun always reminded me of one of those stained glass windows they had at St. Goupil's. Concentrating as hard as I could while the leaves chattered in the summer breeze, I beamed my thoughts into outer space. I was trying to contact aliens, which was sort of like cloud bursting, where you stare at a cloud and will it to break up with your mind power, but different.

"Whad'ya doin', Trench Coat Tim?"

Anemone Anne was standing over me now, laughing, but a spectral silhouette in the sun's gaze, her waist length blond hair surrounding her shadowy frame with a bright aura.

"I'm tryin' to make a UFO fly by. If you think hard enough your thoughts can reach their saucers! Or, mine can, anyway. I know, I know, it sounds all weird, but wait a minute or two and it'll happen. Watch! Just watch!"

Without a word, she silently sprawled herself out on the grass and thought with me. I think I loved her, then, but I was only 10 years old. Of course, love to me at the time was licking red, white, and blue rocket ship popsicles on hot, sticky afternoons and swinging on a rickety old swing, talking.

Then, interrupting my train of thought, I heard it roaring above the buzz of the power lines, the whizzing of the cars, and the sound of other kids laughing and bouncing basketballs - the familiar din of a UFO! Hiding their otherworldly vessel somewhere out of sight behind the puffy Cumulus clouds, the aliens were probably taunting me. With their gray faces and beady black eyes, I bet they were reading my brain waves and laughing at my thoughts. Frustratingly, I could never seem to cloud burst fast enough to uncover their lightning fast saucers as they zipped from cloud to cloud. Never, not even once, was I actually able to really catch a glimpse of a UFO. Still, like a fool, I would always try.

Wait, wait. I suppose that roar could have been a Boeing 747. Our house was only 20 miles from a major international airport. No, no, no, that's ridiculous, it was a UFO, I had channeled it. I knew what planes sound like, and this wasn't a plane! I knew it!

"Can't ya hear that? Can't ya? That always happens when I’m out here channelin’ aliens!"

"OK, this is really freakin' me out, Trench Coat Tim. Let's do somethin' diff'rint. It’s so nice out, isn’t it?"

So, with that, I got up nonchalantly, like I hadn't just channeled a freaking UFO. We took my dog Francois, this little french poodle, for a walk. People would think I was crazy if I made too big of a deal out of my psychic powers, so I had gotten used to hiding my excitement.

The scenery was kind of boring, what with all of the cookie–cutter homes and perfectly trimmed laws (our neighbor Jumpy Jack would actually take scissors to his lawn and give it a haircut, believe or not). So, to make it more entertaining, we talked about our parents, who were all crazy, the whole time. We always talked about crazy stuff like that. Her dad, Diamond Dave, for example, was one of those newfangled stay-at-home dads, and he had recently picked up this habit of smoking expensive cigars. Puffing away on their front porch or under the giant sunflowers by the side of their garage, he would tell us tall tales about how all of his cigars were smuggled in from Cuba by illegal immigrants, and how they would come to America in boats made out of old car tires.

“Yep, Cuba,” he would say, “where the best cigars in the world are still hand-rolled!”

Smirking, I joked during our walk that I thought he thought that he was Fidel Castro or something, which made Anemone Ann laugh with that foghorn laugh of hers. Then, I told her, as usual, about how my mom Mad Madge had been screaming a lot lately. She had been throwing things, too, like remote controls, glass cups, and cordless phones.

"You're all passively aggressively out to get me! That has to be it. Why else would you trash the house like this? I hate my life, Tim! I hate my life! Go to hell!," she would scream with that screechy ear-piercing voice she had.

Anemone Ann told me that my mom's screaming would sometimes make my house's mint green aluminum siding jump and the windows shake. (I didn't tell here about how that might have been from my mom literally banging her head against the wall. It was too weird.) You’d think, Anenome Ann said, that two tectonic plates were colliding under my house! We laughed at that thought, and after circling the block a few more times, Anemone Ann hugged me goodbye and promised that she would come see me tomorrow.

Later that day, while I was up in my room reading The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes instead of sleeping like I was supposed to, I noticed the low rumble of distant thunder. Peaking through my NFL-themed curtains, I could see flashing clouds far off on the horizon, like an electrical floating mountain range. For some reason, reading Sherlock Holmes had always made me wish I had a fake pipe that blew bubbles, and when a scary, nerve-racking storm like this was coming, I only wished I had one even more. I remember having read that smoking is relaxing, and Holmes always made it seem so cool.

Now, the wind was picking up and the spooky old maple tree was knocking on my bedroom window. Knocking on my window? Again? That tree and those diabolical branches! Why does that tree...

"Hey, tree, cut it out! I'm not gonna let you in," I told the tree as I hung my face out of the window. "I don't care how bad it storms. Trees are s'pposed to live outside!"

Of course, that didn't work. For the next two rainy hours the tree knocked on my window, frantic, never giving up hope that I would let it inside.

Francois, that useless, mangy dog of mine, trembled under my bed the whole time. He was scared of thunder. Supposedly, though, a dog's sense of hearing was twenty times as strong as a human's sense of hearing, so it was understandable, I guess. My mom had told me that thunder was the sound of angels bowling in heaven, and I believed it, so I wasn’t scared at all of the storm. I find the idea of angels bowling funny more than anything. I was scared of the tree.

What's worse, I remember that back before my parents had put curtains on my window, the tree would make shadow puppets on my wall when I was trying to sleep. All kinds of funny shapes, like spiders, or rabbits, or the outline of a Gothic cathedral. You know, creepy, creepy, creepy stuff. So sometimes I would make shadow puppets out of my fists giving the tree the middle finger, but the tree wouldn't seem to care. When...

"Trench Coat Tim, Trench Coat Tim," the leaves chattered, almost whispering to me. "Trench Coat Tim!"

Startled, I went to look at the tree from my window. Poking my eyeball through the curtains, I watched the leaves turn into flaming arrows as the man on the moon scowled at me.

What the...?!!??!

After blinking a few times and dragging my hand across my stunned face, the tree and the moon returned to normal. Yet, somehow, in the pale glow of the moon the leaves of the tree seemed, to me, to be a peculiar shade of gray. If Crayola had made a name for that color, I think they would have called it sinister gray. Trembling, I stumbled through the dark back to my bed, whispering "this isn't real, this isn't real..." to myself over and over again until I almost thought it wasn't real. Finally, at last, I fell asleep by counting sheep, one at a time, as they jumped over a white picket fence, a trick my grandpa had taught me when I was real little. I dreamt of clowns chasing me on a checkerboard pattern planet.

With bright, cheery sunlight shining through my curtains, I woke up sweating. Had aliens abducted me in my sleep? Was that why I was sweating? No, no, that was crazy. Aliens aren't real. What a weird idea to think of first thing in the morning. Why do I think about stuff like that so much? Shaking my head, I made my way down our house's creaky wooden stairs to the kitchen. It wasn't an old house but, you know, it sure creaked like one.

As I was pouring Reese's Puffs cereal into an orange plastic bowl, a couple of the puffs spilling on the wood floor, I tried not to think about the tree. I was alone in the kitchen. My parents were at work and I was on summer vacation, every kid's favorite time of year. School is so boring. When I turned on the lights, the ceiling fan started spinning, bringing a cool breeze into the room. I felt free, almost, as free as a bird. Except for... why does that tree... ugh, I had to do something about it, that tree, so I got up from the kitchen table to go the garage. I had a plan.

The garage smelled like gasoline and the heat, in the summer, could almost melt off your flesh. Without a second thought, I went to our tool bench and started rummaging through it. Beads of sweat dripped off of my face and onto the wrenches and screwdrivers as I looked desperately for it. Finally, after about five minutes, I found it, an old ax that I had remembered seeing in the garage once. The ax was rusty and dull, and, in fact, I'm not even sure why we had it. My dad was no Paul Bunyan or Bob Vila. He was more Bill Gates on Prozac. The ax was, originally, probably a gift from my grandpa.

Lugging the ax behind me, I made my way to our uncut front lawn, full of weeds, where the tree was. Sizing up the old maple tree, I realized that it was only a few feet in diameter. No way I couldn't chop it down with a little work.

Taking up the ax with both hands, I methodically chopped at the trunk of the tree. Slowly, I made my way through the trunk, the thwack of my ax hitting the bark hypnotizing me like the ring of a gong in a Buddhist monastery, the leaves chattering. I could almost hear the leaves begging for me stop.

"Whad'ya doin', Trench Coat Tim?"

Anemone Ann. There she was, standing there, so beautiful. Anemone Ann, with her sun-dappled face and green eyes. Would she stop me? Yell at me?

"Na-na-nothin', Anemone Ann. Just choppin' down this tree, y'know, figured it had to be done."

Suddenly, I felt really shy. I blushed.

"Y'know, you've been actin' strange lately,” she told me, looking down at her shoes as she said it. “I'm just gonna go home. You should come see me when you’re feelin’ better."

As she was walking away, she would stop to look back at me once or twice, and there I would be, whacking at the tree, a few of the neighbors staring at me from their cement porches in wide-eyed amazement. Francois was watching me from our living room window, his little bushy brown tail wagging in the hair. Suddenly, the tree let out a deep groan and came toppling down, the branches snapping as the treetop hit our driveway. I almost couldn't believe it at first, but... yes.

Yes! That evildoing, meddlesome old maple tree had been slain, the tree's soul vanquished, and I, Trench Coat Tim, was the victor! Triumphant, I was leaning on the handle of the ax, marveling at my handiwork and smiling idiotically, when, wouldn't you know it, my mom pulled up in the driveway in her rust bucket banana yellow Toyota Celica.

She didn't stop to say hello or to hug me, like I wanted her to, now that I felt scared. Tell me it's OK, please, mom? No, slamming the car door, she started screaming at me, red-faced and foaming at the mouth... a rabid pit bull, that's what she reminded me of, the living hound of the Baskervilles. I was still there physically, but my pupils had turned into empty spiraling black holes as the trail of her swear words went on and on like comet dust. My soul curled up into a ball in a crevice somewhere in my body, maybe in between my right lung and my rib cage or in between my brain and my skull, and waited to die.

Sometime that night, after having cried myself to sleep while my parents talked about different psychiatrists downstairs, I awoke to the familiar sound of the maple tree knocking at my bedroom window.


Wow! That was fun, wasn't it? How about hopping into another thought bubble with me?

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