Lemon trees (TX)



For a while I thought it might be admirable if I took some time to actually live in one of those friendly Texas towns rather than just pass through in order to add colour and variety to my narrative and heap scorn upon the locals. Jerkville is closer to a Southern town than the dried out Old West ones you imagine in Texas; it was once a bustling centre of trade which revolved around the river and the ferries, all until that dried up and the railway companies in the 1900s decided to circumvent it, quite arbitrarily, so the whole town died at once. After a long process of conning I was given a house that had belonged to an old lady, not recently deceased – in fact the house had been standing empty for over a year while her family in Arkansas debated what to do with it – whether one tarted it up and rented it out or knocked it over and sold the lot, it was pretty much worthless whichever way you looked at it. At first appearance it didn’t look so bad, though – behind a tall, leaning, picket fence with only every second rail loose – a little lemon-coloured wooden house with period sconces and a bay window in front – under a blue sky, a Spring breeze, and the magnolia bush in the front yard dropping massive, pink flowers onto the red brick path; magnolia flowers are so improbably shaped and huge and thick they almost look like they’re made of paper. Inside the walls were lavender, and the yard out back was empty and square and flat, pinned out with geometric perfection, like a lawn for bowls; there was nothing by way of flora except a lemon tree in the back left corner, by a pile of refuse (red bricks); old people always like to have lemon trees, but I can’t see why; one requires the rind of a lemon about once a year; most of the time the fruit turns brown on the trees, or rots beneath it, where the rats eat it, and there’s a continuous deadly hum of bees, so you shouldn’t go near, or even reach in to pick the flowers; to make lemonade seems like the sweet and simple thing only someone truly mad would do, like lawn bowls (as above) and riding the trolley to the end of the line just to see where it goes. The family of the old lady who had owned the house abounded with tales such as these.


For a few days I enjoyed the idea of the little yellow house; it looked picturesque when I sat in the yard, at the furthest point, to see the house like Dorothy’s homestead in Kansas with a mountain of clouds piling up in the blueness above it; I smoked ceaselessly and was careful to grind my fag ends out lest I set the place on fire. Then one day as I stared at the wall in my bedroom I realised that the paint was not lavender after all but grey; the walls had simply picked the colour up from the purple bedspread when the sun came in in the afternoon. Nevermind (thought I), though you have to wonder what kind of nihilist would choose grey paint out of all of the possible permutations of the rainbow they can mix up for you at the general store.



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