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This could never be what I have heard about, I told myself, staring at it in disbelief...and yet here it was in my garden…a real money tree.

I was tending to my garden when I spied it. Weeks of intermittent rain had stopped me from doing my usual weeding and shrub pruning. Today was the first truly sunny day and I had been excited to see what the rains had brought, apart from weeds of course.

It was adjacent to the fence of my property; short and slim but completely recognizable by the one dollar bills hanging from greenish-brown soft branches, slightly rustling in the gentle breeze.

My first instinct was to dig it up with its roots and flee to somewhere that I could hide it. Afterall I was living alone, divorced 5 years now, and my children were living with their mother. But then I reconsidered.

Where would I go? And if I did dig it up and replant it, who knew if it would live in that new environment?

I stooped beside it and studied the tree closer, adjusting my glasses, still in partial disbelief. It was no taller than 6 inches with maybe six or seven main branches. Smaller branches extended from the main branches and were donned with crisp green one dollar branches. The tree was growing about 500 dollars in total.

I dared not pick any money from it. It was well known that you had to let the dollar leaves fall off on their own or else the entire tree would dry up and die.

Sensing that I was being watched, I looked up and saw my neighbor peering through the fence at me… and the tree…my tree.

“Hey Bob,” I said casually, and started to turn away, pretending to not be feeling what I was feeling- excitement, panic, joy.

“Hey Phil,” he responded and just as I was turning, continued with “what you got there? Is that what I think it is?”

“What do you think it is?” I countered nonchalantly.

“Well it looks like a money tree, Phil..a bonafide money tree. Aren’t you lucky!”

I could practically hear the salivation in his voice.

“Yeah, thanks,” I said dismissively and quickly walked away.

“A real money tree”’ I heard him mutter as I disappeared inside my house.

I paced and paced and didn’t sleep the entire night. What was I going to do? What should I do? If I didn’t tell the authorities and they found out they could confiscate it. And Bob knew about it. What was going to stop him from telling them?

By morning I had made my decision. I was going to alert the authorities. During my sleepless night I read online that once they were notified within a reasonable time frame they would let the owner keep all it bore, minus taxes of course.

I got dressed and was about to head out to the police station when I heard a knock at the door.

It was the police.

They knew about the tree they said, and of course I knew who had told them. Bob.

“So what is the fine?” I inquired, it was only discovered yesterday, surely they weren’t here to confiscate it.

Neither, they informed me. They were here about a property dispute. I was confused. They then told me that Bob had claimed that the money tree was his, as his property boundary actually straddled where the tree was located.

 I scoffed in derision, then slowly became nauseated as I remembered something that had happened 5 years ago when I had bought the house. The realtor had told me that the developers had made a measurement error with some of the house’s lots sizes and that meant that some lots were smaller or bigger than originally planned. Most buyers had been unbothered with a difference of one foot.

But now that one foot difference may just be my undoing.

Naturally, lawyers were hired on both sides to claim the money tree. An agreement could not be made in arbitration so the matter went to court. Evidence was brought forth on both sides. Bob felt the tree was his because his property line included the roots of the tree; my lawyer presented that it was my lawn and garden care that allowed the tree to flourish. Money tree experts were brought in to testify; one felt that the tree belonged to me because the trunk bent towards my house; the other expert felt it belonged to Bob because more foliage grew on his side of the property line.

Weeks dragged into months and months into years as I watched the money tree grow taller and its leaves turn from 1 dollar to 20 then 50 and now 100 dollars. During some months there was a beautiful blend of colors as the tree boasted a mix of different dollar notes. People from all over the country came to see the contentious money tree, and offer their unsolicited opinion. Sometimes these strangers would leave notes on Bob’s and my porch telling one to leave the other alone.

And all this time the tree never once dropped a leaf. It was as if it too was waiting to see who its true owner was.

Early one morning Bob came by. We hadn’t spoken face to face without our lawyers in years.

“What about we split it Phil?”

“Split it?”

“Yeah…whatever falls from it we share it 50/50.”

I thought for a moment. I was getting old, touching 65. The tree drama had stretched out for 10 years. My children were now grown with families of their own.

But then he said, “Plus, you’re not going to win Phil, it really is on my property.”

Pride and ego welled up inside of me and I all but pushed him off of my porch. “Let the courts decide!” I shouted at him indignantly.

They did. Two days later. The tree was to belong to us both. Every branch, every leaf was ours equally. But because the court could not trust us to divide the money over time on our own, they further decided that the tree should be cut down and the money divided equally.

I felt both relief and sadness as I watched the court-hired bobcat uproot the tree. Its beautiful money adorned branches crashing to the ground with a loud groan. As it fell, the force of its impact on the ground caused a massive amount of its leaves to shake loose from their branches and slowly drift below.

Some days thereafter, Bob and I met with the lawyers for the last time to receive our share from the money tree.

I opened my envelope in anticipation, my mouth dry with excitement. I had so many plans for the money- home improvements, a new car and possibly a boat. I had overheard Bob telling someone that he was planning to take a cruise with the money he would receive.

I looked inside of the envelope and laughed aloud for this must have been a joke.

A One thousand dollars cheque was in the envelope.

One thousand dollars. That was it.

I looked over at Bob. His face mirrored my own. “But. But,” he stammered.

“I understand your confusion,” his lawyer stated as mine nodded in agreement. You see this case has been in court for a long time and all of those fees add up. We had to pay for the court’s time, and for the experts’ testimonies. And of course our fees, which as you know are hourly. So when all the fees are paid, that is what is left for you, a thousand dollars each.”

Both lawyers then walked away, leaving Bob and me with our and mouths open and faces ashen.

***

A few years later, I strolled around, tending to my garden as I did almost every day for exercise and to get fresh air. The money tree was a distant memory to all except me, especially when I passed by that spot in the garden where it once stood. There was still a bare patch of lawn, a scar that looked like it would never heal. I shook my head at the thought of Bob coming over and offering a solution- if only we had done that from the first day- just split it fifty/fifty. It would have been the right thing to do. But ego and pride had gotten in the way. Afterall, it was on his property as much as it was on mine. Hindsight really was 20/20.

As I mused, something caught my eye, and I walked closer to the patch of bare earth. It couldn’t be, I thought.

I moved closer, slowly, scared to believe what I was seeing. Is it? It’s tiny, but yes, it was definitely a money tree. In the exact spot where the original one was felled. Some roots must have been unintentionally left behind.

Excitement welled up inside of me…another chance. Another chance to do the right thing! This time I was going to do what I should have done in the first place!

 I hurriedly reached into my back pocket and pulled out a tiny shovel…and began to dig…

 

END

 


February 28, 2020 16:25

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6 comments

Carille Durbin
16:46 May 01, 2020

I love to garden and am always looking for new and unusual plants. A money tree would be a perfect addition to my garden. I loved the story.

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Mishka Stennett
18:24 May 01, 2020

Thanks for reading and commenting Carille!

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Shirley Medhurst
15:13 Mar 12, 2020

A lovely idea and you developed it really well. Not sure why he digs the new one up though???

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Mishka Stennett
21:52 Mar 12, 2020

Hi Shirley! Thanks for your comment! I think that he felt that he didn't want to go down the same road again, since it was re-growing in the same spot.

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Laura Austin
12:44 Mar 12, 2020

Very nice, well developed story. I was entertained from the beginning!

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Mishka Stennett
21:53 Mar 12, 2020

Wow Thanks Laura!!

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