Old-Fashioned, God-Fearing · Gerald Yelle

Maybe as a way to distract from its being meaningless hearsay, the reporter served it up with a measure of conviction that had some of us listening. He said the guy across the road from his brother in Maine was afraid that a tree in his yard was going to crash down on his house. He measured its shadow at ten in the morning and four in the afternoon in order to calculate the tree’s height but he couldn’t remember the math – he couldn’t remember if he ever learned the math – or if the math even existed to find the height of a tree based on its shadow’s length at two different times of day. It didn’t occur to him until long after he solved the problem another way that he could’ve gotten the height of the tree by comparing its shadow with the shadow of something he already knew the height of, like a yardstick. Like so many other things you only think of when you no longer need them. He wracked his brain and nothing came. He didn’t give up though. No one thought he could do it, and at first it was difficult – it was no skinny birch but he kept at it: He had to see where it would land. It took him two hernias and a slipped disc but he got his answer. He bent that tree, lassoed the top and bent it toward the house, pulling with all his might. It would just miss it, so he got the saw, and was amazed at how easy it was.

Gerald Yelle’s books include The Holyoke Diaries (Future Cycle Press), Evolution for the Hell of It (Red Dashboard Press), and Mark My Word and the New World Order (The Pedestrian Press). He teaches high school English and is a member of the Florence (MA) Poets Society.