“I thought I told you to dress for tree climbing,” Dr. Euphonium said. He himself was dressed in his usual lab coat and goggles as well as a pair of torn jeans and a faded green sweatshirt which said Property of the University of Genial Monsters Athletic Club. He also had knee and elbow pads on and cleats. I was in my usual brown corduroy trousers and red cowboy shirt. It was about as casual as I got, aside from pajamas. I shrugged. “Don’t shrug, Floyd, you know how much I hate the shoulder ear proximity already.”

“Sorry,” I said. Dr. Euphonium was basically a man-shaped bundle of quirks and contradictions. Foremost among them was his build. He was about six foot two and as thin as a single ply square of toilet paper. But as far as I could tell he never ate anything but junk food. He was always munching on brownies, potato chips, snickerdoodles, licorice, chocolate bars, cupcakes, you name it. Case in point, today he was shoveling fistfuls of caramel corn into his mouth.

“No matter, Gottfredson,” he said. “These clothes should do in a pinch.”

“Where is the tree we’re climbing anyway?” I couldn’t see any plant life in his backyard, aside from a lilac bush that was interspersed with disturbing stalks of blinking eyeballs. I wasn’t going anywhere near that.

“That’s the beauty part. It’s right here,” he replied, removing an acorn from his pocket. I laughed. “You laugh?” he said, looking askance.

“Stop looking askance, I didn’t mean it.”

“Even so,” he said, “you should know better than to question my experiments.”

This was patently false. Dr. Euphonium’s experiments, though entertaining, rarely went according to plan. I didn’t want to offend the doctor further, so I just said, “Please explain your latest experiment.”

“Gladly!” he said, turning on a dime. “It’s an Amazing Miracle Grow Formula, designed to work instantaneously. I take this beaker of the Amazing Miracle Grow Formula, apply it to the acorn and eureka! What was once a lowly seed fulfills its fertile destiny and blossoms into a mighty oak!”

I was intrigued, but skeptical. “How quickly are we talking here?” I asked, trying to sound more intrigued than skeptical. Dr. Euphonium beamed. Apparently, I’d succeeded.

“It’s practically instantaneous,” he said. “The only catch is I’m not sure what the ratio of acorn to Amazing Miracle Grow Formula is, exactly. So I’m just winging it. Watch and learn, Gottfredson,” he said, through mouthfuls of caramel corn. He dropped the acorn in the backyard and splashed the entire beaker of slimy green liquid on it. “Now just sit back,” he said before he was interrupted by a loud crack and whoosh! Before our eyes, the acorn grew into a tree. Not just any tree, the biggest tree I’d ever seen. It was so tall, I couldn’t see the top.

“Behold!” Dr. Euphonium shouted. “The Amazing Miracle Grow Formula works instantaneously. And apparently six liters is way more than enough. Unless I’m breaking HOA code, this experiment is an unparalleled success.” I had to admit, it was exceptionally effective.

“Wow, this formula could have some incredible benefits to the agricultural industry.”

“Yes, Floyd, and the ladies love agricultural pioneers. You know how many girlfriends George Washington Carver had at once?” Dr. Euphonium had a sly grin on his face. “I’m so excited; can you hear my heart pounding?”

I did hear pounding, but I doubted it was his heart. It was more like the bass of a stereo turned up to a trillion, and it was coming from the tree. “Uh, Dr. Euphonium, is there something growing on this tree?” I nervously asked.

“I suppose it could be a giant acorn or branch barreling down at us,” he said, scratching his chin.

“Should we, you know, move?” I asked. Before he could respond, an enormous shadow loomed over us, and the face a gigantic squirrel peeped out from the branches. It chattered at us, a loud shivering sound that caused us to quake in our cleats and loafers, respectively. “What should we do?” I whispered.

“Don’t make any sudden moves, Floyd,” Dr. Euphonium said. “Squirrels aren’t predatory, even gigantic ones. But let’s not risk being chomped in twain by those ten foot teeth.”The squirrel locked eyes with Dr. Euphonium, scampering closer to us. I fought the urge to bolt from the spot. Dr. Euphonium reached into his bag of caramel corn. The squirrel’s gaze darted to the bag as it rustled. Dr. Euphonium froze. They had a brief staring contest that felt like it lasted a year. And then the squirrel snatched the snack from him, popped it in its mouth bag and all and scurried up the tree.

“Uh…” I said.

“My… my caramel corn,” Dr. Euphonium whispered plaintively. “He took my caramel corn.”

“Yeah, bummer. Look, I’m gonna go in case he comes back and wants to snatch me up next. See you later, Dr. Euphonium.” I speed walked out of the yard. As the gate swung shut, I could still hear Dr. Euphonium mourning the loss of his beloved bag of caramel corn.


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