“Hi. It’s Hyacinth Grey.”
“Oh, hi. I didn’t expect to hear from you again so soon.”
“I need your help.”
“Is it about a case?”
I’m at my desk, with a mug of Earl Grey that I’ve been neglecting for the last hour. It’s cold, but I won’t go refresh it until after this conversation with my lead detective.
“No,” I say, “it’s worse.”
“Worse than murder?”
“Well, okay, maybe not, but it’s more complicated.”
“Do you want to meet somewhere? Oh, and are you bringing Michael?”
“No, Michael’s busy.”
I don’t tell her that he’s having a ZOOM chat with old school friends. She probably hasn’t heard of ZOOM yet, and I haven’t done the research to find out what year it became widely available.
“That’s too bad. I like him.”
We agree on a restaurant, and I put down the phone, happy that I’ll be seeing her and glad I don’t have to bother making more tea.
“So, what’s so urgent?” she asks, after the server has brought her coffee and my Earl Grey.
“What?” She sips her coffee.
At a nearby table, a couple, probably on their first date, laughs nervously.
“The topic for today is something like ‘describe yourself as a tree.’ How do I do that?”
“I’m a detective, not a philosopher.”
“I don’t think this is a philosophical topic, but one requiring a good imagination and lots of intuition. I have the first, but maybe not enough of the second.”
“An oak tree,” she says without any hesitation at all.
“Well, you’re strong. I’m strong. You wrote about me, so you must at least understand strength to be able to create me, right?”
“I suppose so.”
I take a swig of tea. It’s hot and delicious, unlike what I left at home.
“Look, I’m no tree expert, but I think oaks take their time getting established, but once they do, there’s no stopping them. So you’ve taken what, three years to publish Wounded Bride, right?”
“Yeah, I started writing it in 2017, and it came out in 2020.”
“And your other projects, do they go fast or slow?”
“Kind of slowly, to be honest. I get the ideas really fast, but then it often takes me a long time to finish things off.”
“And you’re strong, even if you don’t look it.”
“I’m serious. Write your post about being an oak tree, but before you do that, let’s eat dinner. All this intuition stuff makes me hungry.”
“Me too. Thanks for the help.”
“No problem. I love eating for free. I wish being a detective was as easy as this.”
“But if it was, then there’d hardly be any work for you, and you’d be bored or out of a job.”
“That’s true. I think our salad’s here.”
It is, and we eat a pretty good dinner.
After we’ve said goodbye, I get into my car.
As I drive home, I think about what she said.
If I’m an oak tree, my writing career might take some time to get going, but once it does, well, it’ll keep going strong.
I like that.
A Tree to Describe Me