And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears: 
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

–William Blake, "A Poison Tree"

The Grouchy Old Oak

I try to keep the song low. It’s after dark, so the only people around are drunk on ostracism. Not a big risk.

Still. I like to keep a low profile. So I keep muttering, looking up at Oak in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Now fenced in. Imprisoned. The only person who wouldn’t disperse when the police came, armored with fear, violence over community in their hearts.

“What time is it?!” Oak says, yawning. His branches creek as they bend.

Grandpa Oakland

Ogawa-Grant Plaza, Oakland. Night.

“‘Bout nine. I need to find someone,” I whisper. “Do you know Ruby Virchow?”

Mr. Oakland takes a deep breath and whines, “It’s the middle of the night!” His branches thrash petulantly.

“I know, I’m sorry. But someone could be in real trouble,” I say. I hate it when he’s cranky.

He is still complaining. “You get to be my age by sleepin’ sound through the night and taking naps during the day.”

“I’m sorry Gran–” I start to say, but he cuts me off with, “Of course it was nicer when all when my family was still here.”

Poor guy. He just needs some respect.

I kowtow to him and beseech, “Grandfather Peralta Ogawa, Land of Oak, Soul of Liberty, please help me find one of your children, Ruby Virchow.” With my eyes nearly planted in the ground, I can only barely see his roots. All is still, not even a leaf rustles in the night breeze. I wait.

I wait. Trees take their time and think deep.

My knees are killing me, at least fifteen minutes later.

He takes a deep breathe and says, “Why can’t you come during the day, when I’m awake? Do you think I’m the city that never sleeps?”

I bite my lips and sit up. He’s just a font of human propaganda, but correcting him won’t help. I need to be humble.

I bend low again and repeat my request.

“Oh get up!” He rustles. “I can’t hear you when you’re talking into the grass like that.”

Finally, some progress. I repeat my request. He shivers for a while, thinking. Then he cautions me, “There’s so many people, and so many of them are mean to me. I don’t keep track as well as I used to.” I politely wait for his prologue. It has been rough, especially lately. “I think I know her. She lives somewhere else, but she is a morsel of MimeoGiraffe.”

That doesn’t help. There’s several Mimeo’s in the area. They’ve been popping up all over; a new empire replacing the old. I ask respectfully, “Can you tell me which one?”

He huffs, “There is only one! Now let me sleep. Goodness gracious, it is almost eleven o’ clock! Good night

I don’t think he’s a quick sleeper, but he ignored me like he was.

I got up off the grass and wallowed in the truth. I need to do this systematically. That means spreadsheets. Excellent.

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