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Bud Grossmann’s
Words of the Week
for the Week of
April 3, 2016

Published as Family History
in a Gramma Letter
dated April 9, 1996.

© 1996, 2016 by Bud Grossmann.
All Rights Reserved.

Mangoes (2005)
  Mangoes (2005)
© 2005 by Bud Grossmann


Tuesday, April 9, 1996

Dear Gramma,

      After supper last Wednesday I vowed to myself what I had vowed to myself evening after evening since the first of February: Tonight will be the night I get our stuff together for our Tax Guy! As the mid-April deadline looms more menacingly, I whisper the promise more fervently.

      I managed, however, to find a fresh excuse for delay on that warm, spring-scented evening last week: I decided to add a pail of vegetable peelings to our compost heap out in our yard. Sounds like a two-minute job, right? Well, sure, two minutes, maybe, for an amateur. But I am a pro at procrastination.

      If I was going to take out the kitchen scraps, I really ought, I thought, to give a good soaking to the grass clippings I had piled in the composter a few days earlier. To hose down the mound of hay and hasten its decay, I would have to turn the entire heap with a three-tine claw, and that could take a while. So, to keep my mind occupied during so mindless a task, I popped a “News From Lake Wobegon” tape into my Walkman. Fran was putting Eliz to bed; David was doing homework at his desk in the dining room.

      With the scraps bucket in my left hand and a Mini-Mag flashlight in my right, I stepped out into the night. Our composter is a round, black rubber, bottomless basket about three feet across and about three feet high as well. It sits beneath our mango tree. Half of this long-leafed tree is now densely decorated with yellow-brown buttons of blossoms and the other half with fist-sized unripe fruit.

      When I arrived at the tree, I found something I did not expect. The ground was strewn with mangoes, dozens of mangoes. And strewn with grass clippings, too! Half my haystack lay outside the composter and formed a resilient carpet at the foot of the tree. Now I knew how Chester the Dog had been tracking grass into our house.

      Who was responsible for this mess I could easily guess. Not the dog. And we had not had high winds. My prime suspect was my daughter. Soon as she gets home from school each day, our Elizabeth, age eight, likes to take a frozen-fruit-&-yogurt cup up into the shady mango tree. She sits astride a stout limb as she snacks. She sings up there—sometimes with such joyous abandon that I worry the neighbors will complain.

      From her rooftop-level perch, if Liz would gaze through a gap in the greenery, she would see the surf of Maunalua Bay. If she were to look down ... well, I can imagine how inviting the mound of soft, sweet-smelling grass must have seemed to my little girl. Yes, I could just imagine. But still, as I turned over the scraps pail and turned on the water hose, words of admonition flowed through my mind. I composed a little safety lecture with sub-themes about not wasting fruit and about putting things back the way they were.

      Meanwhile, in my earphones, Garrison Keillor was telling me the story of Clarence Bunsen, age fifty-two, who had wandered away from his workplace in Lake Wobegon one spring afternoon when business was slow. Clarence arrived at a wooded hill near the edge of town, a hill alive with childhood memories. There he climbed an oak tree, and ... oh, I won’t spoil the story for you, Gramma; maybe you will listen to it yourself.

      While Mr. Keillor spun his yarns, I wetted down the compost and took all the bounce out of it. I raked up the stray cut grass and put it back with the rest. I boxed the fallen mangoes, some of them marked by rats’ teeth, and took them to our trash bin. Then, with the empty pail, I went back into the house.

      It was high time for me to leap into a heap of receipts from the year just gone by. The paper pile looked nowhere near as inviting as Liz’s landing pad in the yard. I thought again of the speech I meant to preach to my daughter. I decided, though, that if I had written out the lecture, I would just crumple the pages now and toss them on top of these other papers. Then I would dive into my work, hoping for a soft landing.


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