Sunday, July 6, 2008

Gary and Nicole

Field of Sad Trees
Spanish Fork, UT
April 2008

One Sunday while she was digging away in her garden, Gary carved their names on the apple tree. He did it with a pocket knife, real nice, real neat: GARY LOVES NICOLE. Nobody had ever done that before.

Next day she had a lot of things to do, and kept wanting to get back. When she finally reached home, she cleaned out his car first, then climbed up the tree to a place above where he had done it, and carved out: NICOLE LOVES GARY. Then she went into the house just in time to meet him.

He came out into the backyard with a beer and she told him to look at the apple tree. He didn't see anything and she finally had to point it out to him. Then he was happy as a kid, and said she had done hers better than his. Told her it was a beautiful heart she had carved around the names.

excerpt from The House in Spanish Fork
The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer

What were the odds of driving around Spanish Fork and finding the apple tree where Gary and Nicole had declared their love for one another thirty two years ago? Pretty slim, I thought. Like finding love itself. And making it work.

Spanish Fork, where Gary briefly stayed with Nicole, was drearier and poorer and tawdrier than Provo. Dark clouds hung over the town and seemed perfectly right for my impossible mission and my own disillusionment.

Does the fact that these dark clouds got me excited make me some kind of truly gloomy person or just practical-minded when it comes to telling a story?

I made a sincere effort to look for the most romantic and/or saddest tree I could find with no idea what it would look like when I found it. I found these trees in a field that separated the town from a National Guard unit on its outskirts, and they looked sad enough for me to stop the car and set up my camera.

I simply didn't have the patience to stay in Spanish Fork for ever and ever looking for a tree I'd never find. Some things are just made to stay in your mind like a fantasy or an ideal. I imagined Gary and Nicole walking through the field to carve their names on one of these trees instead. Maybe it was a sunnier day if it is ever sunny in Spanish Fork which was hard to picture at that moment, though I had often imagined the two of them under a hot sun, sweating.


Susan KAY said...

Just rereading the executioner's song and wondered if anyone had gone looking for the tree.... Did you find the house?

Tema Stauffer said...

No house and no tree, but a sad, eerie place. Interesting that you stumbled on this post eight years later.