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Dwight Gates


Rush Weigelt

Dwight Gates was an extremely private man, the only reason I got to know him was because of that damn apple tree. Both of us have extremely large plots of land here, about 32 acres each. Well, we both have these huge plots of land, and well, when he first moved in he decided to plant a single tree about 20 feet from the separation posts. He had 32 acres of field to plant that tree, but he picked a very specific spot. Now, unlike everyone else’s fields around here his is completely empty. Dwight doesn’t grow plants for a living; actually no one knows what he does for a living. All anyone knows is that he came to town with enough money for the house, and has enough to live quite comfortably without growing any crops. Well that was about 25 years ago, I don’t remember the exact date, but at 68, I doubt you would. Well anyway Dwight plants that tree and takes care of it in an almost ritualistic manner. He tends to it every day, rain or shine; hell he even covered it when it was still little enough to cover when it snowed. Now one day, I’d say while the tree was maybe half its current size, so around 15 years ago, I finally got the courage to ask him about his tree.

I was out fixing the posts, since they had begun to decay, and I saw him in his usual spot. Now I think to myself, what is it about that apple tree that has such a grasp on him that he’s out here every day? Well, I’m working right by him and I keep stealing glances at him. He either doesn’t see me or ignores me. All of a sudden, I start to walk over towards him. When I’m about half way there, he still hasn’t looked up. He’s still bent over near that tree’s stump like nothing else matters. I’m 5 feet away now and a little nervous, I mean I’m the first one to ever really attempt to talk to him; he never comes to town except to shop for food. He comes into town every Sunday and buys a week’s worth of food; he doesn’t come into the bar or anything, just straight to the grocery store and back home. Once a month on these Sunday trips he stops to get a haircut and when the barber starts a conversation he offers him $5 dollars to stop talking and just do his job. I don’t remember how I started the conversation, but knowing me when I’m nervous I probably stuttered out an awkward hello.

From then on I remember our exact conversation, some recorder that had never shown up before then, and certainly hasn’t shown up since, just turned on for a brief moment.

“Why hello Ben, I’ve been waiting to talk to you, I knew it was eventually going to happenn.”

“Yea, well I see you caring for this tree, and I just gotta know why, you knoq?” I answer

“What do you mean ‘you know’ Ben?”

“I dunno suh, but when I’m nervous sometimes I stutter or don’t make no sense when I talk.”

“Are you nervous now?” he asked.

“A-a little suh, not to bad though.”

“Good, you shouldn’t be, but due to time constraints id love to get this over with, so I’m assuming you want to know about the tree.”

“Yea I’d lo-“I started to say but he cut me off.

“Well, I don’t know if you know what Monticello is, but instead of asking you I’ll just tell you: its Thomas Jefferson’s home and I visited it as a boy. In the backyard yard he has a private graveyard, and his five immediate family members are buried there under a huge apple tree. I loved the look of it so much I decided to bury my wife and 2 kids when they die here, so I figure I need to start growin’ this tree nice and sturdy for when the time comes, now if you’ll excuse me I need to go eat.” And with that he left without a good bye or anything like that, and I didn’t try to offer him one. Instead I let him go on his way and after that nothing really changed. We never talked again; he never stopped in the bar when he went to town, only to the grocery store and the barber once every few weeks.

Well, one day a few decades later I see Dwight out there digging holes around the trunk of the tree, I dunno if he’d done it on purpose or not but he had waited till high noon and made sure all 5 holes were covered with the shade. When all 5 holes were finished he brought a truck with 5 coffins around to the tree. The coffins were homemade, basic plywood, and without wasting time by describing shitty coffins, ill sum it up by saying they were not a proper thing to bury a dead family member in. He lowered each coffin into the grave, and first 3 in without a problem, but the 4th one snagged on the truck bed corner and overturned. I, naturally, turned away at the sight of a coffin lid popping off. After keeping my head turned for a good 30 seconds I suddenly felt a strong urge to turn towards Dwight. Although I could hear him linking a few obscene words together I wanted to look and see if I could help. I slowly turned back towards the coffin and, not only did I not see a dead body, but I saw something I realize now should have been much more frightening. I saw an empty coffin. He quickly put the top back on, like he felt someone watching him, and continued about his business.

Now here’s a 50 year old man, with 5 coffins and 5 holes in the ground. All of the coffins are empty and he has started throwing dirt on top of the first coffin. He has covered the first 4 empty coffins by dusk and now he was loading dirt onto a wooden platform right in front of the final hole. When he was finished loading as much dirt as he could fit onto that plank he threw the shovel in the truck. Then, without warning the truck started to move, I assume he stuck something in between the seat and accelerator. He watched the truck for a few moments, and then disappeared into the final open grave. The rest was hard to see since it was dark by now, and I can only speculate.

Dwight climbed into that grave; put the lid on his own grave, and somehow knocked the beam supporting the dirt out so the dirt fell onto his coffin. Clearly he had this pretty planned out, because as I see it, its just down right impossible, if he was this set on making this perfect, he would, and was, clearly fully in his coffin The plank feel and the dirt came down upon him, bringing what he wanted, eternal solitude and darkness. Dwight had been so content on that tree, and that tree alone by the time it was big enough to respectively bury people under he hadn’t met anyone to bury. He was so concentrated on that tree he never got a wife and never had any kids.

The next time I went into town I stopped by the grocery store to ask some questions. The cashier said that Dwight had always bought enough food for a family of 5 or 6, and everyone always assumed he was married and his wife just stayed at home. Dwight was lonely and I guess a little delusional. Some would say Dwight was crazy, but I’d say quite the contrary, what’s the point of livin’ if you got no one to live for? Dwight had his priorities screwed up, that’s all. He wanted the perfect place to rest for eternity with the perfect people, but started with the place before the people. When I spread word about Dwight people thought he was crazy…I think the thought was in the right place, just his damn priorities, he fucked them up good, that’s all. I sit here some nights, lookin’ at that tree and smokin’ my pipe. I don’t really think, I’m to old to think now, I just simply look at that tree, and sometimes, oh sometimes I wish I could have a tree like that with a family of my own besides me forever.

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