Iola closed the back screen and headed to the yard, peopled with a variety of trees: short orange trees, fig, lemon, peach, and apricot. The tall avocado, heavy with ripe black skin that resembled scarred leather cast a dark shadow on the black walnut tree near the wood fence, its five trunks and many branches leaning towards the sky. Some tapped the ground. The tree arched over the wooden fence threatening to topple it. Located in the center of the yard, a date palm tree towered above them all. With its long trunk and its crown of palm fronds, it was the only tree that she never had to tend to. Iola pruned the avocado tree twice a year to make sure it didn’t block the sun’s rays from the others. Likewise, the other trees were subject to having a branch severed or leaves pulled. She plucked a leaf from the fig tree and studied the pattern on the mottled leaf searching to explain its discoloration. Maybe it needed a spray of garlic juice on its leaves or any host of Tante Fifi and Ma Mère’s remedies. Their voices echoed off the hollow branches of dead wood.
“Soak five pennies in vinegar for three days and spray the curled leaves of the peach tree, that will straighten them right out,” Tante Fifi stated with confidence. “Vinegar is good for just about everything,” she added.
“That’s the truth. I know for fruit flies, Fifi, nothing beats spraying the trees with the juice of hot peppers that have sat in vinegar for a week,” Ma Mère said.
Jutting her long tan fingers into the soil Iola rubbed the cool, damp earth. Its pungent smell wafted in the morning air. Their dirt roof gone, the worms wove their supple bodies back and forth to escape capture. Roly poly bugs, alarmed by the sudden sunlight disturbing their earth shelter, rolled themselves into little balls and pretended that they were pebbles. Their private world exposed, larvae of small insects raised their heads toward the sun just as Iola placed the zinnia seeds to cover them.
The Second Line