chapter 23


-      -    -   -  -  –  - - –- the tree that owns itself  - - -


We cantaberry taild it to the yugo, seven of us now. julien took jondavies spot in the backseat and jon squeezd himself quite cheerily into the thin slice of hatchback that taylor didnt claim.

yugi started on the second try.

D said—

prepare to leave townieville.

we almost made it outa the parkinlot.

thats when we ran into dave an kathleen, atop llamas.

when they saw us, kathleen exclaimd—

thank god you can still drive a lama drunk!

there was a goodbit of fanfare associated with this meeting, we
nearly persuaded them to come with us, but kathleen said theyd
find us later. for now she needed a drank for me and a drank for ulp,
and im sure she got both.

D turnd left on plasski. north, by my calculations, tho i wouldnt necesarily trust em.

when was the lastime you left townieville, D? julien askd

[ pause ]

member when we all peed on the tree that owns itself?

yeah andy like two years ago.

im sure therere times im forgetin D

you remember evrything D johnson its your defining


jondavies prolly hadnt left townieville, ever D

ive left townieville.

jon pulld out a difrent notebook and flipt thru it. this
one was a list of evry place hed been since he moved to athens.

lets see... i went to titepockets right after i got here.

is that where we met? andy

i think so.

jondavies scand the page.

yep. and ive been to the tree that owns itself.

who took you? D

i walkd.

thats like two miles D

oh, no wait— three times. i saw elaphent

supermurder march twelfth. that was at

andres house, in punktown.

a show wich you missd, D johnson

cause you couldnt bear to leave townieville andy

i was tired D some of us actialy hafta be at work

in the morning.

johnson smiled.

i think shes scared.

andy put an arm around her sholders.

dont worry D, well protect you.

i dontknow what yallre talkinbout, i dont even live in townieville.

oddhill is so townieville andy

its in the middla nowhere D

how far are you from downtown, a mile? julien

its all townies now andy the lasta the muggls just

moovd to oconee county. theres barely any hipees left.

dude theres republicans.

there are not republicans.

what about that dude with the ross perot yardsign?

he was bein ironic.

scuse me if i hav no patience for irony. its just

another excuse not to give a shit. start bein all ‘ironic’ about evrything and
nexthing you know its back to the way it is flip over there. d-f-w was right,
its our generations tragic flaw

your not distractin us with your marxy

bullshit andy just admit that you havent left townieville since we
took ya to the treethatownsitself.

first we hafta agree on the definishun of

admit it.

but we need a working def

admit it, D.

IF you define townieville loosly D which i am not

agreein to, mindyou.

so this is a special ocasion johnson

its so special i could vom, whats yer point?

we have to stop at the treethatownsitself johnson

that would be killer julien

come on, D! all


We came to a stop sign.

Stop leaving townieville

you know whats on the other side of that road, D.

whatever andy.

well you shure are takin yer time.

i hafta check for traffic.

aint no traffic.

you still gota check.

there was no traffic.

D took her foot off the brake...

keep scrolling

yugi rold back—

she threw it into second—

gave it some gas—

the engine died.

D yankt the emergency brake.

you did that on purpose johnson

you know yugi dont like no hills.

hill my ass andy

keep scrolling

D turnd the ignition. yugi started up .

she revvd the engine.

cmon little yooger D you can do it.

she patted the dashboard.

its not that bad, its just punk town.


aright, andy.

keep scrolling

D took her foot off the brake.

we rold back.

she popt it into second—

stepd on the gas—

yugi shot forward—

out into the street—

and across.

and we were out of townieville.

whatever that meant.

we imediatly ran over some rubble. or thats what it felt like. actualy it was a cobblestone street. a steep one, at that.

yugi attackd the hill, vibrating like the tincan on wheels that it was. julien and andy started doin that thing you do on a bumpy road where you go—


and the vibrations make it go—


can yall atleast wait til we get up this hill to freekout?

whats that, D? louder?


look— you woke up fermina.

the fuzzy crown of fermina s head emerged from Ds bag, followd by two goggly eyes, which for a blessed instant detected no iminent threat to her life.

then she achievd sentience and began to quiver.


already on it.

from Ds purse, andy extracted first fermina, then ferminabarbitol.

he filld the syringe with red medicine and stuck it in her
mouth. andy had a better tecnique than me, he fed it to her like a bottle.
insteada fightin it, fermina suckd on the syringe like it was her mothers
teat. you could actialy see the tension drain from her body. it made me
think a what all i carry, all that shit you learn to ignore, but that doesnt
mean its not there. i could hear ticknot softly in the background—

breathing in, i am a flower flower flower

breathing out, i am a c l o u d c l o u d c l o u d

i tried to be a flower, i tried to be cloud.

but like yoda would say—

there is no try.

At the top of the hill, we came upon a huge oak tree,
right in the middle of the road. the road actualy went around it.

D pulld over and cut off the car.

turnd around to adress us—

lissen up. titepockets starts early. twenny minutes. then im out,

with or without you. that includes evrybody, even you a-l.

The tree was on an island, of sorts, surrounded by a stone wall, somewhere between a traffic circle and a miniature park. it was an ancient oak, the kind with drooping branches, some of em hung low enough you could sit on em if you wanted. or you could hangout on the wall and hassle passing cars, which is what evrybody did exept me and jondavies.

at the base of the tree was a bronz plaque, like youd find at
a historical site—

This is the tree that owns itself, so back the fuck up.

athens is weird i said

it does take some gettin use to jon have you seen the books?

D gave me one.

i puld ethics outa my cargo pants pocket. there was a subtitle i hadnt noticed before—

an essay on the understanding of evil

oh badiou jon yeah,

hes good. but i meant books that were written... over here.

whad ya mean, jon? its notlike were in a difrent country.


its just a town jon. its just athens.


jondavies, you are bein intentionaly obtuse.

i supose i am.


i cant tell you that.

cant tell me what, jon?

you know. what the bleep is goinon?

but jon— what the bleep is goinon?

b a - h a - h a a ! b a - h a - h a a ! b a - h a - h a a ! b a - h @ - h a a ! b a - h a - h a a ! b a - h a - h a a !

does evrybodyelse know besides me?

well no. not evrybody.

is it bad? me

not necesarily.

is it about me?

sortof, i gues. but not just you.

jon you are fucking with my mind.

if it messes with your mind, maybe you should stop askin questions.

i took his advice. i mean,

if you cant get anything outa jondavies, who can you get it out of? and
besides, all it did was pull me outa the present moment as tick not hanh
would say, or the sandselighed as K would hav it. which i already had an
issue with. remember or maybe i havent told you yet, i was raisd catholic,
my brain was built for guilt. evry time i started to get caughtup in the flow
of the weird athens night, my conscience would engage— how can you have
fun? you should be more concernd with finding your way back to
my mother useta say i cant makeya feel guilty, if you feel guilty it must be for
a reason
and i think she mighta been right—

i needed to talk to claire.

i wouldve calld her, on jondavies phone. but jondavies doesnt hav a phone. i wouldof askd somebody else, exep that the rest of our party was curently, if i wasnt mistaken, engaged in a sockpuppet fight with some dudes dressd in orange prison jumpsuits, altho i dont think they were prisoners. it was prety clear id get suckd into that if i went over there.

jondavies was busy writing in his notebook. which left me alone, with no phone in my hand, for the firstime in a while.

i sat under the tree that owns itself, leand back against the trunk,
lissend to the crickets and the treefrogs and tried to make my brain
shutup, but it wouldnt do it, there were just too many questions.

i finely started makin a list.

List. Is Claire okay? Is she mad? What's wrong with my car? How am i going to get home? What is going on?

thats as far as i got before somethin

splashd on the page.

it lookd like a raindrop exept it

wasnt rainin.

a second one hit. thats when i heard the sniffle.

i lookd up—

legs. girl legs.

bein cathlick i averted my eyes and felt shame, and
then i took another peek.

and you know who it was? the girl from the coffeeshop.
i neglected to mention her, didnt i? when i first got downtown, i was
walkin past a coffeeshop thatd just closed, and there was this girl in
there cleanin up. she set down a bus pan and with the back of her wrist
she brushd a piece of hair out of her eyes, and thats all it took for me to
fill her delicat little features with my ideals of womanhood, the hopes
and dreams of a lifetime, dudes you knowhat im talkin about and ladies
you probly do too.

this time, she saw me lookin.

are you o-k? i askt

[ shed obviusly been crying ]

depends on whatyou mean by o-k.

whats the matter?

well i fell in love, and i got in alota trubble.


wana hav a drink?

[ she had box of wine up there. tho i didnt see a glass ]

id love to, but no.

youd love to? or no?

well both.

cant be both.

i would like to. but i dont drink anymore.


[ she squinted ]



she almost fell. i woulda caut her tho.

you knowhat the problem with this town is?


evrybodys toocool to be in love.

im not too cool.

you boys are all the same, i love evrybody equal, were all comrades,

fuckin proletariat fuckthat im tired a boys, where are the men?

im in love.

then where is she? or he?

shes in newyork rightnow, but she s flyin back to texas tomoro,

thats where we live, i need to get there too but my car wont start, i dont know
whats wrong with it but i probly cant afford to fixit, i heard nobody in athens
takes creditcards, but i sorta got this job at blue sky

you work at bluesky?

great! now you wont call me the coffeeshop girl, cause your the coffeeshop
guy. it boggls my mind anybody would think that would work, you knowhat 
they say about athens boys?

whats that?

smart at the s-a-t, stupid at love.

i hafta go.


i am a boy.

you bout ready?

D said that.

then she noticed the chick in the tree.

sup kayla?

D! i love you, D.

i love ewe too kayla. sure yer not too drunk

to clime a tree?

im never too drunk [ h c u p h c u p h c u p  ] to clime a tree.

fraid im ona hafta steal a-l from ya, we gotta

get movin chopchop.

where yall goin?


isnt nana grizl playin?

yeah. but guess who s after em.


brown. frown.

but madi said

dudnt matter dude, we saw andrewprater earlier and im

heer ta tell ya— shits gettin destroyd at titepockets tonite.

litrally and metaforicly.

can i come?

the more the merrier.

We now had a problem of physics, in that you
could only fit so many bodies into the yugo. jondavies said hed walk,
but D wouldnt hear of it. but there was another solution [ leave it to
jondavies ] he offerd to ride on the back bumper.

i took jon s spot in the hatchback, we
opend the back window, jon stood on the bumper, i held his waist,
taylor grabd his sholders, D promisd she wouldnt go too fast and
she didnt. and thats how we made it to titepockets.