The Last Leaf
Vadim Bystritski

a naked tree
except for one leaf that still holds on
can be any kind of tree
as for that leaf
it has to be a fig leaf

It’s been two weeks since I’d noticed that the last leaf on that tree wouldn’t fall down. I know my neighbor across the street watches it, too. That is, he watches me watch it. I suspect some prank involving glue or something. I walk over to knock the leaf off with my cane. But the leaf is too high for that. At least now I know he couldn’t have done anything to it. I see him in his kitchen window watching me. Now he knows that the leaf is bothering me.

Already I had thought of a BB gun or maybe a slingshot. Those, however, I cannot use. At least not in the daytime. A shot in the direction of his house will get me in quite a lot of trouble. And he won’t miss an opportunity, that’s for sure. That is for sure.

Well, last night around two I tried to find it with the flashlight. It took a while. In the morning when picking up the newspaper, he asked me what I was doing with the flashlight. I said, “I thought I heard a cat up in the tree.” He said, “I didn’t hear anything.” “A cat,” I said. Now he will start telling them all that I am loony.

I suppose right before dawn, around four, he is asleep. He is about ten years younger, and ten years ago I slept like a baby—like a baby. I sure did. Or did I? Sure, I did. Now I am not so sure—and then everyone is different.

In my backyard I practice on a can. My hand isn’t firm. Nope, not firm. And the slingshot? The slingshot is out of the question.

It’s four. There appears to be no breeze. Still the leaf is moving. I just don’t dare. I can already hear the sound of a broken window, sirens, knocking on the door. What would I say? They’d lock me up, not in jail—an old folks home, for life. I’ll be a butt of his jokes. He’d start, “You remember. He is in the old folks now. He used to—” Jokes for years.

It’s four thirty now, and I hurry with the ladder: climb practically to the topmost rung. What the hell? It didn’t seem so high before: I can touch it with the cane, but not enough to bring it down, and if I climb up higher—. Nope. Safety first. I will get it, and break my neck or hip, and will be lying there on the lawn till six thirty when he comes out. Just like that—moaning for help, perhaps coughing after hours of lying on the wet grass—. The ambulance—. Questions—. And he will always know why. I retreat. I have another plan.

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