“Birds in the Pear Tree,” Friend, Aug. 1992, 35
If we had lived on a farm, I guess the pear tree wouldn’t have been such a big deal. But we lived in town, so when we moved to a new house with a pear tree in the backyard, Mom was really pleased.
So were my brother, Jimmy, and I. The pears were kind of hard and didn’t have much taste, but we used a little salt to give them zing. By picking time, we had eaten every last pear on that tree.
Mom wasn’t a bit happy about it. She had wanted to make pear preserves. So the next year, she laid down the law: Under no circumstances were we to pick even one pear from that tree! Mom said that she knew that she could trust us because we were Boy Scouts and had promised to be honest and trustworthy. And that meant no lying.
She had us there. We hadn’t told a lie since we’d become Boy Scouts. Maybe we stretched the truth a mite, but we didn’t do any real lying. Anyway, we promised not to pick any pears.
But as those pears got bigger, they became more tempting. Every day Jimmy and I stood under that tree with our mouths watering.
“You know something, Bill?” asked Jimmy one day as we stood craning our necks up at the tree.
“I know a way we can keep our promise and eat a few pears too.”
“I’ve already thought of shaking the tree,” I said. “I tried it, too, but it’s too big.”
“I wasn’t thinking that,” Jimmy said. “Why can’t we shin up that tree and eat all around the cores of the pears? We didn’t promise not to eat the pears—we just promised we wouldn’t pick them.”
I looked at Jimmy. His eyes were all lit up just thinking about biting into those pears. “Eat around the pears and leave the cores?” I asked.
Jimmy nodded, chuckling.
I didn’t feel too good about it. Still, it wouldn’t be lying, and those pears did look awfully good.
The next day Mom had to take our neighbor, Mrs. Garrett, to the doctor. We shinned up that tree as soon as the car was out of sight. We ate pears until we thought Mom’d be bringing Mrs. Garrett back. Then we climbed down and were sailing boats in a tub of water on the back porch when they got home. They sat down by us and started talking about a book they were both reading.
“That’s funny!” Mom said suddenly. “It looks like the birds have been into my pears. How strange—they’ve eaten the whole pear and left the core! You’d think they’d just take a few bites from each pear.”
Jimmy and I found another game to play real fast.
The next day Mom had to go to her sewing club. We knew we were safe for a long time. We climbed the pear tree and ate and ate until I started feeling funny. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was my stomach or my conscience hurting, but soon there was no doubt. I climbed down, went in the house, and lay moaning on my bed. Jimmy came in right after.
We tried to stop groaning when Mom came in the front door. Dad got there about the same time, and I heard her tell him that the birds had been working on her pears again. She said it was mighty strange to see those brown pear cores hanging all over the tree like that.
I tried to keep quiet, but I thought I was going to die. I think Jimmy thought the same thing, the way he was carrying on. We finally groaned so loudly that Mom and Dad heard us and came tearing in.
Dad called the doctor, who told him to bring us right in. It might be appendicitis, he said, though it wasn’t likely we’d both get it at the same time.
After examining us, the doctor said, “It looks like a good case of green-apple stomachache.”
“Would green pears do the same thing?” Mom asked, glaring at us.
“Yes, they would,” said the doctor. He gave us some stuff to drink and sent us home.
After we got home and our stomachs had settled down, Mom asked us about the pears.
Well, when she asked us point-blank like that, there was no way around it, and we told her what we’d done.
“Well, boys,” Dad said after hearing the story, “you can’t separate actions from words. The truth is the truth, no matter what words you use.” He didn’t even raise his voice, but I felt awful.
I was starting to sniffle by then, and Jimmy was bawling up a storm. We could hardly choke out that we were sorry. After agreeing to use our allowance to buy more pears for Mom to preserve, we put on our pajamas and knelt for family prayer. Mom and Dad hugged us extra tight after the prayer, gave us good-night kisses, and said they loved us. I was feeling much better after that.
The next year we had pear preserves practically coming out of our ears. I can’t say that I liked them much, but I sure liked myself a whole lot better!