The Music Tree

You ever feel like running your car over someone’s face? Maybe it’s just me.

This particular Saturday felt with its cold gray clipper blowing in off Lake Michigan like the first real day of winter, even though a month of days stood between now and its official start.  In the Windy City, this weekend before Thanksgiving, when the sky wouldn’t cry but it would blow, the bow of my car froze in the pack ice of traffic on Lake Shore Drive. The taxis and horse drawn carriages were stalled in a disheveled mélange like they were staging for a parade.  Either that, or POTUS was in town.  I got cut off twice by other drivers on Michigan Avenue. Ah, my first chance to use the bubble wand I got at my cousin’s wedding.  I promised myself I would blow bubbles instead of swearing at or giving the finger to discourteous drivers or threatening to get out of my vehicle and chase them down with a ball pin hammer.  One of my gay friends said it was the gayest thing he ever heard.  You should’ve seen me, blowing bubbles on one of the busiest shopping days of the year at a guy with Florida plates in a monster SUV.  Maybe that’s how he figures we do things now in the City of Big Bubbles.

I got cut off by a cop on a four-wheeler and yelled at by another cop, so I figured I’d quit before I ended up in lockup.  I parked. I almost got run over by a delivery truck while I crossed with the walk sign in the cross walk on State Street. I ran from the traffic like I used to run from the bullies in my old North Side neighborhood.  Where was that bubble wand when I needed it?  And I hadn’t even gotten to the Starbucks yet.

I hustled toward the intersection of Rush and Oak in the grim, sooty dusk.  Rush Street stood as a Chicago Times Square, painted with the facades of Gucci and greystones and crammed with flocks of tourists bobbing their heads this way in a crosswalk trance and pigeons bobbing their heads that way in a crosswalk dance between the slicing stilettos.  I tack through the noisy sea of car honks and throttling engines. Cutting through all the dissonance, I hear a high-pitched cacophony; the cries of birds.  Thousands, it sounded like, all chattering and chirping with each other.  Where did that come from?

There, across the street, they congregated in a linden sapling, which even in that late November sky still hadn’t lost its leaves.  Dozens of birds—jousting, barbing with each other for the best spot as the immature branches swayed in the cold wind.  The sky had turned too dark to make out what kinds of birds roosted in the dense foliage of the linden, but from their profile, they didn’t seem like locals.  Chicago’s on a flyway route, and I guessed this flock stopped over on its way south.

I stood there for five, ten minutes as people hurtled past.  That whole tree sang.  Alive, thrumming with chaotic birdsong.  I dare not stand under that tree.  Frequent shats rained down like crisp, grey leaves from the flimsy branches.

All their symphony washed away my city sneer more than a Vaughan Williams symphony could clear out my spirit.  The birds just did their thing, fighting for the best spots on the limbs. Together, they seemed invulnerable to the callousness that I’d let seep into my inner skin.

A music tree healed me that November 20th, 2004.  Songbirds washed away my disillusion.  What gifts come unbidden, unearned.  And the givers, just doing their noisy things.

© 2021 by Michael C. Just

Mike’s novel, The Dirt: The Journey of a Mystic Cowboy, is available in softcover or eBook formats through Amazon.

You can purchase the book through this website. Or go straight to amazon at

Mike’s other titles, including The Crippy, The Mind Altar, and Canyon Calls, are available through Amazon at

Two of his short stories have recently been published online. The Obligate Carnivore has been published by the Scarlet Leaf Review @ Category: MICHAEL JUST – SCARLET LEAF REVIEW

I See You, Too has been published by the 96th of October @ I See You, Too – 96th of October