By Shelly Reuben
Chapter 37 - "The Acting Mayor Takes Action" - MY MOSTLY HAPPY LIFE: Autobiograpy of a Climbing Tree

July 16 fell on a Thursday.

Mayor Chris Angel awoke at 5:30 a.m., turned on the radio beside his hospital bed, and listened to the last half of a newscast about municipal interference, sick trees, and the Samuel Swerling Park.

He pressed a buzzer.

When a nurse appeared, he asked her bring him the morning edition of The Daily Globe. Five minutes later, he got out of bed, lifted an arm, flexed a bicep a la Popeye the Sailor Man, and sang, “I’m strong to the finish ’cause I eats me spinach.”

Then he told the nurse to bring his clothes and to inform his doctors that he was going home.

But he did not go home.

He had his driver take him to Mike Hurwitz’s apartment building.

By 6:00 a.m., and to background babble of a local TV news station, he and Mike had read a week’s worth of newspapers spread out across the dining room table.

“So what do you think?” the mayor asked his best friend.


Mike Hurwitz said glumly, “I feel responsible.”

Chris Angel snorted, “If anyone’s responsible, it’s me. I’m the one who appointed that idiot to do your job while the Little Old Watchmaker was fixing this.” He thumped his chest. Then he tugged thoughtfully at a jowl, and added, “You know there’s a lesson here, Mikey my boy. Don’t you?”

Mike shook his head. “What lesson?”

The mayor exploded with laughter. “Stay out of hospitals!”

But Mike Hurwitz did not laugh back. He continued to shake his head.

“Stop doing that,” Mayor Angel demanded. “You’re making me dizzy.”

Mike stopped.

Chris Angel asked, “So what are you going to do about it?”

“Me?” Mike asked, astonished.

“Yeah. You.”

“Is that a serious question?”

“It’s a serious question.”

“Why me? You’re back on the job. You’re out of the hospital. It’s your decision now.”

Mayor Angel looked at his wristwatch. “Not for another three hours. Then I go back to being the Wizard of Oz and you go back to being the Commissioner of Parks.” He looked at his watch again. “You still have two hours and fifty-nine minutes left to implement your plan.”

Mike pushed his chair away from the dining room table and walked to the window. He stood motionless for about a minute, saying nothing. Then he mused softly, “You know, Boss, you can’t really see the Samuel Swerling Park from here.”

The mayor joined his friend at the window.

“I guess you can’t.”

“It’s a nice park, though,” Mike continued. “Actually, it one of the nicest parks in the city. Those trees…” For a few seconds, his eyes seemed to be gazing inward. “They’re nothing short of phenomenal.”

“How so?”

“The way they grow. The branches extend parallel to the ground. They turn corners. They go left. They go right. Like a Jungle Jim. As if they were constructed by an engineer instead of nurtured by an arborist.” Mike pursed his lips and added, “I wonder how he did it?”


“Samuel Swerling. The guy who built the park.”

“Oh, that,” Mayor Angel said offhandedly. He returned to the table, rifled through the newspapers, and found one dated two days before. He opened it to an article headlined: NOT ONLY GOD CAN MAKE A TREE, and thrust it at Mike.

“Read this,” he said.

Mike read it. Then he dropped the newspaper on the windowsill, sighed heavily, and uttered, “Brilliant.”

“So,” Chris Angel persisted. “What are you going to do?”

“Do?” Mike stared at the mayor. “If you’re serious, and if the decision really is mine, the first thing I’ll do is accept full responsibility of behalf of the city for what that idiot … what’s his name?”

“Jarvis Larchmont.”

“Right,” Mike nodded. “… For what Jarvis Larchmont did. No obfuscation. No spin. No evasion. I’ll just go to the Board of Trustees or whoever it is that runs the Samuel Swerling Park and I apologize.”

Mayor Angel’s head bobbed up and down.

“Good, Mikey. Good.”

“Then I’ll offer all of the resources of the Department of Parks to restore their trees to health. If that can’t be done, I’ll offer to replace them.”

“How can you replace an eighty-year-old tree?”

“You can’t.” Mike tapped the newspaper with his finger. “So I’ll also ask Alonso Hannah, their arborist – he’s nothing short of a genius – to freelance for the city and teach us how to re-grow climbing trees.”

Chris Angel rolled his eyes.

“The guy’s ninety-years-old.”

Mike shrugged. “Then I’d better hurry.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes. I’ll offer reparations.”

“Meaning what?”


“How much money?”

“As much as they need to fix whatever we damaged. If we have to grovel, we grovel. If we have to pay, we pay.”

“You think that’s necessary?”



“You know that expression, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’?”

“Sure, Mikey. I know it.”

“Well, Boss, it wasn’t broken, and we broke it.”


Copyright © 2017, Shelly Reuben

Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her work, visit