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Homework in the Time of Panophobia


“I mean really, mom,” he said. “It seems like an easy choice to me.   I mean even if the tiger was helping you with the garden and doing my homework was the lady, I’d pick the tiger.”

“I think you need to go take another look at that homework,” she said.   “And, anyway, who’s to say that working in the garden with me isn’t really the tiger?”

“Anything’s better than doing homework,” he said as he picked up the shovel and began piling wood chips into the wheelbarrow.

“You know you’re not getting paid for this?” she asked.

“I know,” he said.  “I just want to help.’

“And skipping homework isn’t the payoff?” She said as she yanked weeds from around the blueberry bushes.  “You can put the next load on this row,” she said, gesturing to the un-neatly planted clump of bushes.

“I got it all done,” he said.   He threw a few more scoops into the wheelbarrow.  “I think I did anyway.”

“You think?” she asked.

“One assignment doesn’t matter,” he said.  “I’m never gonna use half this stuff, anyway.”

“What are you talking about?  I used geometry just the other day,” she said.  “Didn’t you see the way I cut that pie into 8 perfectly equal pieces?

“One time you used it,” he said.  “And the world as we know it is gonna end soon anyway.”

“Not before dessert,” she said.  “And you’re too young to be worrying about the end of the world.”

“You’re worried about it,” he said.

“Wha?!?,” she said.

“Look at your garden, ”And your root cellar.  And all the firewood you and Dad make me stack,” he said. “You guys are getting ready the end of civilisation.”

“I’m not sure how you get that,” she said, “but you’ll still need to know history and geometry when the world ends.”

“Who needs any of that after terrorists take over the world and there’s an epidemic?” he asked.

“Well, you’ll need a little geometry to put everything back together,” she said.

“I’m serious, Mom,” he said.  “They talk about it in the news all the time.  I’m to get prepare for something bad to happen.”

“Something bad will happen, if you didn’t actually finish your homework,” she said.  “That row looks good.  Let’s get a few apples before it gets too dark to see them. ”

It wasn’t really an orchard. It was just a group of apple trees standing together.

One tree was older than she was.  She had planted two more when he was born and another pair when his brother arrived 5 years ago.  The grandma tree’s apples were plentiful and since they seemed fit only for pies, she picked those mostly.

The big and little brother trees were starting to produce more, and she pointed to a golden apple on one of the little brother tree.  He nodded and tugged it down.

“This is the first one we’ve got from that tree,” he said.  He sniffed it and offered it to her.  “Do you want the first bite, Mom?”

“You have it,” she said. “It seems like just yesterday we planted these two.”

He took a bite.  “Wow, this is a really good flavour,” he said. “Remember when I helped you pick this out?”

“I do,” she said.  She took a bite from the other side. “Whenever we plant a new tree, the first harvest seems so far in the future it’s like it’ll never happen.  But five years later, we’re freezing enough filling for a year worth of pie if I go by the USDA minimum weekly minimum dessert requirements. “

“See, you are stocking up for an emergency,” he said.  He walked to the shed and returned with a small bucket for his loot.

“I’m always prepared for that snowy day when I can’t get to the grocery store for pie filling,” she said.  “But every emergency isn’t the end of the world.”

“What about keeping up the wood stove?” He asked.

“Cheaper than oil,” she said.

“And the garden?” He asked.

“Closer than the grocery store,” she said.

“And the fruit trees?” he asked.

“What about them?” she said.

“Aren’t they part of your plan?” He asked.

“Well, sure,” she said. “But who would get ready for the end of the world by planting something that that takes 5 years to get a decent dessert?”

“So why plant them at all?” He asked.

“Because they save the world,” she said.

“Four trees won’t save the world,” he said.

“Of course they will,” she said.  “Because if there are only so hours in a day and you spend most asleep, some more at school, a few more  torturing your brother, one to play video games that we know about and another to play the ones you think we don’t know about, it only leaves a little bit of time to choose to either plant a tree make the world a little more pleasant and livable or to worry about the end of it and your video games.  But if saving the world isn’t enough, we also keep them for one other important reason”.

“What’s that?” He asked.

“Because, like the apple trees, without your homework, there would be no dessert tonight, “ she said.  “And he who fails to learn his lessons in history is doomed to miss the last piece.”