I’ll never forget Wrongtree.
The story of Wrongtree is true, down to each last letter and punctuation mark.
I woke up hungover ready to start a new job. I ran out with my briefcase and cute little business suit, so excited with so much to prove. If I had any money in my purse at the time it didn’t matter because I had forgotten it someplace the night before. I found myself walking down Kirkwood with zero dollars, zero cents, hungover and dying of thirst, with a job to do.
It was my first day working for IU Exchange, an online ad site my boyfriend and his frat brothers had come up with that had recently earned a bit of local press and recognition on campus. A sophomore at IU, fresh off my 21st birthday party, I was super anxious to show off my sales skills.
In my mind I said to God, “I could really use a drink right now, and I have no money and no time. I am so thirsty. I know you made the heavens and the Earth, so I know you can get me a drink. I would like something red and fruity, please. Thank you, and I love you.”
Immediately thereafter I turned into an ice cream shop on the corner. I walked in smiling and asked to speak to the manager, determined to sell ad space.
Behind the counter was Brian Schnellenburger, a goofy kid I remembered from my 7th grade science class. He was a chubby kid who sat in the corner and he had an infectious giggle, and I always felt endearing towards anyone who could make me laugh, especially in the torturous age of junior high. What a great day to see such a friendly face behind the counter of a soda shop, a hundred miles and years later.
I mentioned my thirst and he offered to me an ice water and I was quite relieved. We said our goodbyes, I arranged to meet the manager another day, and I went on my way.
Walking down the street, sipping my iceywater thoughtfully through a straw, I must admit the thought drifted through my mind…”well God, this will do…but I really wanted something fruity…” and I went to the next place.
The next place happened to be an espresso bar. This was my first time in an espresso bar.
I felt slightly intimidated by all of the words on the menu I didn’t understand. I felt the people here all knew lots of things I didn’t. I was clearly not one of them. I was here to do business. I stood awkwardly in the same space as the line to the counter, waiting to speak to the manager.
Right then, a small man walks up to me. His hair is long and blonde and a bit scraggly. He is probably not as old as he looks. He is withered and weathered, wearing a loose leather vest with feathers clipped in his hair. He is wearing a purple headband around his head, and small, dark, round John Lennon glasses. He must have been all of five feet tall and 120 lbs soaking wet. I stood erect and postured in my pumps and suit, suddenly confident to make a sale. I looked at this little man approaching me to get in line, close lipped smiled slightly at him, and turned back to face the counter.
The man walked right up to me, stood right in front of my face, looked up into my face through his little beatnik glasses and feathered scraggly hair and said to me,
“So. Are ya broke?”
My mouth opened a little but I didn’t let my jaw hit the floor. My brows furrowed, I tilted my head, dumbfounded and tongue tied…then my face broke into a grin and I burst out laughing.
“Well YES, actually at this moment I am,” I say, still laughing curious and amused.
“Let me buy you a drink.”
“What do you want. Come on. I’m buying.”
It was at this point I forgot everything else and realized again that I didn’t even really know what a cappaccino was, much less how to order one or what I’d actually be getting, there were so many different prices of things… and I really didn’t know the right answer…
“I’ll have exactly whatever you’re having,” I said smiling, and I picked out a tiny two top table in the corner to sit for a moment with this interesting creature.
He walks to the table carrying two hot tea pots covered in filled little bags.
”What did you get?”
The little bags were filled with red fruits and when immersed made a delicious red fruity tea!
He held out his hand to me. “The name’s Wrongtree.”
“Yep. Ya know, like if ya want somethin, you’re barkin up the ‘wrong tree?’ Wrongtree.”
I smiled in awe… “Shante. It’s very nice to meet you.”
We drank our teas together, he taught me about Sage, and we went our separate ways. 🙂
I never spoke to the manager.