Son, what lunatic humors compelled you to cut down the tree? Your mother loved that tree! Seven years I spent nurturing and growing it, yet you obliterated it in a single afternoon.

Did you really think I would not be angry just because you confessed? Truth, George, is a lovely quality in a youth. But do you know what is even lovelier? The capacity not to hack up your parents’ cherry tree for no goddamn reason.

Did the tree offend you in some way? Did it fail to provide sufficient shade? I am simply trying to understand what you were thinking. You see your mother’s most cherished object, a beautiful little cherry tree, and your instinct is to violently destroy it. Are you a budding serial killer, George? Is this how it starts—first you chop up plants, then animals, then finally your fellow man?

I really worry about you, George Washington. I fear for your future.

That said, I may bear some responsibility, having handed my six-year-old son a hatchet and said, “Here, go nuts.” But I never expected you to target the cherry tree. The pear tree, maybe. None would mourn the loss of those mealy pears. The cherry tree, on the other hand, was the gem of Ferry Farm and the source of so much goodness in our short, miserable lives.

No more cherry pie, George! No more cherry tarts! No more strudel! I wish I could soften the blow of your betrayal with some cherry cordial, but that is obviously out the window as well.

How do you even possess the strength to chop down a tree? You are six! The hatchet I gave you was a small, dull one, practically a toy. Felling that tree must have taken hours of deranged toil, fueled by a preternatural physical power.

Tell me, George, why are you so stalwart? Are you lifting logs and stones before you blow out the candle at night—or have you made a deal with the Devil? Behold the veins popping out of your six-year-old arms! They are unholy.

Your brother Samuel may not share your muscular definition, but at least he is of sound mind and pure heart. Yesterday Samuel picked a dandelion for your mother and handed it to her with such tenderness, saying, “Make a wish, Mama.” Meanwhile, you are out roaming the land with an axe, a tiny drifter laying waste to everything your parents hold dear.

You have brought shame upon the Washington name. I am just glad your grandfather, God rest his soul, is not alive to see what you have become.

The next time you feel the urge to slash something to pieces, make it the pear tree—and have the guile to pin it on the neighbor boy.