Food for Thought-The Malformed Shrub of Novi Sad (The Third Letter)


26 April 1957

Between Breakfast and Lunch
Belgrade, The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Dearest Esteemed Mentor and Friend,

Epistolam tuam plenam (ut soles) caritate grato animo accepi.* As I accepted scalding coffee from a blind Turk at breakfast; I reflect upon your recollections of the malformed shrub. At first I could not think of anything but the shrub. Its deformities and horrors, unlike coffee, are measured in centimeters not milliliters. While the pain of the thorns is limited in duration, like the burning coffee, they linger long below the skin.

Do you remember the vindictive apple tree which once resided to the left of the train station in Subotica*? Much like the malformed shrub of Novi Sad*, the Station Tree of Subotica would seek draw weary travelers to gaze upon its ever ripening fruit. Without warning, the fruit would fall, sometimes striking children or goats upon the head. In the shadow of this evil tree, the trains to Budapest traveled north and cars to Belgrade ambled south. To my memory, there are no birds in Subotica in July.

Of this I am certain: In the beautifully sculpted garden, adjacent to the room where food was served, grew a strong shrub. Perhaps the bird was moving to the garden or lived in a nearby tree. I must know. I fear this bird was not what it seemed. For did we not walk past three trees, after turning left, by the cow, on our way to find something to eat? The man with ears, heard our questions, and asked, “Are you lost?” Wasn’t this by tree number three?”

Until tomorrow, we think upon these things.

Yours Truly,


Epistolam tuam plenam (ut soles) caritate grato animo accepi.* Latin-I was so glad to receive your letter, so full, as is your wont, of charity.
Subotica – the second largest city of Vojvodina, the largest province in northern Serbia
Novi Sad – the largest city in Vojvodina, the largest province of northern Serbia.