Friday Flash: The Tree

A couple of weeks ago Chuck Wendig presented a flash fiction challenge to write a story in some way involving a tree. I was too busy and distracted to do it then, so today I have a half-flash (just over 500 words instead of my usual 1000) on a tree.

The Tree

I am the oldest resident of this village, and what I do not know of its people and history cannot be known. When all are in haste and fear, I alone stand calm and unchanged. Yet none now alive have heard my voice.

I am the oak that shades the village square, and I have had not one to speak to for many long years. Now there is one who may, at last, linger beneath my boughs long enough to hear my voice. He is still too young for other two-leggers to pay him heed, or even to know himself what it is he hears. But I can begin to tell my history to this seedling, that as he grows old he will remember me.
I was planted by the hand of a man who loved quiet and rest, though his trade was hot and noisy, with fires—I shudder at the thought—and hammers. But he planted my acorn that there might someday be cool shade in which one could nap on a hot afternoon, knowing he would not live to enjoy that shade himself. It is a sorrow I have, that my human companions, so few in any case, live such short lives. For the man’s sake, I grew as quickly as I could, and I was able to cast a modest shade before he lay down at my feet and did not rise again. His son lived to see me reach broad branches to shelter his home, and he did not cut my branches for his forge fire.

It was the daughter of the son, the third smith to ply the trade beneath my boughs, who first learned to hear my voice. She learned, too, that to be heard conversing with a tree brought great sorrow. She fled alive, but I could not follow, and I never saw her again. I feared for a time that the villagers—for a village had in those three generations grown around the forge—would cut me down, but if they didn’t value my voice, they did like my shade and the acorns they fed to their pigs, so they convinced themselves that the smith had merely been mad.

Since that time I have sheltered twenty generations of humans, and their small ones have climbed my trunk and lain on my broad branches, and loved me. The elders have sought rest and refreshment in my shade in summer, and trusted to my strength in winter winds.

But only three times have I found one who can listen to me, and you, the third, will be the last. For my heart is failing me, and this winter the winds will not shake my limbs, but break them. And then I fear I will fall on the very things I have sheltered my whole life.

You must tell them.

You must be the cause of my ending, but you must also save an acorn. Plant it here to take my place when I am gone, that there may be a large and generous tree in your grandson’s time.

And talk to your new tree. She will be lonely.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


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