“The Solitary Tree”

This short story has recently been accepted to publication by the Dallas Writer’s Journal.

I

I stared outside of my window, watching the spring rain on the sill, each
little bead exploding upon contact with the wooden, white finish. My eyes were affixed
on the outspread plain just outside my window, itself bordered by many hulking trees
that proceeded to do nothing but obscure sunlight from the smaller saplings that rest
beneath their long, protruding extremities. My eyes adjusted their focus, becoming
enamored by a single tree that lay far out through the field, naked and pale, long since
stripped of it’s emerald clothing and left vulnerable amidst the conditions surrounding it.

This tree, many years ago, was the same tree that held my first tree house. It
was majestic, assembled from lumber stripped and shaped from the trees that neighbored
it, and built by the hands of my father and myself.

Quite the craftsman, he was always ready and able to assemble, no matter
the degree of difficulty that awaited him. It was at that age, I wanted to be him, and my
life to transpire exactly as his did. He always called him his “little me”, implying that he
too, wanted my life to work out the same as his did. Developing his trade, marrying a
woman as fair and beautiful as my mother, and myself having a son, my own “little me”
to repeat the cycle as he was doing for me, as his father had done with him.

We worked on the tree house every free minute of every day.

It wasn’t too long after it was completed that my father was involved in an
accident at his job, severing his hand unrecognizable. It proceeded to get infected, and
ultimately, the microbial invasion caused my father to pass away. My mother and I were
distraught and I quickly blamed myself for it, thinking his exhaustion led to the accident.
I refused to enter the tree house after that, allowing the condition of the wood to
compromise.

A couple of years ago, the architecture that made my father beam with pride began
falling haphazardly from the tree.

Damn this tree, I said silently to myself with my eyes still affixed to the
pale bark. From out of nowhere, I heard a faint voice, resonating through the spring
shower. Adjusting my senses, I attempted to focus on the sound, but it did not grow
louder. Maybe I was imagining it? Maybe the rain was making the sweet noise I
continued to hear and it was, in fact, nothing out of the ordinary?

I moved away from the window, whirling around and facing my bed. I
stepped toward it, focusing on a set of clothes I had laid out, with the intention of using
upon leaving a warm shower. Next to these clothes was a dark green towel, which I
grabbed and proceeded to leave my bedroom with.

I moved through the slightly darkened hallway, past the bedroom of my
uncle. Turning the corner, past a collection of old manuscripts and tomes, I stood in front
of the door to the cramped bathroom. My hand grasped the cold, steel doorknob and
turned it softly, opening the tattered wooden door quietly.

I placed my towel on a metal bar protruding from the wall that
encompassed the door and walked carefully over to the bathtub, reaching in to invoke
the water. The nozzle sputtered a bit, but released the water. I moved my hand into the
stream and quickly pulled it back, shaking the freezing pellets of water from my hand.
I put my hand back under the stream and felt the water – a bit warmer this
time. I nodded in satisfaction. I quickly disrobed, throwing my cotton shirt and pants
into the corner of the bathroom, leaving them a tangled mess along the far wall
underneath the small, rectangular window. I turned and stared at myself in the mirror. I
shook my head quickly and stepped into the shower.

II

I turned the water off and stepped out, dripping all over the completely bare
tile floor. I carefully reached for my towel, hoping not to move too much in fear of

slipping. In the midst of drying off, I heard that faint noise from before. I shook my
head; this had to only be in my imagination. I finished drying off and grabbed my
clothes from the corner of the bathroom, exiting the confined space.
Back in my bedroom, I began getting dressed, when I heard the sound once
more, this time a little bit louder than before. It reverberated in my ears like a broken
record.

Bah, I told myself, it’s nothing.

I finished getting dressed and started to leave my room, stopping right in
front of my door. I turned my head around toward my window.

Go to it. Go to her.

I winced, confused as to what had told me such a thing.

The window. You will see her.

I moved carefully back to my window, my bare feet creaking the
floorboards. Through the glass, I saw the same image as before: the extended field, the
larger trees obscuring the smaller ones, the pale branches of the solitary tree.
A woman stood in front of it.

Wait!

Go to her.

She wasn’t there before. Why was she standing in front of this sullen piece
of wood and why was she staring right back at me?

Who is she?

Go to her. Run!

I raced over to the foot of my bed and slipped my shoes on, not even
bothering to lace them up. I ran to the door on the other side of my bedroom and opened
it quickly, slamming it closed as I sprinted in pursuit of her.

III

I sprinted through the field quicker than I ever had before; my shoes
slipping on and off my heel, causing the friction to develop into small shots of pain with
every step. I winced slightly with each plant of my foot, and each raise of the other.
Keep going. You’re almost there.

I continued through, the pale, dilapidated tree emerging more and more into
view, along with the mysterious woman who stood in the face of it. I slowed down
slightly, the closer I came to her, focusing on her, inquisitive as to what her business may
be here.

Her hair caressed her neck and beyond her shoulders, the hints of blonde
and red weaving into the strands reflecting what little sun was emerging from the gray
clouds. Her eyes, blue as a summer day, confined by trace amounts of black along the
ridges of her eyelids and up through her lashes. She stood in a green dress, like the
freshly quenched grass that lay mangled underneath her feet. A smile graced along the
creases of her face.

Who was she?

Speak to her.

“Hello, I’m – ”

She raised her hand, stopping me in mid-sentence. Her smile widened,
turning her gaze toward the tree. I stared back, somewhat confused by her demeanor.
She turned around and placed one hand on a low-laying branch, turning back to me as I
watched her in horror.

“No! Don’t!” I choked out, but it was too late. This mysterious girl had
begun her ascent into the pale, dead tree that had long since haunted me. I knew it
wasn’t safe, that something horrible could happen to this beautiful woman who had
somehow captivated me. I had to stop her.

By the time I approached the tree, she was already beyond the low-laying
branches and into the middle third, where the branches become more tangled and
menacing.

“Please! Don’t go up there!” I cried to her, but she did not listen to my
warnings and kept climbing. I had no choice; I had to go after her.
I placed my own hand upon the first low-laying branch, taking a deep
breath and closing my eyes. Reopening them, I made my first heave into the old,
decrepit tree. I convened each branch more cautiously than the one before it, fear
beginning to take me over. I looked up and noticed her pulling even further away from
me.

Don’t let her get away. Hurry!

I took another deep breath and began climbing once again, reaching the
middle third of the tree. I moved through the branches with grace and stamina, like I had
never stopped climbing in the first place. I gained pace on the mysterious woman, finally
reaching her.

She looked at me and smiled, climbing through a couple more branches and
setting herself down on a large piece of wood affixed to several weaving branches. I
stared at her and then down at the wood, recognizing it as a portion of the floor to the
tree house I had when I was a child. I let out a smile and crossed through a few
branches, sitting myself down on the wood next to the inexplicable woman.

I lay myself back, my hands underneath my head as I looked up at the sky
like this for the first time in many, many years. I jumped slightly when I felt her lay her
head on my chest, those azure eyes adjusted to the sky as well. I removed my attention
from the clouds and turned to face this beauty, her own eyes meeting and dancing with
mine, smiles gracing our faces. Simultaneously our eyes gravitated back to the sky,
watching the clouds slowly traverse through the sky and reveal the sunshine behind the
dingy rain.

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About Robert L. Franklin

Ah, the About Me section - social networking's excuse for you sounding like an elitist prick. Hmm... what to say? What to say?
This entry was posted in Springtime In Atlantis and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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