It was never doubted that the boy and his tree should always be together. His first memory was the sharpening image of the branches, each line spindling off into the bright spring sky. The pure and vivid greens, the smell of earth and fresh dewy bark would haunt him.
It was always clear the tree was the reason the boy played in the garden. His first words were a request for a hammock, so he could sleep outside and be near it always. In the summer, they came to tie the thing up and he rocked hour after hour.
He sobbed bitterly when autumn came and had to be taken inside. From the pane he watched the tree wither into itself and the leaves shiver down, stark, crisp and dead. The wind ripped at the empty hammock so it cut deep into the boughs.
During winter he used the tree as a fort, hammering nails askew with vigour and recklessness and attaching ruins of old planks onto it. He played and threw snow from the safety of the treetop, showering the other children with ice water.
When spring next came a hurricane pursued. It ravaged the tree and the boy didn’t stop it. He stood behind the glass looking on with longing and remorse. He knew he had done wrong to see the broken twigs flung afar, the roots, like claws struggling towards him.
In the summer he pretended the tree didn’t exist. The garden was shut off and he saw the lonesome swinging of the hammock from far afield. The nails rusted in the sun and the planks were eaten by termites, crashing to the earth in the stillness of the heat.
Autumn was unavoidable; it came with the smell of rain and golden brittle things. The boy went out with his bare feet and stared at his beloved tree, hollowed and dead. He examined with shame and regret where he had carved his name to show it was his. Sighing, he made his way into the shed and found a discarded axe. He took a lingering moment before the first swing. After the first it was easy to get a rhythm, and he continued until dawn.
This winter he owns a beautiful and fresh notebook, handmade. He sits where the tree used to stand and ponders what he can etch this time.
by Katalina Watt