I used to write quite a bit in my spare time (haven't had any spare time lately though!), but Terri's comment in my 'I'm bored' thread was to tell a story. What a grand idea! So sit back and relax, kiddies. It's storytime! (This is scanned and OCR text-identified, so I make no gaurantees for typos.) __________________________________________ The Tree © JJR Wikman Once upon a time (because that's how all truly good stories start you know), there was a man. He was young and rugged and handsome, and had a lovely young wife. After they were married for awhile, they had a baby, and the man now had a son. He loved his son very much, and would spend time with him whenever he could. He formed a special bond with his child, a bond as only a father and son can have. One evening, the man was out for a walk with his infant son and was lost in thought. He realized that time was passing more and more quickly, and if he wasn't careful, his son would grow up without his even realizing it. He thought and thought and thought, and realized that he needed some way of keeping track of time and slowing things down a little. At this moment he happened to be carrying his son across a sun drenched, grassy-meadow. At one side of the meadow was a line of stately oak trees, each well over a hundred feet tall. The man saw these trees and an idea began to form in his mind. He went home that night and told his wife he was going to take his son out for the morning the next day. The following morning the man loaded his son into the car and drove to a nursery. They walked among the rows and rows of plants and trees and finally came to a small sapling that looked for want of a home. He bought the sapling and carried it in one arm, has son in the other, back to the car. When they arrived home the man took his son and the sapling and went for a walk. Before long the sun had warmed them all and a bead of sweat formed on the man's brow. His son smiled and turned his face to the dazzling spring sun. They walked and walked, further than they ever had before, looping in long circuits through the fields and meadows that surrounded their home, finally coming to the base of a hilt. In the lee of the hill two-thirds of the way up was a wide flat area, dominated on one end by a huge piece of granite that thrust upwards about twenty feet towards the sky. The man, carrying his son and the sapling, climbed up to the shelf and sat down to rest in the shade of the rock. He let his son crawl around in the grass, waving his stubby baby-hands at a yellow butterfly that flitted around the grass. After a few minutes of watching his son, the man went a little way out away from the rock, and with a contented smile on his face, began to dig. With his bare hands he formed a hole in the soft soil and planted the small tree. He lovingly patted the soil back around the base of the tree. Then, cradling his son in his arms, he showed him the tree before walking back home. Over the coming years the man visited this place often. He never told his wife about the place, but brought his son on many occasions. This was a special place that he and his son shared alone. His son, as he grew older, never really understood the significance of the place or the tree, though. The man decided to wait with an explanation until the son was old enough to truly comprehend. One day the man woke up and realized that his son was going to school that day for the first time. He walked his son down the driveway to the road, and in the hazy, early morning sunlight, the man put his young son on the long yellow bus and sent him off to school. With a melancholy happiness, the man began to walk. Without even realizing it, the man ended up at the large grey rock. He sat down and rested his back against the rock. It was warm in the morning sunlight, but he could still feel the cold of the night held deep within. With a start the man realized that he had been too busy to come to the tree in a long while. It had grown, just as his son had grown. The boy's growth had been unnoticed because of its crawling steadiness. The tree, though, seemed to have sprung up overnight. It was now as tall as the man and would be taller by the end of summer. The man watched the tree wave in the soft late-summer breeze for a long while, then made his way back to his now empty house. When his son came home from school he hugged him for a long long while. Time passed, as it always and inevitably does, and the man found himself walking again. This time it was dusk. The man's son had just left for his first date, driving away in the man's aging car. The man had gone into the house and peered at himself in the mirror in the front hall. He noticed for the first time the wisps of grey that were creeping along his temples. He turned abruptly and left the house, walking and walking. Again, without realizing, the man ended up at the rock just as the first stars glimmered into view. The man again rested against the rock, the soft grass beneath him cushioning his seat. The man closed his eyes and tilted his head back. Now he could feel the heat of the long day baking out of the rock and warming him, even though the night was cooling rapidly. Finally he opened his eyes and watched the stars, flickering and winking amongst the spreading boughs of the tree, which was now over twenty feet tall. He sat there, watching the stars and the tree and listening to the wind soughing through the leaves until the moon rose. Not long after, a pair of headlights appeared on the road and soon pulled into the drive. His son was home from his date, so the man got up, stretched his aching joints, and went to ask his son how the evening went. A while later, the man wasn't really sure how long, he woke up one morning and heard his son moving through the house. This was a rare occurrence, as the boy rarely got out of bed before his father. The man looked out of his bedroom window and saw the old car in the driveway, doors and trunk open and trailing boxes of clothes and books, and remembered. Today was the day the son was going off to college. The man kissed his sleeping wife and went to help his son. When the boy had driven off, the man's wife went into the house, a tear in her eye. He followed her in, gave her a long hug, and when she went off to the kitchen to fix lunch, he grabbed his walking stick from its place by the door. He ate his sandwich in silence, then kissed his wife again and left the house. It was harder and took longer to climb the hill than it used to, but the man managed with the help of the stout staff. The tree-was huge now, so tall that its top branches wavered in a wind the man couldn't feel from his lowly place on the ground. He smiled and patted the wide trunk of the tree knowingly, then eased himself down in his usual place near the rock. The leaves of the tree were just beginning their autumnal change, and about half of the tree was ablaze with yellow and red glory. When the afternoon had worn on and the sunlight had shifted toward evening, the man lifted himself up, using the rock to help him to a standing position, and walked slowly down the hill and home. Some indeterminable time later, the man woke up one morning and went to look in the mirror. His son was coming to visit today. The man was almost surprised at the face that looked back at him. The face was sun darkened and lined with deep creases. The hair was still thick, but it was a shining silvery grey. He bared his teeth and turned his head to the side, and noticed a dark liver-spot on the side of his neck and the yellowish tint his teeth had taken on. He felt no different, at least not to his noticing, but now there was an old man looking out of the mirror. He was pulling his sagging skin tight and finishing shaving when there was a knock at the door. Excited, the man rushed through the house, which he now knew to be aging and sagging just like him, and threw open the front door. A young woman greeted him, the man's wife. She was holding a fat little baby, the son's son. Behind the glowing pair stood the man's son, now a father himself. He was beaming at the man. The man's wife stood behind him and immediately began clucking over the baby. After a lengthy dinner, the man pulled his son aside and asked him to go for a walk. The son agreed readily. As they pulled farther and farther away from the house, the boy asked the man if he didnt want to turn around and go home, it was such a long way and he must be tired by now. The man continued on doggedly, without a word in response. They began to climb; higher and higher up the sloping hill. Finally coming to the large weathered rock., the man paused for breath. His son looked around, admiring the view, not even breathing hard. The man hobbled (for the long walk and climb really had worn him out) over to the tree. He rested his hand lightly, almost reverently, against the knurled trunk and looked up. The topmost branches were almost lost to him, the tree was so tall. He smiled and closed his eyes. The sunlight dappled through the filtering leaves and fell in an uneven and shifting pattern across his old face. The man's son came over to him and put his hand, young and strong, on the man's shoulder. He squeezed gently, feeling the old man's bones fragile and birdlike beneath his thin skin. Slowly, the man turned his head, eyes still closed, to face his son's. With the serene smile still on his face, the man began to tell the boy the story of the tree. It took quite awhile, and when the man was finished, the boy stood staring at him, his mouth agape. Finally he looked down and closed his eyes, at a loss for words. They stood that way for awhile, and it was like a picture, the old man thought. The boy's hand still rested on the old man's shoulder, and he stood as tall and proud as he could next to his son. Without speaking they turned and walked slowly back to the mans house. Later, after the boy had returned home, he sat holding his young son, watching him intently. Suddenly he scooped him into his arms, walked to the front door, and left his house. He drove a couple miles down the road, and pulled into the gravelly lot. He picked his son up and carried him, just as his father had carried him so many years before. The small sapling he and his son picked out was remarkably similar to the one his father had purchased all those sunsets ago.