Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Loneliest Tree

Once, high on a golden hill, lived the smallest fir tree. His older brothers and sisters often sent him special gifts: a spider trailing on a silken thread, milkweed spores drifting on a summer breeze, soft pollen that painted him yellow. These presents made the littlest fir tree tremble with joy. But when the spider lifted away, the downy milkweed fluttered to the field, and the wind dusted off the pollen, the littlest fir tree was lonelier than ever.

#

One Spring day, a wren chose to nest in the smallest fir tree. Mornings, the baby birds chortled as their mother searched for grubs and worms. One afternoon, as the littlest fir tree and the baby wrens drowsed in the wan sun, the wren squawked loudly, rousting her family from the tree. A man and a boy, both clad in overalls, walked through the orchard, throwing fertilizer around the firs.

“There, there.” The boy tossed pellets under the littlest fir tree’s boughs. “Grow strong and healthy and green.”

He squinted up at the nest perched in the littlest tree, his Red Sox cap on backwards. His fingers stroked the needles and the tree shivered.

“So soft, papa,” the boy said. “Like a kitten’s tail.”

“Yup,” said the man. “He’s the youngun here – just like you.”

#

That summer, the wind smelled of sweet hay. Buzzing bees filled the air with song. The farmer and his son came to the hill almost every day, watering the trees when the sun withered their needles. The boy panted and groaned as he hauled the full pails up the hill, but he always watered the littlest fir tree. Afterwards, he collapsed in the cool shade cast by the littlest fir tree and told stories about the puffy cloud creatures scudding across the sky.

One day, the farmer came with a machine that whirred and twirled. The smallest fir tree watched the farmer trim his brothers and sisters into triangle shapes. The other trees danced in the breeze, happy with their new look, but the buzzing tool scared the smallest fir tree.

“This won’t hurt,” the boy said.

And it didn’t, the tool tickled. The fir tree shivered with delight.

#
The leaves of the forest Maples flamed red. Shadows stretched long across the meadow. The man came to the orchard, but always alone; the littlest fir tree missed the boy’s visits. On the first hard frost, the hill sparkled with diamonds. The man walked the orchard, still alone, pulling long red and white and yellow ribbons from a leather bag slung over his shoulder. He tied a ribbon on each tree and soon, the ribbons fluttered like flags in the brisk autumnal air. The littlest fir tree wondered what color ribbon the farmer would tie on him. But when the man reached the hilltop, he paused before the littlest tree and sighed a deep sigh, then walked back down the hill.

The sun dropped behind the forest ridge. The littlest fir tree shivered, sending needles to the ground.

#

The ground rumbled. Cars and trucks filled the bottom field. Shouts of children filled the air.

“There! This tree!”

“No, this one!”

The children swarmed around the littlest fir tree, sometimes even saying “This one!”

But the fathers said, “This tree is too puny. Besides, it has no ribbon,” and strode past, saws and axes thrown over their shoulders. The littlest fir tree trembled as his brothers and sisters groaned and fell to the ground.

#

Snow dusted the stump-stubbled hill. Without the protection of his brothers and sisters, the northeast gusted hard and cold, coating the trembling fir tree in ice. The mockingbird trilled as the wagon, pulled by the man, bumped and creaked up the hill. When the man reached the top, he pulled off his wool hat and wiped his sweat-shined forehead. In the wagon, the bundle of blankets moved; the small boy, pale and drawn, poked out his head. He smiled at the littlest tree, but the smile seemed as big an effort as lugging pails of water.

“This one?” the man asked the boy. “You’re sure?”

The little boy nodded and closed his eyes. The man gazed at the boy for a long moment, then turned away, a tear frozen on his cheek.

The littlest fir tree looked down the hill at the stumps of his family one last time. Then he pulled his limbs tight and waited for the axe’s blow. But the man plunged a shovel into the frozen earth. He chipped a circle, deeper and deeper, around the tree, loosening the dirt around the fir tree’s roots.

The man pulled the tree tight to his chest; more than anything, the littlest tree wanted to stay in his embrace. But the man tugged hard, yanking the tree from the cold ground. The boy clapped his hands, his laugh sounded like birdsong.

“Your little tree will grow strong in the front yard,” the man said. “There, we can see him from the kitchen.”

“And I can visit him in the spring?” the boy whispered.

“Yes.” The man wiped at his shiny cheek. “Yes, you can.”

The man wrapped the trembling tree in burlap and nestled him in the wagon beside the boy. The boy snuggled into the littlest fir tree all the way down the hill and across the bumpy field. When the wagon stopped, the farmer unfurled the littlest fir tree from the cloth and propped him in a large hole. Shovels of dirt and snow covered his roots. The boy clambered from the wagon, falling twice in the deep snow. He hugged the littlest fir tree, and icicles tinkled to the ground.


***

Happy Holy Days. Peace, Linda

27 comments:

  1. Just stopped by to say, "Happy Holidays"!

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  2. Beautiful, Linda. Just beautiful. You demonstrate a very light touch in this one.

    Nicely done.

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  3. Linda, this is one of the most beautiful of your stories I've ever read. Poignant, it brought tears. Lovely.

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  4. Oh! This was so sweet. =D Thank you. Well-told.

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  5. A beautiful tale for a Christmas morning!

    Brought a tear, and a smile.

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  6. 'Tis the season for sweetness, light and rebirth in a better place.

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  7. This is such a precious story. I can't tell you much I would love to see this illustrated and bound.

    Merry Christmas, Linda.

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  8. I don't think any story will top this one today, Linda. Like everyone is saying, it's sweet. But it's more than sweet. You have the cadence that mesmerizes people in fairytales in your opening, rolling into unique details that might not paint the full picture of the world, but make me feel it's all around me, which is more important. You do all that before the story even starts. Thank you for sharing!

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  9. You have told a sweet story, Linda. Sweet and sad, like life...and death. Some will live and some will die, but there will always be someone, or some thing, to carry on - to live happily ever after.

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  10. Beautiful and sad, Linda.
    Merry Christmas and Peace to you.

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  11. What a sweet story. I was hooked from the beginning. My only complaint is that I want to find out more about the boy. Where is the boy going until Spring? Why was the man crying? Shame on you for hooking me and leaving me hanging. :D

    Seriously, you wrote this beautifully. I would have liked just a little bit more at the end, but it was lovely.

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  12. I support the previous comments and stress the beautiful lyricism of your language in this piece, Linda. Very nice and appropriate for the day.

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  13. Merry Christmas! Thank you all for reading. This story has been kicking around in my head for two years, inspired by a visit to a tree farm. My son, then 8, was very distraught about sawing down the trees ;^)

    My first children's story... fun... Peace, Linda

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  14. Merry Christmas, Linda. I hope you have a joyous season and a wonderful year to come.

    Loved the story. This would make a great illustrated book for children. It is warm and tender, a little sad, but full of hope for the future. Nice work.
    ~jon

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  15. A very delightful story. I honestly thought this was a repost of a children's story I'd never heard of before --until I went back to the beginning and saw it was for Friday Flash. Then I thought -- WOW!

    I like your tone in this tale and the simplicity of the sentences and language.


    I love the end. Sweet and feel good.

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  16. Awww! Little fir trees need love, too! And I'm so glad the little boy saw to it. This is a beautiful story of nature, kindness and love. It reminded me of The Velveteen Rabbit.

    I loved how delicate and peaceful it felt. Thank you for sharing it. I've thought of you and your Dad over the past days and hope you have been able to find some peace and joy. ~ Olivia

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  17. Beautiful and well written story. Will save it to read to my grandchildren! Nicely done.

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  18. I hope you have a joyous season and a wonderful year to come.

    How to make a website

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  19. Que Linda,

    A new calling, perhaps? You have touched a few hearts, methinks.

    Best to you in the coming year.

    --John

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  20. Hello Linda. I enjoyed this festive tale. It was beautifully written, haunting and warmed the soul. I look forward to reading more of your writing :)

    Best wishes for the New Year, Rich.

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  21. Just gorgeous language and an incredibly beautiful story as well. So perfect for the season!

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  22. A pleasant story, Linda, with beautiful descriptions and a current of tension that pulled this reader in. Well done.

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  23. Very sweet. Write more children's stories!

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  24. Thank you all for reading my little story. And Happy New Year! Peace, Linda

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  25. How sweet. I loved this story.

    Jai

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  26. Hi Linda, This is a beautiful story about the tree, the man, and the little boy! I was so pleased that the dad dug up the tree to plant it in the yard, so the boy could look out the window at it. I was initially attracted to the story, because I wrote a poem about a tree being cut down to install power lines. It was published in an ISOPW anthology, for what that's worth.

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