The Old Tree

a short story by AD Bane
1187 words

It was the only tree in the forest, if in fact it was a forest at all. It stood a hundred foot high, with bark like the chorus underside of a scaly mammal and leaves that shone silver even likened unto the starry night sky. Small birds would nest upon its branches and sing happy diddies ‘neath its folding leave, and there would be squirrels on its bows and rabbits beneath its roots. 

And oft’ times I would go into the wood by my lonesome self to gaze upon its wonder, for it was a grand tree, a bold tree, an ever-reaching, never-leeching old tree; and I loved its sight as it stood beneath the eaves of a forest so grand that it was indeed minisculed to naught. I loved that tree, loved the way that it stood, loved the way that it would, if it could, stand tall and blossoming. And it should. If in fact it only dared to stand upon that magical dais out of pure spite for the world into which it had been cast as such a majestic thing in so sharp a relief, then I should have loved it all the more. And I did. 

Billy Brickthumb was my dearest friend, and only he the one who knew of such a tree as it was that stood beside the garden path. Never had I dared to tread its branches – nay, even the lowest which hung about our heads. But Billy had once or twice. Like a squirrel he’d go up from the ground upon the trunk – which was without much doubt far too wide about the girth for him to grasp. But when his deft and frilly fingers had hafted upon the bark thereof, away he was as quick as a spider – nay, even a quail – up like the sunshine upon the mildew. Then there I would see him with his nose amongst the branches, biting his toe and praying for rain; most times it came; most times my sandwiches got wet. 

Billy once told me of a sight he saw there in the old tree. High up from the ground where there is no sound, so high that the town below was naught but a trouble to the eyes, so so a trouble to see at such height, there he saw it seated upon the branch: an acorn. Not a great, galumphing thing, nor a shining small corn of the kind that goes snicketsnuck. But it fell from his pocket when he turned around quicker, and it fell on my head: there it was stuck. I didn’t know of the acorn, nor have I ever (save now as I tell it). But Billy, oh such a marvellous man, said the sight that he saw there was magic beyond gold – yea, even greater still than that tree on that hill. 

Long I sought that I too should climb up the crook where that special thing stook. But my nerves were no match for my good friend Billy, and I never made the distance. 

I still recall the day that they came – oh terrible men, crooked of grin, and with axes upon the hafts of their chins. They were paid for the forest, they said to me, said they would have it if they lived; yea, they’d cut down my tree. Then a ricket and rack with their saw and their axe, and in time like a quick squirrel that old tree was lying down upon the ground, lying long, lying bold, lying still upon the garden wall, and I coming in at the gate. Oh, what a terrible howl I moaned, what a terrible sound to be heard to the long dying autumn bird. It might have felled even unto the garden crick, if it weren’t for my hands to deftly upon that brick. “Yea,” I said, “steady there darling old chap, wouldn’t do to be falling a-splish and a-splash in the stream and the brook.” So I took in my hands the strong thorns of a bush, and I held my self steady; then I dared take a look. Sure enough, there the branches were felled; sure enough, there they poked up from over the wall. I went through at the gate, not more than a door, and the men who had cut my fine tree were upon the floor with their axes in hand that I might meet their foul faces. “What is this!” I cried, quite out of my races. 

In the cold years that followed they hewed down the forest; and when the whole wood then lay on the ground, they went out to the world; and now my little garden lay quiet, and no sound could be heard, for the trees have been silenced. I was alone. Even my dear friend Sir Billy had left me for want of greater trees to climb. 

One autumn day as I sat in my garden, I heard a great tearing and rending and breaking, as of branch and bow snapping and cracking. Then out at the gate I went in a hurry, but the sight that I saw I wished I had not, for never have ever I seen such a sight that did make me more mad. In the wide open clearing where that mighty wood stood, even there where my tree had towered high over the rest, I saw a great man: his hands were as leather. At his belt was an axe, but it was not the weapon he chose on this day – no this man was about other mischievous acts, for with hammer and glove he had bent a great band of iron about the old stump and riveted it through, right there, even there where the tree had once grew. “Good sir!” I cried out, “Have you leave of your senses? This tree of mine timber is not yours for the binding! Get ye away, ‘fore I heft upon a brick!” And even then I took hold of a stone in my hand, and my aim was quite sure as I lobbed it from hand and it soared in the sky and came down on his head. What a blossom! “For my tree!” said I. And the man fell down dead. 

But then I noticed alone that from where the tree had been taken was a sprigget of hope climbing up from the bracken. And even as I watched it shoot up from the ground, there I was looking down on that town that had been my whole life and my reason and hope. Only now I was high and my whole world below. I mighter seen flowers, or even my wall. If I looked close enough perhaps even the stump which was bound round with iron, or even Sir Billy. I mighta seen anything there down below, anything at all, for the world doesn’t know. But one thing was certain, as the wind took my hat: my tree was again, no longer a dead thing, and I was the highest on top of the world, that’s where I was at. 






This work is written by AD Bane and published by It is solely the property of and may not be reproduced in part or in whole for any reason except at the exclusive permission of the author. © 2018


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