Martha perched on an old beech stump with strands of her hair blowing into her eyes. She squinted, grimaced, and sent a puff of air upward to stop the tickling.
The copper beech had been a gift from her grandfather to her grandmother on their wedding day. It was the only tree in their otherwise barren yard. Gramma fed and watered the little sapling until long after it had become a well established fixture in their front yard. Martha clearly remembered her grandmother speaking to the tree as though it were a living being with thoughts and feelings of its own. The tree responded by becoming the healthiest, most beautiful copper beech in the entire town. It became such a well known landmark, that people used it in giving directions as in: ‘Turn left right after the house with the copper beech in the front yard. You can’t miss it!’
The beech had wide, low growing branches that made it an easy tree to climb. The slightly saggy looking bark of the putty colored trunk resembled one foreleg of a giant elephant. Its branches swayed gently in the wind, evoking Martha’s favorite fantasy of being a circus rider, swaying gently atop the elephant’s back as it walked in the parade. She spent a hundred afternoons hiding out from her mother in the cool shelter of the beech, her imagination wild with limitless possibilities.
The cruel bolt of lightning split its trunk wide open down to the ground, sending splinters a hundred feet in every direction. Except for one other, that was the only day Martha saw her grandfather cry.
“I’m sure glad your gramma didn’t live to see this happen,” he said softly.
A tear followed one of many crevasses in his weathered cheek to his chin. Martha reached over and took his frail hand in hers, giving it an affectionate squeeze as they gazed at the shattered corpse.
The memory of that day clung to Martha with the suffocating weight of a heavy blanket she couldn’t quite seem to cast off. Barely a year had passed and now Grampa was gone, too. She closed her eyes. The breeze danced over her skin and lifted strands of her long, blonde hair, tickling her nose and cheeks. The sound of rustling leaves filled her ears. Through closed eyelids she saw peeks of cobalt sky between coppery brown leaves fluttering like the wings of small songbirds.
“Martha, honey, it’s time to go.”
John’s voice sounded softer than usual. His warm hand on her bare arm felt reassuring.
“You had the most serene look on your face just now. I hated to disturb you,” he said.
“I guess I’m beginning to understand.”
“What Gramma always said. She said that the people and things that matter most in our lives live on in our memories. They’re a part of our souls, and nothing can take them away from us. I never realized how true that is until today. And I know it sounds silly, but I think that wherever Gramma and Grampa are, the beech is there, too.”
I was tearing up too. This is so touching. I know I will read it over and over.
Barbara, this is absolutely beautiful. I cried, but it felt good because it made me remember the loved ones that I have lost. Your descriptions are stunning. Thank you so much for this beauty, even if it John and Martha are central characters. Perhaps they deserve this dose of good press. Thanks again my friend.
Wow! Thank you both!
beautiful read will remember the lesson. Your thoughts and writing are right on. beautiful.
Beautiful and emotional piece. Well worth the read. Nicely done.
Martha perched on an old beech stump with strands of her hair blowing into her eyes. She squinted, grimaced, and sent a puff of air upward to stop the tickling. Chin up, she ignored the three men around her who fidgeted and kept shooting her dirty looks.
John slouched on a rotting log, wondering if the thing was dry or if he would stand up with a big round wet mark on the rear end of his skinny jeans. The breeze ruffled his mohawk, but he’d put so much hair gunk on it that he knew his blue hair would stand up until the end of time. The wind was flicking his six eyebrow rings in a way that made him grimace and wonder why he hadn’t put something heavier up there–rivets perhaps, or a row of studs. Why had Martha booked the band up here in the woods, anyway? This back-to-nature thing of playing under a no-sided circus tent was all wrong. They were an indie band, not a bunch of eco-warriors. He narrowed his eyes and smiled, imagining Martha trying to walk on dirt with her five-inch platform boots.
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle