the reign of wise king Darius, the third.
unlike his illustrious predesessors (a cactus, and a , respectcely), Darius , the third of his name was an Aralia. a thread leaf aralia, to be exact. he took his throne amid a period of great turmoil. the untimely and suspicious demise of the medicinal sage Xerxes, the grand wazir, of the lower reaches of the eastern balcony left a power vacuum, was followed by fears of an encrochment of the relentless rosemaries. this was addressed without delay by the new soverign. the punitive expedition was not without cost, and through those dark early days, many of regal leaves were lost to the insurgants. however, with resolute action, the rosemary dominion was pacified, and for a long period, did not dare to tempt the wrath of the now well-established king. the hard summer that dollowed tis period of unrest was not without difficulty, but Darius presevered, and was sprouting new foliage and extending his dominion. he was not disheartened by the dry air of the winter months, nor its plummeting temperature. such was his grace, that under these harsh conditiobs it strived and made itself ready, and by springtime sprouted not one , but four new branches. such was the rapid pace of his spread, that despite the hardships which beset his reign, be they an unexpected buffeting of the palacial pot, dust, or even an ant infestation, he held his perch upon the balcony and did not yeild. from a young sapling, it grew through the hard summers and bitter winters until it reached the unprecedented height of three feet.
but it was in the midst of this prosperity that tragedy struck. as his foliage extended greatly beyond the meager resources of the palatial pot, yea, even causing it to often be unbalanced. it was then decided that he should abandon his old pot and enthrone himself anew in a new, bigger and more voluminous palace. commensurate with his acheivment and triumph. a well crafted, porcelain edifice was chosen and he was repotted, upon the jubilation of his third year of ascendency, in the early spring.
alas, the subsequent summer was particularly disastrous. it was as if the sun-god himself, choosing to strike against the benevolent ruler, out of jelousy and spite. with unprecedented heat waves, and possibly a difficulty to fully acclimate to the soil of the new pot, many roots succumbing, and with them an ominous fall of several leaves. the autumn regrowth, which charachrarized his early reign was not seen, and not a single new branch appeared. the leaves fell, one by one, and the mortal threat was quite apprent. but glorious onto the end, the mighty Darius, held on despite his illness, for most of the cold winter months, when even the rosemary succumbed en mass.
the reign of Darius the III ended in the early days of april, when the spring blooms outside, beneath his ascended 5th story realm. birds chriped and mated, and growth was renewed among the vassal ficus , gynko, and tangerine trees, and the myrtel thralls under them. such was his power, the he survived until a time of great prosperity and justice to his subjects. his death was silently mourned amid the budding cherry flowering.
The Christmas Tree
There once was an evergreen tree that lived alone in the forest. He was the only evergreen there, and he stood in a little clearing all by himself. His name was Christopher, and he was very lonely because all the other trees disliked him. They said he was a silly tree to stay green all year.
“Ha-ha! You look ridiculous covered with those silly needles!” they laughed and jeered, “That’s why no one will ever want you! You’re no good! You’re not good for burning, or building, or for climbing either!”
Christopher knew that what they said was true. People did not want him for their fireplaces, they wanted oaks, birches and maples. He would not be built with, because his sap was sticky, and for the same reason children did not climb him. They didn’t want their hands to get dirty.
Christopher sighed, and wondered if he really was useless? Could there a use for him, or would he end his days unloved, alone in the forest? The wind whispered through his branches, and the sun peeked from behind a cloud. The birds flew here and there, chirping out their melodies. The birds were Christopher’s only friends, and they liked to sit in his branches and sing on sunny days.
Christopher noticed that there were many birds out today. Seeing a sparrow of his acquaintance, he decided to ask him what was happening.
“Sammy!” Christopher called out. The sparrow stopped chattering with his friends and looked around. Spotting Christopher, he flew over and alighted on one of his branches.
“Well, hello, Chris!” He tweeted cheerily, “Isn’t it a fine day for traveling?”
“Traveling!” exclaimed Christopher, a note of worry creeping into his voice.
“Sure, my pals and I are flying south for the winter.” Sammy twittered.
“South! Why? Aren’t you guys happy here?” Christopher asked.
“Yes, but it’s getting too cold for us, so we’re flying down to the sunny south for the winter. We’ll be back in the spring! Though, I have been considering spending next year with my cousins who live a bit north of here.” Sammy told him.
“Why not stay? You could make it through the winter! You can build a nest in my branches! Just don’t go!” Christopher begged.
“Sorry, Chris! I’ll miss you, but I’ve got to go south, it’s in my blood. So long, Chris, I’ve got to get ready!” and with a last wave, Sammy the Sparrow flew off.
Christopher stood in silence. He couldn’t believe it; his only friends were leaving! Even if the winter birds came, it wouldn’t be the same. He knew, from what the other trees said, that the winter birds were all snobs, who wore winter coats, and strutted about in the snow. He would be friendless, and the winter winds would whistle, and the snow would fall, and he, Christopher, would be all alone! Christopher blinked back sappy tears and swallowed. He felt as if there was a knot in his trunk. His branches shook as he thought of his fate. Dying alone in a forest, friendless, alone in the winter cold!
Days passed, and flocks of birds flew overhead. A flock of sparrows went by, and Christopher recognized Sammy as one of them.
Now the snow began to fall, and the ground was white. Christopher’s branches were covered with snowflakes, and it clung to his needles.
All the other trees were drifting off to sleep and would stay asleep until spring. But Christopher was wide awake, and he was lonesome. The winter birds had arrived, but they didn’t seem to notice Christopher. He tried calling out to them, but they didn’t even glance his way.
Christopher felt as if the whole world was cruel and cold. He spent his time in silence, shivering in the cold harsh winter wind.
Then, one day when Christopher was feeling bluer than ever, he heard something. It was faint, and hard to hear over the birds chattering in the branches of trees, but Christopher heard it, nonetheless. It was the sound of children’s laughter. Here they came, a bunch of children, and two adults. The children ran towards him, shouting with joy.
“Look! There is a Christmas tree! We want this one! It’s perfect!” They cried, jumping up and down.
The adults laughed, and the man said, “All right kids, we’ll do this one.”
Christopher saw him bend over, and then felt something.
“Timber!” shouted the man, as Christopher toppled over.
“Ouch!” thought Christopher, “Well, at least the snow cushioned me.”
He felt himself be picked up. Then he was carried out of the woods. He saw a house, and he was carried up the walk, and inside. There he was placed in a stand, and a woman poured in some water.
“Please, Mama, can we decorate it now?” the children pleaded.
“Oh, all right.” the woman said, laughing.
Boxes were dragged in and opened. Soon Christopher was covered with lights and ornaments from tip to trunk.
The family stood back to admire their handiwork.
“You know what? I think this is the best tree we’ve ever gotten.” the Father said, with a happy smile.
“I think it’s perfect.” the Mother agreed.
Christopher never before had had such a wonderful time.
“The other trees were wrong!” he thought, “I am useful after all! In fact, if I didn’t stay green year-round, I wouldn’t be here in a warm house, with the best friends that I’ve ever had!”
Mom and Dad’s tree
The tree had been there for as long as Michael could remember. Planted in front of his childhood home, where his parents still lived, it stood three times as high as the house. He used to climb it when he was younger, he broke his leg from falling off, twice. He had also wondered if he would be able to make it to the top. To his nine year old self, it was there was a secret treasure at the top, like in his video games, but now he saw that there was nothing special about the tree top. Now that it had had fallen down unto the house.
The emergency team that came over were certain that it was the high winds that had caused it to tumble over onto the house, there were other trees that did just that earlier in the day. He sat on the porch as the team carried out his father on the stretcher. It seemed so sudden, mom had passed away just the week before, now it was Dad's turn. He pulled the blanket over his shoulders, it really did help. He followed team into the ambulance. His father was still breathing, short shallow breaths, and he had enough consciousness to refuse any treatment that the EMT's offered him. Even though the tree had smashed into his shoulder, there was bone sticking out, he refused anything for the pain. The EMT's were stunned, but they followed his wishes and just stopped the freeflow of blood, leaving the branch, which skewed him through the shoulder.
They were probably halfway to the hospital when his dad, who was nearly 70 years old, started speaking to Michael. "I guess it just is my time, I never wanted to live my life without her." He coughed a bit, causing some blood to spit out of the wound and his mouth, the EMTs looked very concerned. "I still don't know how you were able to live life without a partner. I would have died of loneliness years ago if I did not have her in my life. In fact, I don't think we every told you about how we first met. Did we?"
Michael replied. "Yes, you did, but I don't think this is a good time to recount it." He looked at the EMTs who were agreeing with him. "You need to stop talking so that you can rest. We can talk about this when you are better."
"No," he snapped backed. "I won't make it to the hospital, and I don't want to. I am going to tell you now. I was climbing this tree." He pointed at the branch sticking out of him. "When I fell, and hurt my ankle. I was only like a yard or too up. I was twelve, your mom, who was just a year older than me, had just moved in next door. Apparetly, she was watching me out of her bedroom window because only moments after I fell, she was there by myside. It might have been the pain too, but the summer sun shining through her blonde hair made her look like an angel. An angel with a golden halo. I was smitten." He paused smiling while looking at the empty chair to his left. "You look just like I remember darling." He then looked at the EMTs, "now let me die in peace." They all nodded. He then closed his eyes.
I fell in love with him so quickly that I thought it to be just an infatuation at first. When I saw him, I could feel my limbs surge with excitement. I watched as he effortlessly walked around the room, smelling the colorful arrangements while bending down to admire the ornate features. The slight smirk of satisfaction that spread along his lips caused me to hum.
"How much?" I heard him say, walking away.
"Those?" A woman shouted back.
I yearned for his response. I couldn't tell what he had been asking about. Moments later, nausea erupted through my core as I lost my vision. I panicked. What was happening?
"Thank you," I heard him say. Where was he?
"Sure..." I listened closer. Was that the woman?
"You'll like..." What was she saying?
"It's easy... bag should..."
Should bag? The bag should what? Ugh, nausea again. I tried to focus, but I felt faint. I was growing hot, and it was harder to breathe.
Bright light startled me awake. I must've fainted. The air felt better here. I could see trees through the glass. I had never seen trees that big. I was amazed at the sight. My heartstrings pulled as I saw him. It was him. I didn't recognize anything or anyone else, but it was him.
Every day since I'd arrived, I'd watch him walk back and forth. He stared at me sometimes, and I'd stare back. It had only been a few days, but I knew I loved him. He picked me. He would take care of me. I had dreamed of this.
Days passed, and I was so happy. I'd watch the trees, other people would come and go, and he was always there. Today he waved to me. He's never waved before. I'd tried to wave back, but my limbs felt stiffer than usual. Night came, and I was starting to feel unwell. The light woke me, and I began to worry. Where was he? He usually would have walked passed by now. My limbs ached and grew harder to move.
Three more nights came, and still no sign of him. I have become so weak that I cannot think straight. My breath slowed as I watched the trees. The emptiness was beginning to consume me, and I could feel my energy pulling towards the light. Where have you gone, my love? Everything has gone black and quiet.
Cool, wet waves shivered me awake to the light. I took a deep breath in, feeling my limbs plump and swell. My breath caught. There he was.
A little bit of green
Then some more leaves.
A few more leaves
red and green.
A weed wacker.
The Diary of Wilting
My eighth winter has passed, and I am unsure if I was the lucky one to have lived, or if my friends were luckier to have died. The contemplation of my own existence has become an annual routine of mine as survivor’s guilt bewilders many of my thoughts, and I now live each day burdened. There were hundreds of us in the beginning, but looking around as the snow recedes, it appears there is merely a dozen or so remaining, sparsely separated, and too far to communicate, thus rendering our survival to individual efforts. The reality sets in that my finding friendship had most likely died along with Marvin, my best friend, when the freezing winds of last year blew in. A shriveled pile lies where he once stood which causes me a torturous reminiscence every time, I look over to see him. I can still hear his muffled cries while he was buried under the pile of snow, and I damn myself for failing to appreciate the last time I saw him, as I never knew it would be my last. I held his hand beneath the soil until I felt his life wither away.
Marvin and I were born close together, and if we were not of different breeds, we would have been brothers. Having grown up next to each other, we shared the same food, took baths together, loved a good laugh, and danced wholeheartedly in the rain. We made everything fun and exciting never to miss a sun-filled day and never to forget the tickle of a bug on our legs. We played hard and often but my favorite times with Marvin was after our adventure-filled days. He and I laid in our bedding looking up into the twinkling sky and discussed what worlds existed beyond the stars. He was always the dreamer, quick to spark up a new and exciting idea and followed it with a magnificent story until we fell over out of exhaustion. In retrospect, Marvin was as worn out as I was, but he was thoughtful enough to allow me to nod off before he did; something that I now dearly miss. Then there was our mom, who the visitors called Anne, and some neighbors formally referred to as Anne-Marie. Marvin stored away a little extra love for her, always showing off and sure to look his best when she came around. It didn’t bother me much but they shared a bond that she and I did not.
Mom was a soft and gentle lady, usually adorned by an oversized and over-worn mesh hat. She almost always wore a bright colored sundress which emphasized her southern grace and it carried every bit of her charm as it flowed elegantly in the wind. She was a chubby lady but not overly fat. Her cheeks were usually flushed with a reddish-pink hue and her freckles scattered across her face similar to the stars Marvin and I observed each night. When she blessed us with it, mom’s voice could carry a tune, provoking the whole neighborhood to sway excitedly. Even the orchid family around the corner, notoriously temperamental, could not resist dancing. We reached our outstretched arms as high as we could as if attending a Sunday Baptist service. Our bodies especially vibrated when she would duet with the recorded sound of Bozie Sturdivant, her favorite gospel singer, who’s raspy tone emanated out of the kitchen windows and complimented her equally soulful melody.
“…when I hear that trumpet sound, I’m gonna rise right out of the ground”
“Ain’t no grave, can hold my body down….”
The words she sang motivated us to be as bright and beautiful as the sun shining above. Marvin became especially prideful as we grew older living thoroughly by her words whereas there was not a grave that could hold him down. He made it his mission to make sure the community as a whole stayed strong and positive.
Every spring Anne surprised us with new friends carefully placing each one in an empty spot next door to us, where others used to live. There was never a discriminating thought among the community members as we all were raised to be tolerant and loving toward one another. We grew accustomed to many coming and going over the years and it became an annual routine to mourn the losses of winter, celebrate the returns in spring, and always welcomed newcomers when mom brought them in. It was a small colorful town, and we liked it that way. At one point there were hundreds of us thriving in the community and though many times it became loud with chatter, it was quiet compared to the deafening noise that loneliness would later induce on me.
In what seems now a distant memory, those joyous afternoons became everything to Marvin and I, and we invariably reminded ourselves of them when faced with bad times, but they couldn’t protect us from the emotions of a soon to be dying mother. It’s was two summers ago when she discussed the diagnosis over a glass of iced tea with Janice, our nosy but loyal neighbor. Our love never diminished for mom even when her hair began to abandon her head as she eventually did to all of us. As time passed, she left more often and her visits slowed. Her overnight bags evolved into suitcases and the suitcases translated to more time away. Her plump and joyful self, shriveled quickly into a frail old woman, hunched over and toting pain with every step. She was barely recognizable to us. Marvin tried everything to make her happy. When she passed by, he reached out to tickle her leg, but he never could reach far enough to touch her. He tried to sing her favorite song, but his voice never carried far enough for her to hear. One day Marvin attempted to fake his own death to attract her attention, but she failed to notice his limp body on the lawn. The more she disappeared the more Marvin’s spirit slowly withered away and the worse off the community became. Marvin would weep himself to sleep at night, where we once embraced the skies, and he tucked himself into a corner when it rained, where we once used to dance and play. In the first spring of her absence, the communities’ demise had already begun, when half of the usual winter returners never came back. Our fears worsened when we received a visit a few short months later.
During an unusually cold summer day a few strangers wearing suits trespassed onto the property. Their presence paired well with the shivers that had already accrued in my spine. Eventually they scattered around the property. One began thoroughly taking pictures of the house inside and out, and two others stood on the porch behind us, discussing various measurements and suggesting selling prices. The final woman recited talking points from a paper in her hand preparing for what they called “future buyers.” It was then I knew we would never see our mom again. The elders of the community convened and concluded the same worry as I, that we indeed were being abandoned. Our theory was then hammered into the ground just before the strangers left with a sign that read, For Sale. This sent shock-waves of fear and depression throughout the entire village causing many to barely last weeks. I didn’t know where she had gone, nor what caused her swift decline, and as upsetting as it was, I didn’t have time to care. Maintaining a constant oversight of Marvin turned into a full-time job. To take his mind off the loss, I attempted to be the more uplifting and positive friend, a role he usually carried, all while the others were rapidly dying around us as if a plague had swept through our small town, and began systematically killing us. The hell we were enduring only exacerbated his pain and by the third snowfall my efforts could not restore his faith. He passed away from a broken heart that only a returning mother could fill. I tried to assure myself that I remained a good brother until the end, but continue to struggle with the failure of my ability to bring his mind back to him before he gave up.
I sat here alone, with little hope and a few distant colleagues that were visibly worse off than I. Being abandoned induced a discomfort that was all new to me. It was colder than the bitterest winter I had ever experienced, and my heart was drowning in tears with more water than a flood. I had begun to quantify what the pain of being the final survivor would feel like. My conclusion was an excruciating end to what once was a promising beginning. Over a time-frame I had stopped counting since winter, there have been a decreasing number of visitors coming by. Maybe it was days or perhaps months, but spring seemed it was just around the corner. The entire neighborhood was quiet, bleak, and dead as if our fate was already been foretold, and entwined with our ominous surroundings.
It struck me as odd that Monday was the sunniest day since the third Thursday last August, because for me it was the darkest day of my life. Monday, I intended to give up all hope and surrender myself to the natural world around me, whatever the outcome. I had almost reached a full spread onto the ground and it was only a matter of time before I flattened myself out and accepted my final recession into the earth below me. In what can only be described as a divine intervention, a familiar noise could be heard entering the street at the end of the block, and soon an unusual car pulled into the driveway unlike any I had seen. It stopped, and caused my curiosity to be the only thing that peaked while I remained hunched over, crooked, and dying. Two adults who seemed to be husband and wife exited the car and pridefully strolled over to the now faded and decrepit sale sign. They embraced each other with the same familiar love that I shared with mom and Marvin. Side by Side, they stared at the sign smiling from ear to ear. Their love and happiness were a refreshing sight to behold. A few whispers from the remaining survivors emanated behind me while we became distracted by two more humans who exited the car. They were tiny children in comparison to their tall and lengthy parents. The boy, and inspiring pilot, practiced flying a plane he held in his hand while he ran throughout the yard. His smaller sister chased close behind. The couple proceeded to double team the sign, one on each side. With quick success they ripped the sign out of the ground and then tossed it into the trunk of the car. The rustling and whispers grew louder among the community members as if new life was being injected into us. We all understood the importance of what their arrival meant, but I wondered how it would have been if Marvin held on a little longer, so he could be here by my side to share this moment of hope.
A couple days went by and my inquisitive nature delayed what seemed my inevitable death. I had been observing the family, who we still didn’t know the names of, but they were settling into their new home easier than one would expect. We were blessed with water rations given to us by the daughter, a chore that was ordered by her mom, but never-the-less a welcomed treat to our parched bodies. The elders had once again convened quickly declaring a promising future for the community. I however, was not so eager to make such hasty conclusions, even if the love from the family had become contagious to many of us. I was hopeful, but cautious.
I laid here waiting to be plucked from the only home that I have ever known. I cannot help but wildly assume, with my appearance being less desirable than it once was, that I was slated for removal by a sharpened spade later in the day. I quickly reminded myself that I had yet to be wrong, but secretly hoped I was. The new woman, showed up and splayed out a pile of familiar tools at our feet. I recognized them to be for digging and demolition, and strikingly similar to the ones our mom used years ago. My pessimistic side erupted in a conclusion that the community would be facing an entire extinction. The woman began her destruction by tearing up the earth around us. She scored our beds, scraped at our feet, and ripped out the innards of the previously fallen ones. She seemed to be playing with us similar to the way stray cats do a mouse, right before it is killed. The last remnants of our friends and homes were torn from all around us and replaced with a fresh new blanket of nutrient soil. She then dug holes that were scattered randomly about the bedding, and I keenly remembered this action as a positive one. My perspective of the event had begun to shift and so did my hope.
The woman left for a short while, but returned with a wagon full of what I earlier would have determined as our replacements. It now seemed more likely to be new potential friends. The community was ecstatic. The woman was just as careful and loving as my own mother. She reached into the wagon with a particular attention and selected a single rider to be placed into their new home. She started at the end of the line furthest from me, filling the holes in a pattern that moved its way in my direction. I couldn’t help but recall my mother on her knees conducting the same routine only a few years earlier. She adjusted the wagon and moved closer, a blue shimmer caught the sun just right and flickered at me through the wooden slats. A warmth filled me and my pain emptied from my body. The woman inched closer, continuing to grab new riders, placing them and tucking them in, then moving onto others. The town was now bustling with noise again and I welcomed it as it meant that we were safe. With every random selection she seemingly made; the tall, blue body still remained. I stood tall and proud ready to accept my new friend. I was anxious to learn about what made him or her happy. I didn’t want to replace Marvin, but the idea of sharing laughter again with a friend was overwhelming me with joy. At last, the woman, knelt down in front of me with the last blue flowering body in her hand.
“This one I chose just for you” the woman whispered. She placed Stacie, a Pansy like me, into her new home, next door to mine. A new feeling of love spread through my veins. Stacie shared a similar feeling, and we took the afternoon to learn about each other leading into the sunset.
Later that night, under the sparkling skies, I became the dreamer that my brother once was. I then told the stories of when Marvin and I would laugh and play in the rain, and when our mother would sing us her soulful songs. I knew then what it meant to never having a grave hold your body down. It was with our words and our stories that kept the memories of our loved ones alive, never buried, and certainly never forgotten. Stacie listened until she fell asleep.