Tuesday, May 24, 2011

the tree

For Sean D, and Mallory, and Me, and anyone trying to commit to (new) home. I've never written a short story before, here goes..

Mike pulled into the driveway. Plastic shovels littered the small front yard. Claire must have taken them to some activity. Mike didn't know when specific activities were, or what they were, but he knew there were activities. Before there were kids there were never activities. There was trivia night at the bar, but that was usually an accident. He stepped out of the car, grabbed his bag, shut the door, and tripped. Tripped over the root in the concrete. It belonged to the tree. When they first moved in they discussed removing the tree. It would keep growing destroying the driveway more. Its leaves were dead anyway. It would fall eventually, land on the garage or worse Katie’s room. If they took the place the tree would go, the bathroom would be painted, but then life happened. Mike looked at the blood on his hands, on the concrete. A small scratch on his palm, his nose bleeding. As a child his nose bled a lot, bled all over the H,B, and U keys in typing class in 7th grade. They just happened; nosebleeds, but he grew out of them.
Claire’s Dad offered to help them buy a place last year, closer to her folks' house, but somehow that conversation faded, and Mike didn’t mind. So they stayed in the little house with the tree.

The little house was a good location from Boeing, from their parents, okay schools, they hadn’t really researched, but how hard is it to f up kindergarten? They rented, in a neighborhood a little nicer than they could afford to buy in. Mike would like to say that was strategic, but it wasn’t. It was mentioned that eventually the old woman who owned it, and lived in Florida, would die and they would buy it, maybe.
Mike walked towards the garage, his nose dripping. Half of the things in the garage they inherited, Mrs. Silverman left them there, and that was okay. It always had been okay. Tennis raquets they never used hung on the wall, beach chairs, large mirror frames without mirrors; things Mike didn’t feel right touching. On the wall very high was an axe. He assumed it was Mr, Silverman’s axe, but didn’t know as Mr. Silverman was dead. What kind of man owned an axe? Perhaps every man did. Before. When you owned things you didn’t throw away. Now it’s harder to commit to things. You have to committ to an axe.

Was he committed?
Sure. He made a commitment to Claire at the Cape May court house, and later in front of their friends and family at the reception. He made a commitment to Colin 6 months later, and Katie. They were born weren't they? This all happened and he let it. They grew, they grew into the house, they grew into the rent payments, the repairs. They fell, fell into the SUV payments. He had lived here or fifteen minutes from here his entire life. And it was fine. It was a nice place, a place where people are smart enough and nice enough and liberal enough, and mind their own business. Pennsylvanians are funny that way, they have absolutely no state loyalty or consistent qualities other than being fairly nice, fairly sane people who are pretty much content to be so, and not have to tell you about it. And enough was enough. He never chose enough. He fell into enough. He fell into the house, eventually falling into the tree.
Mike slowly took the axe off the wall, carefully where the head met the stem, balancing on the ladder. As he approached the tree staring back at the little house it seemed to smile back. The little house with the vinyl siding and the plastic toys in the front yard. And as he flailed his body against the tree, he called to the little house ‘I choose you.’ The bark tore at his face as enraged he swung the worn axe. The axe itself ripping at his hands. ‘I commit to you’. His nose bled heavily, down his torn shirt, swinging and swinging and shouting, all the while smiling covered in blood. Smiling at the little home. Out of breath, hands grated, he finally hit the trunk, And as it fell the CRV pulled into the driveway, and the children started screaming

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