Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Sad (07/26/07)
TITLE: The Broken Branch
By Joanne Durrett
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The scarred tree to which it belonged was about thirty years old. He knew exactly where it stood now. He could see it, standing there limbless, forlorn. It was as if it felt its loss.
He thought of the numerous times he had made it sensible, this degradation, by carving and shaping and creating something beautiful out of limbs like these. It was a miracle, this workmanship. Like raising the dead.
He slid his fingers around its curve and pulled the limb closer, until it thudded against his chest as he walked. He embraced it, as if to repent for what he was about to make of it.
It was an unusually cloudy day, and he wondered if the broken tree would stand up to the approaching storm. He already knew it wouldn’t. It was as if this final limb, struck off in fury, carelessly, quickly, had sapped its will to live. And yet, there was a sad kindness in its release, a surrender, a “not my will…”
It was an unusually hot day, the wind seemed to be building up its fury somewhere far, to launch it mercilessly in one chaotic bundle. The only breeze he could feel was his own hot breath as he heaved and gasped, his chin almost touching his bear chest under what seemed the weight of the world. The limb was heavier with every step.
One more turn, one more turn and he would be home.
He staggered out of sheer disbelief when he lifted weary eyes to the mountain ahead of him. He had climbed this hill so many times he was sure he knew every rock, every cleft, every crevice, but somehow it had never seemed so looming before.
One step at a time. It was how he had brought every other limb home. One step at a time.
He was high up now. He knew what he would see if he opened his eyes, but he was so, so tired. He stretched out his arms and leaned against the limb, exhaling a long, troubled breath.
He saw it now, the scarred tree, standing alone in the garden. The storm had arrived there. The wind bellowed and circled it like a mocking pretender, prolonging agony in its last moments of life. He wanted to scream over the hills and streets and crowds and uncertainty until his voice caught it in the pit of its pain, “I see you!”
But there he was powerless, abandoned, broken. “Not my will!” And now, finally, he wept, billowing sorrow, unreachable sadness, insurmountable grief. Torrents of tears burst from his eyes and tore into the soil below making his knees muddy. His hands, digging into the earth from which he had formed this aching body, found the strength to raise it up again.
And from bitter tears flowed fountains of living water, and the tree of Life, scarred, limbless, rose from the ground and said, “It is finished.”
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