lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
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This story was prompted by [ profile] chordatesrock, who wanted "The Other living among everyone else, pretending nothing is at all odd." Cloudiah sponsored it.  Thanks guys, and happy Xenothon!

The Tree That Wasn't

How long had that tree been there?

Maria had wheeled past this park every day for the past two years; it was on her way to work. Sure, she normally had her eye out for the vicious little dog across the street, but she could’ve sworn…

But there was no sign of the tree being recently transplanted. No dirt dug up, no equipment left out.

After a moment, she shrugged and rolled on, putting the tree out of her mind.

Until the next morning, when she wheeled by the park and found it’d moved.

Not far. If it hadn’t caught her attention the day before, she probably wouldn’t have noticed. But now one of its branches hung over the park railing, shading her from the sun. There had been no shade before. She was positive of that.

Could it have grown over the railing? But Austin had been in drought all summer, and the park hadn’t been watered for a while. Even the hardy yucca looked desiccated, but this tree’s leaves were bright and firm. Slightly reddish.

What kind of tree was that anyway?

She shook her head. She was being silly. It was just a tree. What was she going to do, call the park and say, “You have a tree you didn’t have Monday”? She’d sound crazy.


She glared at the tree. “I’m onto you,” she said, shaking her finger at it.

The tree stood there innocently.

Maria frowned and wheeled on, but this time, she didn’t forget the tree. It stuck in her mind, a cheerful reddish-green splinter. Her body made calls, ordered documentation, reorganized the patient files, but her mind was elsewhere.

She just hadn’t noticed it before. It was a fast grower. It was some new scientific experiment, tougher than yucca. She was thinking way too hard about this. For God’s sake, it was just a tree!

No it wasn’t.

By evening, she’d given up. Even if the tree did violate the laws of botany, there wasn’t anything she could do about it. Cranky and distracted, she left work and forgot about the dog.

The dog lived in the house across the street from the park with the tree. It looked like a Yorkie, but even smaller, and it was the most vicious, nasty little thing to ever walk the earth. Through statistical inevitability, its name was Muffin.

Maria knew the dog’s name because almost every evening as she rolled by, it would pelt around its yard yapping, howling, and frothing at the mouth until its owner shouted, “Muffin, sweetie, down!”

The command never worked, and the dog would continue hurling itself against the fenceposts, glaring at Maria like it was her fault it’d been named Muffin. A couple of times, it’d almost escaped, and Maria had started rolling past as quickly as possible.

But not now. Maria was still consumed with the tree, which had moved again. It had a bunch of branches over the railing now, like it was taunting her.

Maria thrust her chair towards the tree, hard enough to feel the burn in her arms. She didn’t know what she expected to do. Shout at the tree? Demand an explanation? In the end, it didn’t matter, because she didn’t make it.

With a howl of triumph, Muffin squeezed through the fenceposts and hurtled towards her.

Maria hastily tried to turn, but she was moving too fast and cut it too sharp; her chair skidded and crashed over. Dust blinded her, and gravel and concrete gouged into her forearms. With a cry, she tried to push herself into a better position to defend against the dog, frantically trying to blink her eyes clear—

She couldn’t see anything but a melange of color, but there was a sense of dark movement. A yipe, and the barking cut off, followed by a noise reminiscent of someone deboning a chicken, then beating it with a mallet.

Then silence.

Maria, still clearing her eyes, reached for the garden railing. Her arms were strong, and with that leverage, she managed to pull herself and her chair upright. Finally, the world came back into focus.

Muffin was gone. There was an ambiguous stain on the sidewalk, but maybe that had been there before. As for the tree, it had retracted all of its branches back over the fence, and to Maria’s eyes, it appeared to be trying its utmost to look ordinary and harmless. No, its stance had contracted, branches tight around it, almost like it felt guilty or ashamed.

Maria’s first impulse was to race home and change her commute. But then she took a deep breath and calmed down. The tree hadn’t hurt her. It’d protected her.

“Thank you.”

The tree did nothing.

“That dog was vicious. I guess it won’t be bothering anyone again.”

Still nothing. Maybe it’d worn itself out with Muffin.

“You can’t stay there forever, you know. Eventually they’ll figure it out.”

The tree’s leaves rippled, but it could’ve been a breeze.

“I live in a rough area of town. I could use a—” tree? Person? Thing? “—An entity like you. I’ve got water, soil. What do you say?”

The tree didn’t move. After a minute, Maria shrugged. Even had the tree shown a sign of agreement, she couldn’t dig it up or move it right that moment.

“Okay. Thanks again.” She waved and rolled on.

Odd, now that the tree had behaved unambiguously bizarrely, she felt much better. By the time she was home, she was humming. She rolled up, opened the gate…

…And the tree was there, wedged in her tiny garden next to the aloe vera like it’d always been there.

She smiled. “I’ll get you some water.” And she did.


Date: 2013-04-04 11:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] (from
You have a gift for writing!


Date: 2013-04-05 07:50 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It's a carnivorous Ent! :O

Great piece of flash here, people - in particular the classic flash shift at the end, with the tree's most unexpected response to Muffin's attack, and Maria's invitation.

I kept glancing at your tree pic when I read "The tree stood there innocently." ;)

You write really well. Flash is a hard form and your work is good.

Now to see if I can make out the anti-spam text, oy ...


Date: 2013-04-05 08:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, my! Very nice.
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