30 December 2011
This week's Monday Morning Flash Fiction Challenge is an interesting / disturbing picture of a tree.
I'm thinking Ents. I'm thinking druid sacrifices. I'm thinking this story about the origin of the Christmas tree.
But if you look at the bottom of the picture, there's a tiny boat with two figures poling through the water. And I can't help wondering - what do they think about that giant tree?
Joe crossed his arms in an X, compressing his chest, then rolled his shoulders back, drawing his elbows and fists up until he looked a chicken flapping its wings. The long pole locked in his right fist bobbed unevenly as he loosened the tight muscles in his back and shoulders, and Cal swore as he dodged the flailing end.
"Watch what you're doin' with that thing, you idiot!" he told his brother. "Ya 'bout took my head off!"
"Sorry." Joe's voice was low. "I'm gonna need a rest pretty soon," he added, the words coming out on deep sighing exhale.
Cal made a face at his brother's back. Wimp. He'd been doing far more than his share of the work the whole time they'd been out. He'd like to have sat back and told Joe to suck it up, but they didn't have time. Harvest had been scantier this year and they'd spent longer out in the swamp than they'd planned. They only had hours to get to pick up and Cal was starting to worry. The last thing he wanted was to get stuck in this wet snake pit for the next year.
"Fine." He deliberately kept his reply short, letting his tone do the talking. "I'm standin' up."
He waited until Joe was seated before standing. Dipping his pole into the water, he pushed against the firm surface under the mud, using the strong muscles of his back and legs to drive the boat forward as quickly as he could.
There was a rhythm to poling. Pull up against the suction, letting the motion of the boat help. Thrust down at the right moment, when the forward impetus was just starting to slow. Feel the pressure of the push against your palms, carrying up through your biceps, down your back to your legs and the soles of your feet. Pull up again and wait for the right moment again.
He lost track of time, concentrating on finding the next spot, the clearest way to go. He was so focused on the path in front of him that he jumped and nearly lost his pole when Joe spoke up.
Cal looked up and to the right. Sure enough, there was the old tree, suckers sticking out from either side like arms, making the monster look like a giant pushing itself to a stand. He realized his shirt was melded to his skin with sweat and his arms, now that he'd come back to awareness, were trembling.
"Your turn. Just around the corner up there."
"Yeah. I remember. Other side of the tree."
Cal dropped onto his seat a little harder than he would have chosen, rocking the boat as his knees gave out. Checking his watch he saw there was still an hour to lift off and grinned. Plenty of time.