A Waiting Thing
by Margaret Lyons
It had been lush with leaves growing thick from the spindly fingers of its branches in greens of different sorts. I moved to Chilford in the last days of summer, and a speck of sunlight could not be seen through the tree’s impenetrable beauty when I arrived, except here and there in the tiny diamonds glimmering around the edges where its denseness grew gentle and more sparse. I’d been glad when I discovered the tree from my window. It was like something of home.
The indomitable green had given way—as it must—to the unrestrained, unprotected vibrancy of fall as the tree poured the last of its strength into becoming a quiet fire on the hill. It drew the eye to it possessively as, one by one, the grasp of its leaves weakened and they fell to the ground from the branches to which they’d clung. The ground hardened into November and the tree hardened into a waiting thing. The gentle shock of the fall colors on the ground had long blown away when the men came at last to cut David Anderson down from the heaviest branch.
Kids taught in their classroom about the days not so long ago when church burnings and lynchings occurred in plain sight had imagined up a new form of play. It lasted the afternoon, and before dinner David Anderson was dead. “You can be the black boy,” they’d hollered tauntingly, and he’d been pleased to have his turn at last.