Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tree of Life

(Bernita's Weirdly Contest is running until midnight Friday, December 14, 2007. Folks are competing for a signed anthology contained her published short story, "Stone Child." Here is my entry (limit of 250 words) based on the picture she posted of blasted oaks in Sherwood forest. Be sure to check out the other contest entries!)

by Jason Evans

The man listened to the breaths. They hitched and struggled as the evening light cooled.

"I remember the day we came here. I was eight. It was the first time I fought with you. The first time I let myself get mad."

The breaths relaxed again and smoothed.

"You said I was fishing wrong. I wanted to do it my way, so I threw the rod and stomped off. I was ridiculous, but you let me go. You didn't chase me."

Outside the window, the lake rippled with the last glow of day.

"If we weren't out here, I could do it myself. That's what kills me."

The breathing thinned.

A breeze stirred.

"You know, the first catheterization I did, the blood vessels on the monitor reminded me of that book. The one you read to me about the trees of Sherwood forest. So many tiny twigs at the end of crooked branches. When I fed the catheter through the heart, I imagined climbing those trees. I still think of that. Another cardiologist thinks of rivers. He likes to fish like you."

The clock chimed.

When it finished, the ticking was huge and alone.

"I called you that night. You sounded so proud of me."

A siren lifted over the silence. Dr. Paul opened the door to tires crackling on gravel. The paramedics were shimmering color smeared on bare trees.

They ran toward his father stretched on the lake house floor.

Dr. Paul held out his hand. "He's already gone."


Anonymous said...

When he said his gone heart forgot to beat ...Thank you for shirng with us


virtual nexus said...

Brilliant. The details sink in on re-read.

Bernita said...

Thank you so MUCH, Jason!

SzélsőFa said...

I had to reread it to fully understand each expression and reference, that for, me seemed complicated at first sight.
It's quite full of poetic images, I'd say.

Jade L Blackwater said...

Jason and Aine, I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated The Clarity of Night with the "Bloggers for Positive Global Change" award from my Brainripples blog. Thanks for all you contribute to the writer's community at large. Congratulations!

Sarah Hina said...

"When it finished, the ticking was huge and alone."

And then he was gone.

Seeing the tree through two bent lenses. This piece was so quiet, so poignant, so profound.

Bernita, just give it to him already.


Jaye Wells said...

This was a wonderful, heartbreaking piece, Jason. I love how you intertwined the past and present to culminate in this one moment.

WH said...

What a fantastic ending! Great work.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Jason, I read Sarah, Vesper's and yours back to back on Bernita's site and I was so in awe! This was a wonderful piece. Made me teary.

Anonymous said...

Nasra, a potent compliment. Thank you. It's always a pleasure to have you visit. :)

Julie, I appreciate the close read.

Bernita, I'm happy to see the entries flowing in!

Szelsofa, I greatly appreciate the feedback. It's the best way for me to improve.

JLB, thanks so much! That was quite a surprise. I'll be sure to pass along the award.

Sarah, thank you for letting it unfold in the quiet. This was difficult for me to write. It's actually a terrifying situation for me to think about. Speaking last words to someone is an immense responsibility, for both people. What if I freeze? What if I'm conflicted? I stepped into the shoes of this character and asked myself, what if he just talked without thinking? What would he say? Maybe that's the best approach. One way or another, the right message will get across. (Of course, 250 words is really hard to convey this stuff. Great practice, though.)

Jaye, if I re-read something I've written a day or two later, after editing and editing, and it can still make emotion crash on me, I feel a real sense of achievement. This one did that for me. I see some others felt something too. It's an amazing thing to communicate this way.

Billy, with such tight word limits, I decided to write the end first. That was critical. I then knew how many words I could use for the speaking parts.

Ello, thank you for telling me. I got watery myself. Often, that happens when I'm writing, but not usually on re-reads. This time, I managed to get that impact I wanted.

Chris Eldin said...

I posted this on Bernita's blog:

Jason, this gave me goosebumps. An intimate tribute to the bond between a father and son. I'm speechless.

mermaid said...

Another thing I like about your writing is that you always surprise me at the end. I'm caught up in the storyline, and cannot even see what's coming. I guess that's what they mean by being in the present moment.

The relationship between father and son is so beautifully written. You go straight to the heart in such a short time. I wouldn’t doubt that you must also do this in real life.

Vesper said...

Difficult to read, Jason, because of the knot of tears it brings into one's throat...
Heartbreakingly beautiful, with much poetry...

I thank you for your kind comments on my story over at Bernita's. :-)

And what do katydids do, I wonder? :-)

Scott said...

I had to read this a few times too, but when I got it I was rewarded. One word: poignant.

Anonymous said...

Vesper, yes, I really enjoyed yours. So inventive! I loved the implications. As for katydids, they sing a quiet, mysterious call in the night. I can lose myself when I close my eyes and listen to them.

Scott, I appreciate the effort. I understand it's a bit minimalist.

Anonymous said...

Church Lady, I was humbled by your comment over there. Much appreciated.

Mermaid, in real life, yes, I am a bit different in that regard. Maybe Aine would be a better one to describe that though. Thank you for letting me know that the moment captured you. :)

Scott said...

The piece necessarily is minimalist, and that's the trick in so few words.

Sorry I'm not commenting over at Bernita's. I just don't have the energy to go through all the entries.