Just for Fun: Kindling

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Kindling

By Rebekah Postupak

Written for Finish That Thought

“Watch out for that tree!”

I must have heard that a thousand times growing up. Funny, as integrated a town as ours was, you’d think we’d have put that sort of talk long behind us. But no.

“Go back to kindergarten, bark brains.”

“Make like a tree and leaf!”

“Hey, sap-head, your roots are showing.”

A few teachers intervened half-heartedly on the dryad’s behalf. Most, however, feigned deafness, and let the bullies rule the classroom as bullies have done since the dawn of time. Truth be told, we all felt a bit unsettled by her presence at times: the dark earthiness of her voice (the rare times she spoke); her languid gait – she seemed to move through the floor rather than on top of it; and the way her thick brown hair crawled across her shoulders even with classroom windows shut tight.

One summer a few of the older kids made a game of trying to find her tree, captained by two or three of the stronger vampires and the were-dragon, for whom trees of all kinds meant nothing but kindling. But our woods were wild and deep. No matter how feverishly the hunters searched, they inevitably came back disappointed and angry, dragging soulless but bruised saplings behind them.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” said the dryad quietly.

The hunters blanched a bit at that, but after a few days passed and nothing happened, they laughed it off and resumed their searches. It eventually turned into a regular village party of sorts, with a big barbecue to kick the hunt off each time. One of the grannies (a crazy-eyed phoenix whose burning day was waaay past due) even embroidered and sold t-shirts for the event. A picture of grinning logs on a bonfire sat just above the boldfaced words: “All Fired Up.”

The dryad watched all of this silently, even as the pile of saplings the hunters brought back grew.

A lot of the rest of us were watching, too, in disgust.

“It’s just not right, what they’re doing,” I told my parents over dinner one night. “Some of my friends’ parents are talking about moving.”

“It isn’t right,” my mother agreed. “A lot of us feel that way. She’s a dryad, for pete’s sake, not a gryphon or medusa or somebody who might accidentally burn down the sweets shop.”

“I wish somebody would do something,” I grumbled. “What if they find her tree?”

But nobody ever did anything.

And they did find her tree.

Or so we assumed, since one day the hunting party didn’t return. Some people looked around town for the dryad to ask her about it, but she seemed to have vanished too.

“That’s what happens to meddlers,” said my father. “You remember that. Keep your nose clean, you’ll do fine. Let trouble-makers take care of themselves.”

End of story, we thought.

Except it turns out the dryad had been warning all of us.

We really should have watched out for that tree.

***

497 words (max 500); first sentence provided by FTT

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4 thoughts on “Just for Fun: Kindling

  1. Perhaps it’s my age, but George of the Jungle keeps flashing in my brain! LOL

    Seriously, I liked this very much. Especially the description of the dryad…”moved through the floor…thick brown hair crawled across her shoulders….” Really lovely. I imagine that growing pile of saplings coming alive and taking out the whole town; those who bullied, and those who stood by, alike. I like the metaphor here, as I see it.

    • hahaha! thanks for the sweet comments–but I have no idea who George of the Jungle is, except I think it was a TV show?

      • Yes, can’t remember if it was from when I was a kid or more when my daughters were young. The theme song went, “George, George, George of the Jungle, watch out for that tree!” *SMACK* as he’s swinging from his vine. …I came to writing later in life….

  2. Really liked this story–the quiet knowing dryad vs. the bullies and those who should intervene but don’t. I did love the “Watch out for that tree” warning, especially since my house is in the woods, and I have a great respect for the power of trees. It worked on a lot of levels for me.

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