“You don’t have to do that just yet, Midge,” Patrick said.
Margaret placed a box on the desk and squinted at Patrick, “No. I need to. I… I can’t keep seeing it…”
Her hands gravitated towards the plush penguin hidden among the clutter, squeezing it for a moment. She remembered when she had given it to Cyn.
“How did Cynthia-?” someone whispered from the other-side of the office.
“A tree… she crashed into a tree,” Margaret said, stifling a sob.
Margaret swallowed deep and steeled herself. This was going to be harder than she expected.
I’ve been quiet from Friday Fictioneers for a long time now, and that’s just from sheer laziness. I have been meaning to come back for so long. Hopefully, I can get back to a regular schedule! This is run by the wonderful, Rochelle, who weekly provides a photo as the means of a prompt. You have 100 words to write a complete story from that photo. You should totally come and join in the fun! If you like what you see, there’s even better stories available to read from that blue froggy, so click away. 🙂
Whispers and the occasional shh outside woke Charmaine from her slumber.
With a sigh, she stepped out of bed, slid on her slippers, and wrapped a robe around her tired shoulders. Wrinkled hands stared back from under the long sleeves, and Charmaine muttered under her breath.
It hadn’t always been like this. She was young once, and things had been so much better back then. There used to be a time when no one would dare trespass on her property. When did kids become so disrespectful?
The gate to her garden rattled just outside her bedroom, and she contemplated how best to punish the children. The two boys, she thought, from the squish of their shoes and the slight baritone of their voices, were becoming more brazen with every passing minute. They weren’t even trying to be quiet anymore.
The tiny thieves would learn their lesson.
Charmaine considered her options: skewered, baked, barbecued. But it all seemed like too much work now. She was no spring chicken after all, and her days of roasting children were long gone. No. She needed to teach them a lesson that all their friends would hear about. It was time they feared her again.
She threw open her balcony doors. On the garden path, just by her favorite tree, the boys stood, pockets bulging from their pilfer.
“Thieves!” Charmaine screamed.
Her voice was raspy – foil-crackled rough -, and she reminded herself to have some tea with honey later to soothe it.
The boys turned toward her, mirthful eyes changed to panic-stricken, and they began to run towards the gate.
She glared at the pair for all of a second before snapping her fingers. A puff of smoke consumed the space around them. As it faded, two toads stood where the boys had been. Clothes and gummy bears were scattered on the garden path around them.
Charmaine floated down to stand in front of them. They croaked and hopped around, unsure of how to do either. It continued until they knocked into each other and fell onto their backs. Their legs kicked and kicked, but they weren’t going anywhere.
She picked them up and walked them out onto the street.
Charmaine grumbled and thought out-loud, “I really ought to get rid of that gummy bear tree.”
“Ribbit!” they agreed.
She placed the pair on the ground and stepped away. “And stay out!” she cried.
As everyone on the street turned to look, Charmaine snapped her fingers again. The townspeople gasped as the toads transformed back into little boys, only this time minus their clothes. They both made tiny yelps, jumped, and covered their privates before running away screaming.
The crowd laughed and mocked the pair, ignoring her. She chuckled as she walked back to her manor. Maybe keeping the gummy bear tree would be a good idea, after all. That was the most fun she’d had in a while.
It stood in the northwest quadrant of the front yard – this terrifying tree of unknown origin. It could be seen from every window of our bedroom and the living room, and it looked like a giant clawed hand. We called it the scary tree.
It was an important distinction. There was the boring tree, which couldn’t even be climbed because the limbs were too high up. The crepe myrtle tree bloomed and caused Momma to sneeze every Spring. The climbing tree in the backyard was our favorite, and the giant tree, that cast a shadow on the house every afternoon, would kill us all if it ever fell.
There wasn’t anything special about the scary tree. It was quite normal during the day, but at night, it was a giant beast, clawing its way back to the earth from somewhere beneath us. We spent many a night averting our eyes from the windows only to hear the scratch of its branches outside. We imagined it coming for us, not because we were terribly naughty, but because we’d seen Poltergeist, and the only things scarier than clown toys were trees in a storm and possessed fathers, a la #2.
Locked in our room together, we’d huddle in a corner away from it, away from everything we feared, but we couldn’t escape it. It brought with it an intoxicating stench. When the lightning would crash and the wind would howl, we knew it was coming for us, or at least, someday it would. Until that day, we would be neither seen nor heard.
The scary tree was there after a late night return home when the silence in the house was not calm or pleasant.
The scary tree swayed at the sound of sirens at midnight or the sobs after a smack.
The scary tree convinced us we were worthless and needed to be taught a lesson, even when it never directly said it to us.
We wondered what life was like outside those four walls, but we never dared to leave or escape it. We just accepted it for what it was – a tyrant.
Back then there was more thunder and lightning than sunshine. (Or at least, that’s what my adult brain recalls.) Storms came frequent and fast, in trumpets and torrents, and we weathered them all – albeit frightened and alone in our little crowd.
The day came, though, when it all ended. The storm of our childhood started to settle down, and sunlight broke through the clouds.
Lightning crashed, shaking the house and our bodies, and the tree splintered in two sending a sweetness into the air. A soberness, as it were.
It wasn’t the same anymore. The claws, the sheer terror of it, was gone. But what it symbolized? That never diminished. It lingered there, a permanent reminder of the storms, until we moved and something else took its place.