I had the whole day to myself so I wandered near and far. I discovered a gnarled old crab apple tree standing alone in a tiny clearing. Her boughs were drooping heavily beneath the weight of her fruits, and the sun shone upon her like a halo. It was all I could do to settle into the wild grasses and write of her.
A glow of happiness hangs about her and the birds have come from near and far to bathe in her ancient wisdom and sample her delicious fare. She greets them stoically, lilting a little in cool breeze. Her crab apples are almost ripe and I am tempted to gather a few to make jelly.
“What did you write?” she suddenly hissed as she sent a broken twig whirling at my diary.
I could only look at her aghast. I should never have written that bit about the jelly.
“I know what it is! I can hear it humming in the air while your scribble with your girl script. You wrote me beautiful and kind!”
I nodded silently.
“I am not beautiful and kind! I am terrible to behold, heartless, and cruel!”
“You don’t want to be beautiful and kind?”
“No,” her ancient boughs tossed about in indignation and perhaps a little bit of wind, sending the birds to wing. “I must be terrible and vengeful or else these awful birds will eat all the fruit I’ve spent all summer bearing. Greedy fools! All they want is my fruit but my seeds need it to grow into good strong trees! What good do they do me?”
“They do eat your fruit, but when they…um, excrete your seeds are scattered near and far, and many of them fall in excellent places to grow.”
“Well, they don’t eat sunlight like you, but they can’t store everything they’ve ever eaten either – they would explode! So instead they keep what they need and excrete the rest,” I fumbled to explain.
“Perhaps, but it offers as good a growing place as the fruit you’ve made for them, and they can travel within the bird a very long distance before they find the ground again.”
“Harrumph! And I suppose you think that it’s a good thing that I don’t get to watch them grow, do you?”
“Well, I never thought of it that way,” I conceded.
She grew quiet and distraught.
“Would you like me to write you terrible and ferocious, then?” I asked gently.
“Yes, if you don’t mind.”
The crab apple tree grew into a twisted monstrosity out of the earth. Her bark was thick and gnarly like something dead and dried up in the sun. The fruits she offered were as sour and spiteful as humiliation and defeat. Even the Wind was frightened to tickle her leaves, so they, too, grew bitter and lifeless in their stillness. Sun-worshipping clouds shielded the sun from her ugliness day after day for fear that the sight of her would pain that glowing orb of life.
Only the most foolish of birds or deer would dare to eat her vengeful fruits, for as soon as they were in their gullets, the fruit would twist the stomach into terrible cramps of agony. Not until the animal wished for death would they be well again.
Her early flowers were not the gay blossoms of spring, but rather a veil of tears from a funeral; full of the essence of despair. In autumn her leaves did not turn into beautiful crimsons or yellows, but merely crumbled into ashy dust in the absence of the Wind. A clearing lay about her in the forest, for no tree could find any peace as her neighbour and the forest itself drew back in horror of what they had discovered in her heart. She threatened them with fire if their boughs got too close, and poisoned the soil for their offspring. The whole of the forest was frightened of her, and no living creature ventured near.
“Is that better?” I asked her.
“Muchly, now be off with you before that song in your heart brings the chickadees along.”
The crabby apple now satisfied, I picked up my diary, but not before a sparrow lit upon her branches and helped himself to her fruit. I could hear her grumbling long after she was out of sight, and I tried very hard not to smile.