By Nate Welsh ’22
A farmer once owned a vast expanse of land. He, along with his sons and a couple of hired hands, worked the land, planted the crops, cared for the livestock. Much of his acreage comprised pastureland, throughout which one would frequently find a few of his sheep, perhaps. A pastoral scene if there ever was one, I think. Past.
& one day A farmer chose to plant throughout his property 10 saplings “as a symbol of longevity,” he claimed. They were a purchase of his wife, you see, and she, upon purchasing them, did realize that she had no use for them. Yet – Qui Transtulit Sustinet. & so the scaffold of symbolism was erected. & these 10 trees (oak) commenced to grow.
1) Dead on arrival. Malnourished sapling tolerated not the wagon ride up from – or perhaps down from – when and where oak saplings are grown. <<Hayas que regarlos muy a menudo incluso mientras estás en camino tal como Dios lo hizo por nosotros,>> dijo el caballero al otro.
2) 10 yrs. 4 mos. 2 days. A temerarious youth (the youngest daughter of A farmer) lays waste to with a trample of fütstep. Whoops!
3) 24 yrs. 6 mos. 21 days. Could not weather an unusually wind-filed T-storm.
4) 24 yrs. 6 mos. 25 days. Freak accident and/or design of nature – as some four months before, a red maple fell from the woody outskirts and landed up the adolescent, exposed sapling. It fought – it failed.
5) 28 yrs. 7 mos. 4 days. Unrelated –> died, A farmer did, the very next day. Oh, but this one was trampled by wildlife. The tree, not the farmer. Impressive, given the tree’s age. & it was at this point that no one remained to keep track of the saplings of oak. But, spread throughout the land, some grew, unbeknownst to us.
6) 56 yrs. This time, with feeling! The tree was masticated by an invasive species of beetle from some exotic foreign land. A whole colony of them, actually. Messed up the flow of water through the tree’s battle-hardened xylem. Down by the river this one fell – across the river, actually, although the river really would be better classified as a modest creek, albeit one that perpetually maintained its water level, it seemed then. This tree had seen all sorts of flotsam on the river over the years – twigs, decaying muskrat corpses, even a drowned turkey vulture once, actually. As it fell, it traced a sweeping arc straight over a crumbling stone wall A farmer had erected o’er on this side of the river and – need I repeat myself? – landed on the other side of the river. As A farmer’s children’s children grew young they quite enjoyed using this tree as a method of territorial egress – one pair of tiny boots and outstretched limbs after another would scurry across, always deftly balanced, never falling in. The river truly wasn’t all that much to write home about, really – practically an arroyo. And but after a year or two of the arrangement the somnolent oak simply left one fine morn, its lifeless form incapable of remaining supine across the mighty stream given in weekend [sic] state for very much longer at all. It was over the winter that this did transpire, and the boys & girls with the miniature galoshes and lanky arms did not even notice until the spring, when they quickly set themselves to the task of building their own bridge across. They pushed rocks from the decrepit rock wall into the river to form stepping stones, or tried to, but it was quickly concluded that the river was much too deep. That day, they resorted to wading across to scamper o’er the neighbor’s land. It isn’t known what they did on the day after that one, but they certainly gave up the pursuit by the time they grew to be immature.
7) 79 yrs. 3 mos. 3 days. Was removed by an aspiring landowner. It is worth mentioning here that A farmer’s original tract has been split up into a couple dozen parcels crisscrossed by roads with homes like “Maple Street” and “Fern Road” and bespeckled with houses, somewhat more densely so in some parts than others. And but so this particular tree lay on one William Danforth’s property in a location he figured would be ideal for not his house but the house of several other nice people with similar but not identical names. He saw the value of his plan and he saw the man who owned the business that knocks out trees like tree number 7 but he did not see tree number 7.
8) O, the simple things we tell ourselves & tell each other to stay awake & alive. Reclining beneath this tree, two lovers. Framed against the setting sun, their position on opposite sides of the tree reads like a Polaroid snapshot. Perfect.
“…and what became of the dinosaurs, even? What was it about them? And how do we reconcile their presence?”
“Lover, I don’t know.”
“The leaves are stirring anon.’
‘They jostle in this perfunctory breeze.”
“They remind me of you. Of me. Of us. How we glide – waltz in tandem for this sparkling moment we call here–“
“And now? And forever?”
“And now. And for as long as we so live, lover, let me never lose sight of your eyes.”
“Lover let me be the leaf and you be the branch & I will supplicate forever under your bend & your bow.”
“Lover let me be the wind that passes through. Or let me be the breeze that you ride upon. Or let me be the leaf by your side, and let’s the breeze be the winds of time. And let us float, discrete and jointly, wherever God may so dare take us.”
“Lover let me take you back. Lover feel the heat upon the heath. Lover I’ll keep you from harm. Keep you safe in my arms.”
“Lover how I am you. Lover how I need you.”
“Lover hold me tight.”
“Lover love me”
“Love me so”
A week or so following, this tree was felled by a bevy of beavers. Date unk.
Attached below is an excerpt from an assignment that one of the freshman you are advising
turned in. Its content is disturbing, and I have edited out some particularly offensive sections. I
expect you to take appropriate disciplinary action, including asking the student in question to
seriously consider whether she is the proper fit for this class or even this institution.
Disappointing! Worrisome, even!
Dr. Potkins, PhD, EdD, BA, MA, AA, GED
Libby MacGhee Co-Associate Professor of Creative Writing (soon to be Associate pending
resignation of Dr. Schwartizon!)
Assistant Girl’s Intramural Squash Captain
“Day 1: Getting to know you
Considering everything you know about fiction writing – every book you’ve read, every word you’ve penned (or typed, more likely! Ha!), every life experience you’ve had – how would you measure your perceived preparedness for this course on a scale of 1-10? 10
Explain your answer:
A wise man once said something along the lines of “all I know is that I know nothing.” And perhaps, upon seeing the 10 I put in response to the previous question, you presumed that my rationale would be that rationale – that I profess an acknowledgement of my inherent, human shortcomings and that I have come here brimming with enthusiasm and ready to learn. Or perhaps you hypothesized that I am simply full of myself – “too big for my britches.” But no, the answer lies elsewhere. As you will soon discover throughout our time together, the truth is that I am simply cognizant of all things. No thoughts, deeds, or actions may pass unperceived by me. I know that back in college, back at Northeastern, you dreamed of becoming some famous author – writing some heavy-hitting, thought-provoking, effete yet encyclopedic tome & then using the profits to buy a modest cottage somewhere up in Maine and living out the rest of
your life cracking out hit after meaningful hit. And I know that on the day you finally decided to go through with the divorce you thought back to this fantasy of yours and broke down and wept in your then-husband’s Buick. I know that you despise yourself (as many do), and that you despise what you’ve become (viz. the epitome of mediocrity, or, more accurately, of non- greatness). I know that you feel less than the sum of your constituent parts. I know about your [REDACTED], and I know that you are only beginning to [REDACTED]. I am more than you; I am better than you; I am certainly, without a mother[REDACTED] doubt better than every single person in this room, at this college, in this city, in this state. I am more powerful than all human life force on this planet combined. I am a whirling vortex of matter and rotten apple pies baked at an orchard ten miles from the cottage that could have been yours in rural Maine. I am more powerful than that cottage too. Know why? Because it doesn’t exist. But I do. Oh, I do. I am all observable fabrics in the fabric store at the mall woven together into a torpid yet graceful being 60 feet tall that floats around the mall, terrifying and terrorizing the four customers in the Macy’s. I am a large stack of dogs that reaches to the heavens and then reaches past that until the stack meets the true limit of space and time, and I am the little chihuahua at the top of the stack that licks that ceiling, lightly at first, then rapid-fire, until my saliva melts the seam and the stack continues once again to grow. You do not know me. But I know you. I am your mother and your father, and I am your grandparents who emigrated from Belarus, and I am your genetic ancestors who were all like “ooh-ooh aah-aah” in some moist caves somewhere in southern Europe. Actually, not “somewhere.” I know the exact location, because if I haven’t made this clear yet, I both know and am everything. Except…
Well, I suppose that brings me to why I am here. You see, you are the first piece of matter in the entire observable [REDACTED] that I can definitely state that I have no control over. I only discovered this because I was doing some standard spot-checks the other day and I tried to give you tinnitus in your left ear and I realized that I couldn’t do it. This fascinated me. Are you a sort of trans-transdimensional being, Potkins? If so, explain your answer. Maybe we could be friends. I would spy on you and try and figure these things out but I am in fact the summation of everything else in the universe and therefore am not particularly afraid of any potential fallout that may arise from taking a more direct approach and assuming a form that might permit me to enroll in this class and meet you directly.
I guess the question was about my writing experience. Yes, I have written and spoken every word of English (and all other known and unknown languages) ever conceived through every mouth ever conceived. Except yours, I guess. So yeah, I can write. Deal with it. I think this tangent has detracted from my statements above viz. my knowing everything about your life except for why I can’t give you tinnitus just by nature of my knowing and being everything. I’ve been told that I’m a pleasure to have in class (well, I was telling myself that, but still); I hope to continue the process in this classroom, which, once again, I might remind you, is me. Not like it’s my skin, or anything. No, I have no skin. I am a church, I am a microwave oven, I am 530 identical coffins which can be bought for varying prices at various coffin stores around the contiguous United States, which is also me (the coffin stores, that is. I am not the contiguous United States, because I am not you). Let me be you! Or let me be your friend, and we could dance on rooftops and stare menacingly out at the world and you could be a shard of glass flying through a wedding reception and poking the father of the bride in the left eye and I could be the eyepatch he wears for a few months afterward. I have nothing else to say to you right now.
One more question: Would you consider yourself truly eager to learn this semester! Answer
truthfully! (highlight one)
I am tree number 9. I grew, and then I ceased to grow. But that was not the end.
10) Uh-oh! We have made an accounting mistake of sorts. It appears that A farmer’s wife only bought 9 saplings. This is lamentable. We will have to dance away our sad feelings at a party or fiesta, preferably one held in South Dakota or the jungles of Thailand. Or perhaps there is a tenth sapling somewhere, and we simply cannot find it! How silly! Could you help us look?