The elm is its own planet. It is something to be seen from far away. The trees glory in broken growth and bending plié. They blow bony witches’ kisses to the sky. Staring is impossible. There is no such thing as an unfocused eye when the elm stands with such poise outside the white crosshatch.
A horse screams outside the window. The rain has finished lashing like a starlet done with a carpeted step.
Roots weave up and out and run circuit wires of some incomprehensible network destined to humiliate men with their professional opinions and handheld devices. The roots are unconcerned. Where is the water? How far can it reach?
The hedgerows do not joke. The blackberries and apples appear on command but wait too long. They grow into the thorns and touch until the sharpness is part of the sweet. One pierce for one pick. An eye for an eye. They give each other permission now, they give leave to drop. An apple may thump to the ground and roll beneath the hedge and no eye may ever see its pink and green melt into buttery yellow. The shine and wax will rot. The golden age of apples will wane.
The horse screams again in a language only the others know. A tribal cry, a well trained vibrato blown off with the sodden leaves and straw. It mingles with dung. The scream is lost in the wind and mud and endless fields that are outlined with train tracks like a zipper around a pillow. The spring will change the cover and all shall be forgotten.
Think: a blast.
Think: a pearl to swine.
The trees preside. They respond in dry voice. It is not a scary whisper. A clear tone, a rising string of longing, it is definitely not a whisper. It is a breath held in the hands, cupped and treasured like the golden sap prized by ones incapable of a counterfeit. Perhaps it is an echo. The elm is speaking. The elm is dying. Its rings are concentric and complete. Its rings are over now. Had the elm been born a Viking it would be sent out on its raft of ancestors, its moveable feast of pyre fame. Had it been born to anything other than this lifted face of earth, this slow explosion of shade and staircase, it would have been discontented with quiet.
There is no renown in the end and the elm is not a Viking. It is only dying. Only patient and stretching in the winds it has battled and loved and endured foolish error. The elm’s roots grasp and claw but the elm’s branches, its arms, cannot help. The night is here and it is cold but the elm.
Think: green hall.
Think: the stag and the goat.
Flash Fiction by Christina Rauh Fishburne
Christina Rauh Fishburne is a writer, army wife, and mother of three currently living in England. She has self-published two novels, to the wide acclaim of her immediate family, and is at work on her third. She blogs at smilewhenyousaythat.wordpress.com.