There was a young man who lived in the shade of a tree. The young man lived from the fruits of the tree. Try as he might, the man could not wrap his hands around the gnarly trunk of the tree. It had stood here for centuries. The man picked its sweet apples in the Autumn. Took its fallen branches in the Winter and built a great fire to keep warm from the bone cold. In the Spring, when it burst into leaf, he would make tea from a leaf and then seven of the first blooming leaves and place them on doorsteps of the townspeople to proclaim the end of Winter.
Once he even took first blooming leaves to town, and placed two on the doorstep of the girl he wished for. And she fell deeply in love with him.
At the end of the hot Summer days, when the man leaned against the tree happy with his lot, the tree sang to him. Deep chains of baritone notes from the trunk belly strung on the sky, and the man smiled. Truly this was bliss.
All the good things bloomed under that tree year after year. The tree gave shade to the man, the man conversed with the tree.
One day, the man decided he needed to build a house for his wife to be. Knowing that he would need some help, the man asked the tree for some spare wood for the spine of the rafters. The tree said, but of course, take one of branches. It’s old, and a little wiry but true and will give you shelter against the cold and wind. The man protested, but took the proffered branch. If the tree didn’t need it, sure he’d take it. And he did. The branch was perfect for the roof. The man took the branch and shaped it with an old axe. The tree and the man were happy.
The man finished his home and moved in with his new bride. Seasons flutter by. The man, the woman and the tree lived above the town and all was well. Fruit was picked, dropped wood gathered and Summer nights sung.
And as time fell away, the tree would scrap its arms against the window of their newborn daughter singing bawdy sailor ditties and telling her stories. As the child grew, the man and the woman most of their time in the house tending to the child and planning to build a bigger house for the family.
So, when the Spring came around, they began to gather all of the first blooming leaves, the tree asked what they were doing. Oh, we need to sell these said the man. We have a baby now, we need a bigger house as she needs a bedroom. The tree understood, but told the man to buy a little more food for the Winter. The man agreed. The tree reached down its branches and the man took the first blooming leaves.
The man, his wife and the baby took the leaves to the town and knocked on every door. At first people we delighted thinking they were gifts, but when the man and wife asked for money, the leaves turned old and yellow falling to bits in their hands. The townspeople were horrified and closed the door in their faces. Door after door, house after house. The first blooming leaves turned to dust.
The man and his wife stomped home, baby in tow. The man went to the tree and asked it how could it do it them. They were family. They needed the money. The tree said it didn’t know the leaves would die. No one had ever sold its leaves. It apologised to the man. The man stomped inside his little house. The tree was sad. Its one friend was angry at it.
The next morning, the man made blooming tea as usual, but the taste was off. It sat on him like a pile of bricks. That bitter taste sat in his mouth, down to his belly for a day, all night and for a week later. The man decided that the tree did it to him and stopped drinking the tea. He noticed the bitter taste became a numb tingle that moved from belly to arm to hand.
Weeks slide by, and month. The man nursed his pain, and only left his house to pick up fruit the tree dropped or get water from the well. The man found the numb tingle in his hand grew to a pain, but when he touched someone or something, it eased.
By Autumn, the harvest on the tree was thin and bitter. But when the man touched hard fruit which ripened and made the fruit sweet. The family rejoiced. Even in a tough harvest they could eat well.
The man repeated this miracle nine times over and the family rejoice, but by the tenth time, the fruit turned the fruit rotten. But it wasn’t just the fruit, when he touched people at first they felt a dull heat and then nothing at all. They were sad or angry but they didn’t know why.
The more the man gave his numb pain away to fruit to people, the faster and stronger the pain returned. It gave his hands black veins stringing up his arms. The more he gave, the more relief he enjoyed and then mourned. Food did not taste right. Water had a bitter edge. The sun could not sit in the sky without stinging his eyes. His wife and babe could not speak to him properly. After too many harsh words, too many silences and too many lonely meals as a family, the wife and babe packed up and left. The man lived alone. The tree saddened by loss of the family, weeped.
By Winter’s touch, the man hadn’t left the house in weeks. Candles burned dimly and then not at all. Between bouts of not caring for the man, the tree cared too deeply. It worried the tree.
One day, in the cold mid-Winter with snow upon the ground, the tree slept as it usually did dreaming of the shape of blooms to come. A loud shout roused the tree from its sleep. Who goes there, asked the tree. The man replied, it’s me. I’ve come for your tears. The tree was surprised. The man looked terrible. He was gaunt, his eyes sunken. His left hand was completely black with green fingertips, soft and gooey. The tree settled on his right hand, and the dull axe in it.
The tree begged for its life. I’ve been a good friend, and you’ve been a good friend. We’ve lived on this hill for years looking over the town, giving joy and fruit. The man said it wasn’t enough, he was poisoned by the tree, who doomed his blooms for sale, turned his family against him. The tree began to protest, but it was too late, the man swung the axe. He struggled on the dense trunk, but cut it down.
As the tree fell, the man gather its tears and put the sap into a bowl. He spread a drop on his hand, which healed for a minute before doubly rotting. In despair he cut off his rotten hand and another grew back. But this new hand was hard. He felt better, the pain was relieved. He went to bed and dreamt happy thoughts. Things would be better in the morning.
In the morning the man woke up, but could not get out of bed. He was stuck. He legs had turned to root, and planted his feet right into the ground. By top, he was a man, and past his waist he was pure tree. He tried to move, but it was impossible. He could not shout above a song. Night came, and he was all tree.
The days drew by and the weeks until Springtime, and the wife and babe came back to the house to check on the man but they could not find him. Instead stood a small tree in the middle of the house with blooming leaves. They took one each, and cried a little. Outside from a fallen winter Autumn seed, a child of the great old tree took root.