Sunday, February 28, 2010

George Up A Tree

A small man sat on a knoll of dried grass. If he looked closely at the ground he could see a few blades of bright green, but it was mostly a bed of pale yellow, and though he didn’t think about it too much, his body remembered the season and the wind and the reasons the ground was dead.
The hill looked down on a small village in the distance, and beyond the village was the sea. In the late afternoon light, the water glimmered like forgotten jewels. The man on the ground was round, nearly the same shape and color as a russet potato, and he knew it, people had made fun of him his whole life for it. Covering the sloping shape of his shoulders was a red and black checkered flannel coat, which was just heavy enough to stop the gentle breeze that blew through bare branches. He looked up into the branches above him and saw the familiar shape of a young man.
“Are you ever going to come down from there?” There was no answer, just the sound of the wind blowing between them.
After a long pause, he said, “did you hear me George?”
Still, there was silence.
The man called everyone George. He had discovered early on that he could never remember a name, and in the village, it was rude not to address people by name, so being a child and resourceful and creative, he had come up with a simple solution, everyone was “George.”
“Hello George!” he would enthusiastically say to the girl delivering milk bottles.
“Thanks George,” he would say to the gas station attendant. His brother was George, his friends were George, the dogs were all named George.
The old man looked into the tree once again, a wide-boughed oak that twisted and turned in sinister wonderment. There was George, sitting in the thin branches closer to the top. He had been there for nearly three months. Some in the village thought he had lost his mind. Some said it was a girl. But the old man did not listen to rumors. He had been an outcast his entire life, and when he heard about the boy who went to the tree, he packed a small sack full of apples and bread and went to the yellow knoll at the end of town.
“Don’t you think you’ve made your point? Don’t you think everyone gets it? Because they do. We all get it. Come down and end this already.” He was startled by the pleading in his voice and looked around, slightly embarrassed. Still, there was silence.
“George, answer me.”
But George wouldn’t answer. His vow many months ago had been real and serious, and though he smiled at the little round man that had faithfully come everyday to the tree, bringing fruits and bread and nuts and concern, he would not break his vow. He could not, and unfortunately, there was just no way to communicate this.
The old man looked into the twisted black branches and spotted the eyes of George. They held contact for a few seconds and then the old man looked away, exasperated.
“It’s over, like I told you. Just get back here on solid ground, will ya? There’s no need for this anymore, it’s over.”
He said it with authority, with absolute assuredness. There was nothing wavering in his mind, no colors between the spectrum. There was dark, there was light, and nothing in between. And once again, he was surprised by the sound of his voice. And once again, he gave a second thought to his desire. Just why did he come to the tree everyday, bringing food and a simple request?
And though he heard otherwise, nothing was over, not for George. There were more sunsets to come, more sunrises, other days. And there were vows. Simple. Nothing was complete and his task would remain, even after the tree burned, even after his body fell, even after the old man left.

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