Friday Fiction: Matthew Eden’s ‘The Home Tree’

Mj Bain

When our homes were crowded and grey, we built our own in the meadows. Under the towering oak tree we lay, giggling and sombre beneath a plume of smoke: you, a cloud-watcher, and I, an astronomer. We’d talk and talk until our throats burned and our eyelids drooped, cheek caressing cheek, the crows and crickets an audience to our musings about anything and everything that crossed our minds. Long gone was the need of meaning for our meetings – each other’s company beneath our oak was all we ever desired.

One summer, we built a swing from your dad’s rigging rope and a plank of wood from my old shed, and we took turns pushing each other as high as the clouds. When I spun and tore a chunk of bark off the tree with my steel-capped boots, and you took a stone and carved a big arrow with my name attached: the idea was born.

We began by writing nonsense, any remark or pointless question that came to mind: “What is time?” you carved into its root, “measurable infinity”, I replied on its lowest branch. Then came the snippets from our days. When I came to you sulking, you placed a stone in my palm and guided me to the bark. “He never stops drinking” became adjoined with “I aced the test”, “We have to get out of here” beside “it was me who stole the class hamster”. The oak tree became a document of our lives: a friend, a confession box, a therapist. In a year’s time, we filled the final spot on its highest branch: “I’ll miss you, shorty”, “I’ll miss you too, lanky”.

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After my husband passed away, I was sorting through the loft when I came across a dusty white box. Within was an old sepia photograph of you and me standing proudly in our school shirts and ties in front of our carved tree, hands brushing too close, grins from cheek to cheek. Beneath it, an oak picture frame, and in its centre the piece I had saved before the farmer cut it down.

“What should we call it?” I asked.

“Home,” you answered.

 

The original artwork for this story was done by Robyn Ingram. Used with permission.

About Mj Bain

Mj is a writer, editor and photographer with a million pen names and personalities. He is our literary editor and he's seeking your short story submissions! Email them to mjbain@vadamagazine.com for a chance to be published as part of our Friday Fiction.