A Tree
A Story For Misfits 

By Jim Senti

A tree sat by it’s lonesome on a lumpy and sprawling hillside. The gusty hillside was large and expansive and vacillated between gold and green and gold and green. The wind would barrel across the hilly landscape as wind is wont to do and blow and shake the trees massive mane of limbs and leaves. Some leaves would be cut away by the wind and the tree would find himself somberly saying goodbye to the loose memories but was happier for the haircut of sorts. It knew one should always have room to grow. It was enjoying a tree’s life as a tree for the most part. They had a fair amount of rain as of late, the days were cool but not too cool, and the sun was warm with out getting too hot. The bugs that did land and hang about were fairly respectful and would only chew enough to not be a nuisance. It was lucky to have had a few very lovely bird families nest about lately, hatchlings that were well-behaved, with kind and grounded bird parents, as grounded as birds can be, and they all would only sing in the mornings; fine tenants, through and through.

Everything was just about right for the tree but only just about. There was a collection of other trees, about thirty or so, on the hill across from the hill the tree sat upon. No one ever understood how this particular tree ended up a lone on one side of the subtle ravine but none-the-less, everyone else ended up over yonder far enough away but not far enough to take no notice. It had been a hundred years or so and they still couldn't seem to figure it out.  These trees were way far less than polite. They would chatter and shake and make fun of our lonely friend. No one was sure why, the tree was the same kind as all the others, it was not a shrub or cactus of any sort. Our tree's disposition was quiet and polite, heck, it had quite a good amount of jokes too. The birds and bugs seemed to love and even repeat the trees musings. No one was sure of why the other trees looked at our friend the way they did. They were simply separated and no one could do anything about it. Yet they continued on with their crass behavior. They would always be sure to exclude the tree and play word games extra loudly so it could hear them having all of the fun. Even during the right time of year they would play catch amongst their limbs with their various fruits. They would taunt the tree by throwing the fruit only far enough for it to land out of it’s reach and roll down the hillside and into the small ravine that separated the tree from the others. They certainly could throw the fruit farther. They were very good at catch. 

The tree tried not to pay too much mind. What could it do? This was how it was. It was there and they were yonder.  Though, admittedly, at night when the group was sleeping it did try to uproot itself from time to time in hopes to crawl its way to the other side and join them. The tree gave up on this for a few reasons. One, let’s say the tree made it over and re-root himself amongst the others, what then? Would they accept him? Or would they continue to be as awful as they had been but up close? Two, the trees roots were far too deep into the side of the hill. The tree was there and there for good. The tree did not know how to feel.  It was all so very confusing. Whatever the case, the tree did know that it was not a fan of the constant heckling and nasty behavior of the group across the way.  Every morning, the birds were interrupted by at least a few of the bawdy trees. They would call out and sing songs they heard from cars driving a long the highway near by.

“aaaaall byyyy myseeee-eh-elf!” they would drone on.

They would sing the entirety of “Lonely Girl” as well.  At times the tree would grow indignant and call out,

“I am not a girl! I am a tree!”

 This would only get the others to sing it louder. Now, to be fair, the tree was a fan of Emmylou Harris from what it heard from the highway, but it would writhe in pain to hear that song chortled from the other hill. The tree was particularly annoyed when they would quote Billy Idol, as the tree was not only by itself but nor could the tree dance— If it could dance by itself, things very well may have been different. The tree despised the loneliness it felt. It wished and hoped and wished that the others would find a way to include it or at the very least be nice. 

It wasn't too long after another bad impression of Three Dog Night that the weather had changed. The wind had disappeared and it became far too hot. Luckily for the tree, the neighboring hill of trees would become too lethargic to sing and shout across the hill. Not that it mattered at this point. The tree itself was horribly thirsty and tired. Even if the others did taunt it, it wouldn't have took no notice. The heat went from bad to unbearable and the grasses across both of their hills and the neighboring hills became disturbingly pale and dry.  Having given up on rain, all of the trees would sit under the blazing and burning heat simply longing for the evening. The birds and the bugs bailed. One day the tree was attempting to concentrate on anything at all from its horrible heat induced daze. Since there was no wind the tree was trying to lift itself up and sway from side to side, you know, to get things moving. It had become dry and bent toward the ground. After a few days of hot horrible quiet it heard a voice cry out from the other hill. If trees had eyes to roll it would have done so. "Really?" It thought. "After all of this time, today? In this heat?" The voice continued to call but the tree in angry tree sweat ignored it. It couldn't make out the call anyhow. Another voice called when the tree had had it and shouted "Stop it!". It was at that very moment  a loud and sharp snap rattled across the landscape. It had come from the other hill. Scared and surprised the trees gaze snapped to attention from the dusty cracking soil. It was blurry and hazy. The air itself looked as if it were shimmying and bending. the entire world had a thin brown layer of haze wrapped over and around it. It wasn't too long until the tree had come to realize that the other hill had entirely caught fire. It was terrible. It was horrible. It was the worst. The tree yanked and yanked and pulled and pulled attempting uproot itself as it's neighbors burned and wailed and cried out for help. Their limbs were crackling and sizzling and sending up flame after flame. Their trunks were withering until they had been vaporized. It came to a point where it was too late and the tree was simply attempting to uproot itself, not to help, but to save itself. The wind however, began to blow, and for the first time in a long while began blowing in a different direction. The wind was carrying the flames away from the tree. It wasn't too long until men arrived with trucks, and tubes, and helicopters to calm the fire and eventually put it out. 

What was left was devastating. Only charred remains and a broken landscape, black, and ashen. Every single one of those trees on the other hill were gone forever. Only grey and torn stumps were left, if that. The tree cried the way trees do for the dead. The tree listened to the new silence. As the tree sat melancholily it finally seized to do so when it realized something new. 

It was truly a lone.

 However, the tree was far less lonely than it was before. 

It wasn't too long until the winds had changed and a seed had blown from the charred hill and plopped right next to the survived tree. Rains came that year and that little seed sunk into the earth.  In time, a miniscule green stalk popped up. The tree was dumbfounded. The tree had never seen anything like this! How exciting, it thought. Will it be another tree? On this hill? No one could know at this point. However, the tree remembered the deceased and became afraid that this tree too would grow to be just as hurtful  and unkind. The seed was from the other hill after all. How could the tree make sure that this seedling grew up to be a friend?  Heck and if not a friend, to be a good listener or neighbor, or even more simply, how could this tree make sure this seedling grew up to be kind. Luckily, the tree had one hundred years or so to figure it out. Not knowing what to do it began to listen. 

The Tree has been spending the last hundred years listening to every car that has driven by. 

And choosing the songs it will sing very carefully.