11/8/11

A Day of No Particular Importance
By Christian Chiakulas


The tree stood in its place, atop a small green hill overlooking an old, abandoned pasture. Beyond the pasture ran a dirtroad, which snaked to the side around another, hill, and then to the cozy Italian village called Carcino.

The tree was an old tree, even then, and had known many neighbors, many visitors, and even some friends. The man who lived in the house behind the tree on this day was no friend. The tree heard him coming now, heard the crunchy steps of boots over the path between the house and tree. His name was Giuseppe.

Giuseppe was underneath the tree now, looking out over the empty pasture and leaning against it by an outstretched arm. The tree did not mind, but wished that the man would deign to spare it at least a passing thought from time to time. The tree did not think that was too much to ask for, but this man Giuseppe had not given the tree so much as one good hard look since he had moved in. And now he was standing directly underneath the tree, leaning against it, standing in its shadow, maybe even enjoying the tree's presence. This was the first time Giuseppe had ever stood underneath the tree for more than a few minutes at a time, and the tree wondered what he was doing.

Before Giuseppe there had been a kindly old woman named Francesca, and she had been the one to plant the tulips and daffodils that once lived underneath the tree. They had been good friends, and so had Francesca; she had lived in the small house for decades after her husband had died. The tree was ashamed to admit that he did not remember the husband's name.

There was a car driving down the weathered path parallel to the pasture, heading in the direction of the small house. Giuseppe and the tree watched as the car, a sleek black thing, disappeared from their line of sight, knowing that it was coming up the hill, straight for them. The tree heard Giuseppe swear.

Giuseppe walked back towards his house, muttering curses under his breath, and the tree looked back over the pasture. Giuseppe had been waiting for some sort of unwanted visitor, not enjoying the tree's presence after all. Should have known, the tree thought.

The screen door on the house opened and shut with a hiss, and the tree looked again despite itself. Giuseppe was standing on his porch loading bullets into the back of a shotgun. The tree looked away again, not wanting any part of this foolishness.

A few seconds passed, and the tree could hear the car coming up the hill now, and knew that things might get loud soon. Nothing like this had happened in over half a century, the tree remembered, when a great World War had engulfed Italy and Francesca was a young woman, not yet a widow. The tree remembered sleeping through much of that time, not wanting to be bothered by the cacophony of the metal birds and tanks as they screamed by. The tree did not know what it had all been about, exactly, but it had been very glad to see the end of it.

The car was on Giuseppe's property now. The tree again felt an urge to look, but suppressed it. Nonsense, that's all this was, human nonsense. The tree wished that it had a friend to strike up a conversation with, another tree, perhaps, or at least some flowers or bushes.

The car had reached the point in the road that narrowed and became a driveway. Now it was tires crunching against the gravel, and without meaning to, the tree snuck another glance.

The car had stopped, the engine idling like some sort of animal, growling at Giuseppe and preparing to pounce. Giuseppe had raised the rifle, but even from its vantage point across the driveway the tree could see that the man was shaking badly.

The car spread its wings and two men emerged from either side, wearing dark suits and black glasses. Each of them also carried a gun.

The tree forced itself to look away. A voice spoke out to Giuseppe from behind it, a calm, almost bored voice speaking the deliberation of a planned speech.

A gunshot murdered the morning silence, and the tree heard the sound of a window shattering, not from the house, but the car. The tree wanted to look so badly now, but knew that it would not be proper. Best to let humans be humans, and trees be trees.

There were several more gunshots, slightly quieter yet more shrill than the first, and then the thud! of a man who had never been a friend sprawling onto a wooden porch. The tree waited, listening to the shuffling sounds of the two visitors as they cleaned up their mess, speaking to each other in the familiar, bored tones of men at work. One of them might have said something about the way Giuseppe had fallen, and the other perhaps complained about the car's windshield. But they made no fuss, and soon, they were gone, leaving the tree to its view and its peace and solitude. Nothing had changed.

The tree looked back at the house, and saw that it looked exactly as it always had, minus one or two innocuous details. Something may have happened here, but the tree that stood in its place on the hill overlooking Carcino would not notice, would not ever feel the repercussions of the day's events, would never be heartbroken, and in fact would stand in its place on that hill for decades and decades to come, never taking notice of the mad comedy its neighbors acted.

The tree enjoyed the rest of that day, wondering absentmindedly if its next neighbor would be a friend, like Francesca had been, or just a part of the scenery.


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Christian Charles Chiakulas has been writing since the age of thirteen, drawing influence as much from popular fiction as from literary greats. He grew up outside of Chicago, IL in the suburbs of Oak Park and River Forest.


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