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under the tree

by John U 10 months ago in Short Story
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short story

under the tree
Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

I reach up and pull a pear off the tree, I take a bite and the memories of my childhood enter my brain. I toss the pear to the side and pull out my pack of cigarettes, light one and close my eyes. The nicotine replaces the memories. I turn my back on the tree that sits on top of a small hill over looking a valley of green grass. The sun overhead is an egg yolk sitting in a pool of water. I flick ash off the cigarette and reach into my jacket to pull out a small notebook, “That’s good, I’m going to use that on my next poem; The bright yellow sun is but an egg yolk in a…” as I say the words they don’t sound the same as it did in my head. I put the notebook back into my jacket and the cigarette back to my lips.

I came to this same tree every day when I was a kid, there was four of us in our small group. Mikey, my childhood neighbor and best friend, Alice, lived next to Mikey, second best friend, my brother Jonathan, and myself. We’d all wake up early in the mornings and ride our bikes up here and just hang out for hours on end. That was how we spent our summers growing up, eating pears and climbing this tree. My grandparents owned this land until they passed and my uncle inherited it. The only changes my uncle made was building a beautiful church in their honor along with a small graveyard next to it.

I threw the cigarette to the ground and walked to the other side, my hand brushing the bark until I reached the place we all carved our names. I trace the letters with my index finger. The name at the top was Alice’s, we let her have the top spot because we all had crushes on her when we were kids, below her name is Mikey’s then Jonathan and at the bottom was my name, James. I remember the day we carved, my grandpa was upset when he found out we borrowed his pear peeling knife, and we all almost fought about who would put their name under Alice’s. As time went by we spent less time at the tree, Mikey eventually moved to a different part of town and Alice found new friends. We all remained friends though.

“Hey James!” A voice calls out and I turn to see Mikey and Alice walking up the hill, holding hands. “Can you let your uncle know how grateful we are that he allowed us to get married at this church?” Mikey asks as he stares at the names. “You guys didn’t put up much of a fight to get your name higher.”

I give him a small pat on the shoulder, “My uncle doesn’t mind letting good people get married at the church.” I give them both hugs and congratulating them, “I think Jonathan and I knew that it was always supposed to be your name right there.”

Alice gives us a smile, “I’m sorry we haven’t been able to come up here the last few years.” A small tear starts to roll down her cheek, “I just hope he was here in spirit to see our ceremony.” Mikey sees her tear up and he starts to choke back some tears too. He reaches up and grabs a pear gets down on his knee at looks at Alice’s pregnant belly.

“This is where I fell in love with your mother,” He rubs the bump, and kisses it, “I had the best childhood here and I hope you can have a similar experience.” He takes a bite of the pear, both eyes wet. Alice grabs him by the arms and her eyes are similarly full of tears.

Mikey stands and wipes his face and Alice’s with his handkerchief. “I read your last novel, it’s not bad by the way, a lot better than some of your early stuff.” I laugh, my face dry. I’ve cried enough after my brother passed. I look down at where we put a sign, grab a pear and place it down.

My family was devastated when they discovered Jonathan was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, not as much as I was though. He was beside me since we were born, 3 minutes apart, I was younger as he liked to constantly remind me. We had just graduated high school when we found out, he never let it show that it bothered him.

“James, can you take me to the tree?” I was sitting next to him in bed that day, my parents were out getting his medicine. “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life stuck in this bed.” He laughed and I got upset at the stupid joke, punching him on the leg lightly.

“Mom told me you have to stay here.”

He looked out the window, the sun barely sitting above the horizon. “Please, I promise I’ll never ask for anything else ever again.”

I looked outside and let out a deep sigh, I couldn’t torture my brother by keeping him from going outside. “Do you think you can ride?”

He nodded, and after struggling to get him downstairs and on his bike, we had rode off almost effortlessly. I felt like a kid again in that moment, riding alongside my brother, the sun shining overhead. When we had finally made it to the tree he was out of breathe and I helped him sit down against the tree. I sat next to him. He laid his head on my shoulder, “Thank you my brother.” We sat there for over an hour and watched the sun sink. “I want you to know I love you man. I want you to take care of mom and dad while I’m gone,” His voice weak as he talked. “And I want you to be a good man, and I don’t want you to cry when I’m gone.”

I felt my cheeks turn wet, “Too late for that last one,” I laughed and felt him try to laugh too. I didn’t say anything else and neither did he until the last rays of light left the horizon. “I’ll always love you my older brother.” He smiled, and the feeling of his breathing faded until I couldn’t feel it on my arm anymore. Flashing lights started approaching, and the outline of my parents came into view, it was blurry, but I saw them fall to their knees and they grabbed the two of us and we held onto Jonathan.

I stand up, and grab Mikey and Alice around their shoulder’s and lead them back toward the church, “So do you have a name picked out for the little guy yet?”

I turn my head back, and look at the tree one final time, ‘Good bye brother’, I mouth as Mikey says, “We want to name him after one of our best friends, Jonathan.”

Short Story

About the author

John U

amateur writer, professional screw up

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