The Forgiving Tree Part II

If you missed Monday’s installment, please start there first. Then make sure to return the rest of the week to see how it turns out.

Landis struggled against the twins, but for every inch he gained, the twins took two, the hollowed knot getting closer and closer. He stared into the empty hole. The lids of his eyes locked under his brow, unable to blink. Tales of the Forgiving Tree flooded his head from the stories kids told each other in the dark to the whisperings their parents thought they couldn’t hear.

The postman used to say it was a curse placed on the spot where the butcher’s daughter was killed by a couple of drifters.

“They found her face down,” he told me. “With a hole in her back clear through to the ground, and circled round an oak sapling.

“The butcher, he went mad with grief, too. I tell you, he swung that cleaver of his ‘round anybody that tried to get near the body. So they let him to his grief. Really, no one wants a cleaver in his back just for trying to help.

“A couple days later they decide he’s had long enough. They go, and what do you suppose they found?

“That’s right. Nothin’. No butcher. No body. Nothin’. Only that sapling ain’t a sapling any more. It’s three feet tall. A week later it’s looking like a fifty year old oak.”

He stopped when he noticed the neighbors peeking out their window. He winked at Landis and continued his route.

The next day he ran out to hear the rest, but the postman kept his eyes to the ground and put the mail in our box with his left hand. His right gone at the wrist.

Tub came running to the Forgiving Tree’s field one Sunday afternoon all twitchy with nervous energy. He had a talk with his pastor and couldn’t wait to tell us.

“He says it was God himself that put that tree here. To weed out the sinners. The tree takes the sin right out of you. The more you have, the more it takes. That’s why Billy’s dad is missing up to his elbow where Mr. Millings is missing up to his shoulder. The tree wouldn’t take it if the sin wasn’t in it.

“He told everyone in the room they shouldn’t be afraid to stick an arm in if they were a proper God-fearing person.”

The next Sunday Tub’s pastor gave his sermon an arm poorer than the week before. Tub never spoke of it again.

Ben’s Nan tried to keep him from playing near the Tree. Said no grandson of hers will be caught near such a place of evil. A lot of the folks in town agree, but know better than to voice it. Ben got his Nan so riled up in front of the corner market that she spouted off right there.

None of them ever saw Ben’s Nan again. Maybe she didn’t want to be seen with how much she lost. Or maybe the tree took too much.

The stories differed from person to person, but the effects were etched into the whole town’s being. If you’ve done wrong, the tree would take. The more wrong, the more it would take, and the only ones safe from harm were the town’s children.

Landis’s hand hovered inches from the hollowed knot, and he wasn’t a child anymore.