The Beech Tree
by David Fraser

The abrupt descending of the silence brings Marion from the kitchen, clutching the hem of her apron.

She wants to say, “Pete, be careful,” eyes wandering from the tree toward the house and back again, but she can only touch her throat, watching the huge beech lean precariously across the roof of the house.

Moments ago the chain saw wailed; its blade screaming through a century of growth. Before he started, Pete had done it right, cutting a wedge lower down on the far side and roping off the trunk to a maple beside the split rail of Hunters’ farm. But Marion’s heart, an irregular flutter on calm days picking raspberries now kicks at her chest and Pete’s eyes bulge as the beech settles on the saw.

Somehow neighbours know when crisis fills the air. Suddenly the Hunter brothers have their tractor beside the lone safety rope. They loop more ropes around the beech, hook them to the tractor, its wheels spinning, pulling the lines tight. Saplings are sacrificed for wedges, cut with deliberate and desperate hands. The wedges are pounded into the cut. The tree with each hammer blow cruelly sways above the house. Marion has stepped away and faces the low wetland where the swallows dip their wings. She is far away. Pete is possessed, pounding wedges, a demon stoking at an eternal fire. It is all he knows. The tractor tires spin and the ropes twist and howl. All time is held up in these frozen moments of their labour until after an afternoon of sweat, the beech sways back, releases the saw, twists and cuts an arc into the scrub.

Pete sits beside the stump and offers the Hunter brothers shots of rye, while Marion in her kitchen starts to cry.

David Fraser lives in Nanoose Bay, on Vancouver Island. He is the founder and editor of Ascent Aspirations Magazine, since 1997. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in over 50 journals and anthologies. He has published a collection of his poetry, Going to the Well (2004), a collection of short fiction, The Dark Side of the Billboard (2006) and edited and published the five print issues of Ascent Aspirations Magazine. A second collection of poetry, Running Down the Wind appeared in 2007 David is currently the Federation of BC Writers Regional Director for The Islands Region. His latest passion is developing Nanaimo’s newest spoken-word series, WordStorm, Contact David.

Ascent Aspirations Publishing
Member of the Federation of BC Writers
Member of WAVE Publications Cooperative
Member of the Canadian Poetry Association
Member of the Canadian Federation of Poets

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