Thursday, October 27, 2005

Chapter 7

Max was ill. The previous summer lightening had scorched along his north face while he suffered a terrifying storm. The bolt burned and killed the wood along that north face and, when combined with the lack of light, allowed mushrooms to take up residence up and down the dead wood.

Max would sometimes drift off into a sort of daydream and imagine all the mushrooms were gone, that he was healed over. He’d imagine that he could just stand in his place, drink deep from the earth, and soak the sun, without all the chatter from the mushrooms, as he’d done before. Then he’d awaken to the way things were.

Trees can talk with other trees from far away. They do this by sending slow vibrations through the earth and pheromones through the air. From other trees he learned that injuries like this were common and fatal, though sometimes not. His case was made worse by the fungi. The other trees told him that the mushrooms were eating his dead wood, but Max knew that the mushrooms tried to send their roots into his living parts.

Some trees, miles away, told him healing stories, but there was nothing they could do. And in those moments, Max knew he was going to die of his wound, he knew the mushrooms would win, he knew it for certain, and this certainty made him feel strangely better.

In the meantime, though, he did not want to suffer. And the mushrooms caused him great discomfort. When trees reach a certain size, they do not like to talk with creatures unlike themselves. And so Max found the mushrooms even more course and rude than they actually were. He did his best to ignore them entirely.

Max particularly disliked Lenny, for no other reason than Lenny’s position near his ear. Lenny took his position as a sign that he was a mushroom of some importance. Lenny also seemed to believe that he and Max were best friends, a belief that withstood any attempt on Max’s part to disprove it.

At the moment Max was trying to prove to Lenny that they were not friends by ignoring him completely. Max had not spoken to Lenny in 3 weeks, and had found this to be more effective than anything else. Lenny didn’t know what to make of this. Being slow, he hadn’t worked out the new terms of the relationship yet. He found that ignoring the fact that Max was ignoring him didn’t work. So he was thinking about new ways to engage Max when the message came up from the mushrooms below.

Lenny couldn’t understand it when the mushroom below him, Andy, yelled up, “Lenny, tell Max this: Max, the fungi are getting sun. Please move your east branch two degrees down, and send us some of your bark for food. Russo says hi.”

He told Max what Andy told him. He hadn’t told any of the other Mushrooms that Max wasn’t speaking to him. He wasn’t sure if Max heard him, so he repeated himself.

Max heard him the first time, but of course didn’t respond. Russo? Max didn’t know anyone named Russo. After thinking about it for a while, he gave up on Russo. He didn’t know anyone names Russ either. Nor Russell. He thought about the rest. He knew fungi didn’t like sun, which is why they liked the darkness of the north side. He also knew that he didn’t like the fungi. Send them bark? Sure, they already ate their fill. Send them sun? He’d never considered it before.

Trees tend to consider things deeply and do things slowly because trees usually have more than enough time to think. They also have a lot of time to live with the results of their thoughts. As a result, trees do nothing hastily.

Back on the ground, Nime was being consoled by the flowers.

It was dusk when Nime got back and this turned to twilight. Mr. Azure was so blue he seemed nearly black. Mrs. Scarlet appeared molten. Her petals caught the light as it came in almost parallel with the ground, and made her glow from within. Illy and Lilly loved to look at Mrs. Scarlet at these times.

Nime told the flowers what happened to her. The part about the wasps was particularly terrifying and when Nime got chased by them, Illy and Lilly nearly choked off each other’s roots by holding other each other so tightly.

“Well, now we are all in some trouble.” Mr. Azure looked a bit limp, “We don’t know what’s going to happen here. You should clear out.”

Nime refused this. “I have nowhere else to go. I’ve got to stay here. I don’t know any other place.”

No-one else knew, but Illy held tightly to Lilly through their roots as Lilly held tight to Illy. Mrs. Scarlet pet Mr. Azure’s main lower leaf with hers.

Each flower offered Nime some pollen and nectar, which she accepted for herself, not for the hive, with thanks. Dusk ended and twilight began. One by one, the flowers drifted off to sleep. Nothing in the world could keep a flower awake during a summer night, not even the threat of branches and bark crashing down from the tree.

Nime burrowed into one of Mr. Azure’s curled up leaves. It took her longer to go to sleep. But eventually it came.

In the middle of the night there seemed to be a crash far away, but Nime thought she was dreaming, so she went back to sleep before she remembered where she was. There was a full moon that caused some light and gave the ground a speckled pattern as it filtered through Max’s branches.

The other flowers roused themselves. “What was that?” They whispered. Out of the darkness, Caruso’s voice carried, “It came from the north side.”

Mr. Azure’s voice carried his assurance, “Well, we can’t see what happened. But I suspect the mushrooms gave Max an idea, which he took advantage of. We ought to wait until daylight, and then we will see what we can see.”

Illy and Lilly had woken up clutching at each other in the darkness. But now they relaxed, each relaxing more because they felt the other relax. They had never before been awake so far into the night. They went to sleep with a sense that whatever was going to be was going to be. And that made them feel much better.


Blogger echrai said...

You have me so hooked. I swear, I look forward to each new chapter with great eagerness. THIS would be why so many great novels were published as chapter installments. If only more magazines did this nowadays...

1:25 PM  
Blogger acumamakiki said...

I love the descriptions of Max....because that is exactly how a tree would (hehe, wood) think. I envisioned a tree moving gracefully in the wind when I was reading about Max's thoughts. Love the descriptions of the dark flowers.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Doc NOS said...

Hey, thanks for the reads.

This is another bridging chapter where not much happens. Solutions will present themselves.

Thanks again.

10:05 PM  
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2:52 AM  

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