Writings / Fiction

The Oak Tree

Claudia Del Balso

As he does every afternoon at three, Randall sits looking out from one of the library windows of his house, a Queen Anne Victorian mansion in his family since before the American Civil War. A massive oak, as old as the house, stands robust and defiant in the middle of the lawn. Its lower limbs sweep down towards the ground before curving up again, leaving little possibility for any sprouts under its enveloping shade.

Spanish moss drapes its majestic branches which houses thousands of transient guests. Sometimes, he finds himself envying those creatures. He finds himself wishing he could once again climb the tree and nestle in the branches for a while before flying away. But it is a short-lived thought.

“Whose tree is that?” He asks every afternoon.

“It’s yours, sir,” the matronly black nurse says, perched on the ladder, restacking the books Randall had taken out.

“Mine, huh?” He scratches his head. “That’s nice.”

As he watches, leaden clouds move in to blanket the tree, the estate, and part of the Heartland Region. Like spidery veins branching out, lightning pierces the indigo sky. The rain pitter-patters on the window. He rests his left ear on the glass as the rhapsody of droplets turns into a sudden splash and whoosh. He hears a rumble from afar, then another. And one more that ends with a deafening boom.

“Isn’t that strange?” Randall says. “It reminds me of a dream…I dreamed I was in Japan and there was this drumming...what’s it called?”

The nurse climbs down the ladder with a book about Japanese culture in her hands. But before she hands it to him…

“That’s it— Taiko drumming!” Randall says triumphantly. “Imagine that! Me in Japan.”

“Not so strange, sir,” the nurse says. “You visited Japan four years ago. A business trip, wasn’t it?

“I did?”

“Of course,” she says. “You’ve shown me pictures.”

A loud roar shakes the window frames and walls. Randall stares blankly into the drenched scenery. Dozens of startled birds flutter their wet wings in unison, abandoning the comfort of the oak’s limbs. He blinks. The pouring rain veils his window. Randall places his fingertips against the glass pane and follows the erratic course of the drops. Then, like lightning itself, he opens the bay window and a whiff of wet earth surprises his nostrils.

“Ah, the smell of freedom,” he says.

Water sprays into the room. Calmly, the nurse reaches around him and closes the enormous framed glass.

“Sir, it’s time for your medicine,” she says. She helps him out of the chair, and holding his stick-thin arm, leads him to the sitting room. A tin tray full of vials sits on a rolling cart like that used in a hospital.

“Your lucky day,” the nurse says, handing him a capsule from one of the vials. “Your son is coming to visit.”

“I don’t give a damn! Randall says in a sudden burst of anger as he swallows the first pill and is handed another. “He always leaves again.”

His gaze turns back to the window. Outside, the oak tree sways violently against the lashing wind.

About The Author

Author

Claudia Del Balso has published six short stories; one of them received the Award of Excellence in the Anthology Summer Tapestry (2009) and the other one was published in the Anthology The Golden Road, (2010). She works as a Book Publicity Marketing Assistant for Substance Books and blogs about writing and publishing at: http://www.claudiadelbalso.blogspot.com

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