Acorn

The boy is gone. He moved on a long time ago. The house below the hill has been razed. The car is gone. His father’s blue Chevrolet. It rests at the bottom of the sea. Colorless. The oak tree remains. An improbable acorn from the 12,000 year flood of 1909. Fifty-seven inches of rain in twenty days. A tree born from great storm will wait for another to fall. That’s what his father used to say. How is that an acorn could hold a boy above the ground for so many hours? Sometimes they would go out after the big storms and drive with the all the windows open just to breathe that air. It was like a tornado turned loose inside that Chevrolet. His hair was wild in the wind. And when they came upon a big tree uprooted, which they almost always did, he would feel that strange heavy weight inside him, like a wet rag in his belly, and his father would say ‘Don’t mourn son, a storm like this will give us back more than it takes. We just don’t see it because the seeds of change are small.’ And sometimes he’d pull over and they’d walk out to where the roots were showing, to that fresh hole in the ground where you could smell the wet inside of the split oak and the raw earth from where the tree had grown for a hundred years and his father would reach inside and pry a stone loose from the rootball and he’d wipe off the mud on his coveralls and hand it to him as if it was a polished five-carat diamond and he’d say, ‘Stone like this hasn’t seen the light of day since before Lincoln was born.‘ And he would take it, and look at it closely as if it held some secret while his father inspected the trunk for rot, or weakness, and then he’d say, casually, ‘No boy has ever held that stone before. You’re the very first. And if you throw it into the creek you’ll be the last‘. But he never did that. He kept them all. He held onto that cigar box like they were heirlooms irreplaceable. Long after the Chevy was gone. Long after his father was gone. He thought maybe that one day after a truly big storm when the tire-swing oak fell, after he too was gone, that another boy and another man might come along and find it. He put them in a steel tackle box along with all his spinners and flies, and he tossed in an acorn, one he saved from the very tree itself, and he buried it there below where the tire from the Chevrolet hung like a pendulum in the wind, where his feet had carved a hard dragline on the ground. He dug the hole and buried it the night before he left for Vietnam. And that thought sustained him.

o O o

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