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The Cherry Tree

That winter, all the plums froze. All the peaches froze and all the cherries froze, and everything froze so there were no fruits in the spring.

 

The villagers, the farmers, tried to revive the fruits; they put them in the warm and shallow part of the lake, but these fruits disintegrated and their skins floated away. Others tried to leave the fruits in the sun, but these fruits dried up and rotted. One woman took some fruits and slept with them in her bed, but she rolled over in the night and squished them. Another woman who had a chicken farm put the fruits under the feathers of her hens, but the hens pecked the fruits in the night, and the fruits were ruined in this way. No one could save the fruits, and the whole village was very distressed that this would be a summer without fruit.

 

A pious man went into the temple one night to ask the Gods why they had killed the village’s crops, so that no fruits could grow, so that they were fated to be unhappy in this way, and the Gods said, ‘When you planted the fruits, you planted them without care, just throwing the seeds in the soil. Last year you planted the seeds well, but this year you just threw them into the soil while you were thinking about other things, and we saw that you didn’t care, so we didn’t extend our care either, and did not shield them from the winter’s frost.’

 

The pious man saw that this was true; everyone had been distracted by the festival; a prince and a princess from a neighbouring country had visited them in the planting season; everyone had been careless and in a hurry to see the royal procession; the planting had been slapdash.

 

‘Is there anything we can do now to save the fruits, or to prevent this from happening again?’

 

The Gods said, ‘If you look carefully, you will see that there is one cherry tree that made it through the winter. It is a small one, but it has a few fresh cherries on it. You will have to give it all of your love, and all of your care. It will take a long time, and it will be difficult, but you must give it your every thought and consideration. If you do, this tree will flourish, and then there will be cherries for the whole village.’

 

The pious man thanked the Gods and went out looking for this cherry tree, and it was only a few hours before he found it, near the outskirts of the town. He put up his tent and slept by the tree, and every morning he sang to it, and he stroked its bark. He told it stories and looked at it adoringly. He gave it fresh soil and did everything he could think of to revive it, using all of his heart and soul, and flourish it did, so that in only a month it was shining and overflowing with cherries.

 

Wanting now to share the fruit with his fellow villagers, the pious man went back along the road into the town, and once he was there, he told everyone of what a miracle it was: he had found this cherry tree, and everyone should come and pick one cherry from it, and use it to plant their own cherry tree, so that the whole village could have cherries. He told them that he had heard a rumour that this kind of cherry tree was very delicate, and needed more care than any other fruit tree they had known. It was sensitive and would be quick to die if not treated with much love.

 

So the villagers all came, and agreeing to his instructions, were careful to only take one cherry each from the tree — so that there would be enough seeds for everyone — and each went back to his or her own plot of land, and planted it with great care, and raised their own cherry tree with more care than anyone would have thought was necessary or possible.

 

The Gods must have been watching, happy, for the cherry trees grew, and soon everyone had cherries: cherry pie, cherry salad, cherry soup. And this was wonderful, but not quite good enough, for cherries are not enough for a life, and they are very sweet. So though the townspeople prospered briefly, they did not prosper long. There really was no way back from their failure to properly tend and till their land the season the royal couple came.

 

Coda: I wrote this story when Prince William and his new wife, Kate, came to Canada to be carted about in the streets; these sorts of things happen every few years in Canada (sometimes it’s the Queen) and a lot of attention is paid. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and I were having troubles. I was sure I had ruined everything, or that everything was ruined, like the fruits at the beginning of the story. I must have unconsciously been writing this story to see if I could figure out some way of repairing things, and the idea that there is always one little thing that can be tended, and grow and flourish, and basically save everything, gave me hope when I was mid-way through the story. But my mind which undermines all hope won out in the end. We are still together, however, despite how undermining my mind can sometimes be. Perhaps the hope is this: that there are forces more powerful than how the mind sees.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

is the author of five books, including the story collection The Middle Stories, the novel How Should a Person Be? and the children's book, We Need a Horse.

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