Old Theodore Nelson sat, hunched over, in his tired chair at the window. He gazed at the single tree in the field. He had heard rumors that a falling company was going to cut it down because its inside was rotten and the base of its one side thoroughly decayed. The great Douglas Fir stood approximately a hundred and forty feet tall. Its branches were as large around as dinner plates and its bark was three inches thick with deep fissures in its corky tissue. For forty-five feet up, there were only black stubs along the trunk, the marks of an attacking ground fire that scorched the field five years ago. That thing can withstand anything, Theo thought, anything but a chain saw. He was sure the massive structure was over four hundred years old.
Margaret, his care-taker, puckered her red lips against the telephone and blabbered excitedly. A mass of shiny hair balanced precariously on top of her head. Theo couldn’t make out what she was saying. Why doesn’t she get off that dang thing? Theo thought. She turned her back to him, emitting high-pitched squeaks from her throat.
He looked out the window again. A pocket of wrinkled skin, coloured with age, hung from his chin. He poked at it absentmindedly with his right index finger.
Margaret hung up the phone. “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” she asked.
“Do—you—need—to go to the—bathroom?” she repeated loudly.
“No!” The only time she would talk to him was to ask that absurd question. He knew when his bladder was full.
He turned back to the Douglas Fir. It was a lot nicer to look at than her. Not only had the tree withstood a fire, but it had been hit by lightning one year. The fir was flat-topped and the lightning had split a spiral into the top section of the trunk. He marveled at the tree’s strength. From where did that strength come? That tree had impressively survived through so much, but in a matter of hours would be destroyed.
Later, two men arrived with a six foot chain saw. Theo watched from his chair, two hundred yards away. When the giant fell, the floor trembled beneath him and the dishes on the shelves rattled noisily. He stared silently. Then squinted. Surrounding the massive stump, small green saplings stretched upward. Sensation stirred inside Theo’s shriveled body. He wept.