The Solitary Tree
by Jose Recio
The summer heat has burned the chaff on the field and turned the fallen leaves brown. Every morning he walks down to his barn. The sound of sand creaking under the soles of his shoes on the groundreminds him of a pair of combat boots that fit younger feet. He looks back. Perhaps he missed the pair of combat boots sitting on the porch? But only a span of dust rises inches behind him, whirls, and vanishes, leaving no trace. He moves on.
On the last day of the summer, before entering the barn, he pauses and listens to the twittering birds. The sound comes from nearby trees behind a stone wall that separates his farm from a public park. He fancies the birds are saying look for him; don’t give up. Inside, a pile of logs, ready to feed the fire place when winter comes, lies in the corner behind the door; blocks of hay rest on shelves; rakes, wicker brooms, horses’ harnesses; everything is in its place as it has always been. The long mirror with a thin metal frame hangs on the back door. He can’t remember whose idea was to put it there. He stands in front of it: a tall man, sun-tanned skin, broad shoulders, and steady hands. Then, to let the breeze refresh the barn, he opens the door ajar. Good heavens! For a moment, the mirror reflects a soldier’s portrait in battle uniform, wearing combat boots, and his face and body shape resembling his own. He squints to focus. “What’s—” He turns to look outside. In the line of the mirror's reflection, long, thick, exposed roots intertwine with thinner and shorter ones and feed a small solitary tree, which dwells alone againts the surface of the stone wall. The image of the soldier fades away, and the farmer closes the door and his eyes. And when he opens them again, he sees himself in the mirror with the signs of grief in his eyes. He turns around and begins to work, emptying sacks of wheat into a corner of the barn.
Jose L Recio is a physician and short fiction writer. His work is published in The Acentos Review, Cecile’s Writers, The Literary Nest, Aether and Ichor, Adelaide, and With Painted Words magazines, among others. He is originally from Spain but lives in L.A. with his wife and their whippet.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'Morning, By The Frozen Crystal'