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First Place in Litro’s Nature Summer Flash Fiction Competition
If you choose to forget the word I taught you, although I am sure it still lives in some recess of your heart, kintsukuroi, the practice of mending broken pottery with gold or silver to fill the cracks and understanding they are part of its beauty but also assuming responsibility for mending it, even if you are not the one who broke it, remember when you were a child and your hands were covered in soil and you were beaming as your father was showing you how to plant shidare, weeping cherry trees, if you saw one with a branch broken by the wind, you would stop and wrap a bandage around it just like bandaging a wound, remember the ume fruit you collected; your father taught you this and many other things, he taught you how to tell trees apart by their bark, together, you walked through the forest, open-mouthed, under red pines, yoshino cherries, moso bamboos; of course, this you cannot learn from your friends for they know other things, your friends with their big ambitions and clenched fists who tell you to forget about the ghost forest, but, son, don’t you remember the cry of the trees, I still dream of the hissing flames swallowing the green, there are no trees no more, only their black bones and crushed souls, some say that if you walk through the forest at night, you can still hear the trees weeping and the burnt grass howling, your friends say the future is bigger than this, there will be huge oxygen producing trees with steel trunks, one of those will produce as much oxygen as five hundred real trees, and you listen, son, with your mouth half-open, anger spilling in your veins, shame, perhaps, at your father’s dream, now small and worthless, a thing of the past, but, son, can you sense the greyness of this, the greyness of walking under these trees with huge pollution-absorbing capabilities and small metal hearts, are you ready to lose shinrin-yoku, I hope you still remember, forest bathing, when you go deep into the woods and everything is breathing and growing and living; your father rushed into the woods, the night of the fire, with bare feet, water and a prayer, it stings when I see you looking at pictures of him, and your eyes turn away quickly, and you sink back into your computer chair, flexible back support and adjustable headrest, you said, I can’t help but wonder is it me who’s not flexible enough, not adjustable to these ideas of yours, you tell me you are travelling, zooming in and out of roads cutting through unknown hills, flying over oceans you cannot place on the map, see, it’s all here, you say, keeping your laptop close to your chest, the woods are gone, you blurt out in a voice not quite your own, and how about the seedlings planted by so many caring hands, I want to shout, but there’s something knotted in my throat; you talk enterprise and making use of the land and passive income, each word a knife; remember, walking through the forest when you were little, softly, your father would say, walk softly because trees feel and listen and talk; if your friends’ words are bigger and truer to you, son, if you choose to close your eyes and your heart, to say I didn’t break it, if you choose to walk through the burnt woods and mistake black and grey for the colours of this earth, then turn around, son, and go.
About Rayna Haralambieva
Rayna loves stories for their power to heal and charm. Her fiction features in online literary magazines and print anthologies such as Flash Frontier, Reflex Fiction and Bath Flash Fiction Award. She aspires to have an entourage of writerly cats.