Hot off the press as in I finished this piece about thirty minutes ago, any advice? I love and appreciate all of you beautiful people. -Cyril*
I yelped when the third blister popped and David shouted to me from a few branches above, “if the blood flows you have to make your mark here, Jacob.” Frustrated, I pull out my dulled Wal-Mart knife and notch Old Pine where my blood broke this time. I look around for my notch from last week and spy it a few feet below my right foot.
“You’re getting higher each week! I know you’ll make it to the top next time. I can just feel it, man,” David said. The hope in his voice always kills me.
I’m higher than before but still not high enough. I look up Old Pine and see the circle of deep notches where David stands, dyed red with generations of my family’s blood. I wrap my left arm around the base of Old Pine, skinnier at this height, and I close my eyes. The taste of iron and winter fills my mouth as I gingerly take the corner of the torn callus between my two front teeth and rip the rest of the dead skin clean off. I let the blood pool up until my palm is full and I smear the puddle into my moist notch in the tree. My ***** red blood mixes with the pine’s regal, green blood. I pull my hand away and see the two bloods combine. The smell of blood always makes me dizzy up this high, but I can’t show weakness in front of David. Not at Old Pine.
“I’ll see you at the bottom. I’m done for the day.” I say and before he can reply I leave. I begin the climb back to the ground, dodging empty crow nests and old scared over gashes in Old Pine’s skin, pushed along by cold fists of wind. The blood sneaks through the hole in my palm each time I push it into the spiteful bark along my descent and I try to ignore it.
I dangle from my one good hand on the bottom branch and fall to the dying grass below. My hungry toes feed on solid ground again. I sigh, grabbing a handful of the kudzu that grows on Old Pine’s base to put in my mouth, and I plop to the ground. The breeze here licks my sweaty neck in an apology for its merciless stepbrother who, sixty feet above, whipped and spit across my face. I hear a light thump and feel a breeze behind me and as I turn I see David gracefully landing on two feet.
“You were almost there this time. Just a few more climbs and I’m sure you’ll breech the top.” David’s determination is the only reason I come back with him to this god-forsaken tree. I do it for him, not myself.
I spit the chewed up Kudzu into my palm and mash it into the red holes to help them clot faster. Father taught me about Kudzu’s medicinal uses when we used to hunt together before the fall.
I look up into Old Pine’s green canopy above my head and feel the silence between the three of us. Old Pine is our father now and David thinks it’s his fault. Old Pine is the tallest tree on our farm and the only one infused with generations of our family’s blood. From the very top you can see all of our family land. It’s a view every man in the family has to see when he comes of age. Dad took David up when he was only fourteen. It was on their climb down that he fell. I was nine.
“It’s the view, Jacob. The view is like nothing else you’ll ever experience. Holding onto the rusty-red notch circle and looking out on our land, it’s almost spiritual, man.” I don’t look at him, but I know David is crying.
We looked up to the canvas of green and brown and David asks if I can hear Dad’s whispers, but I all I hear is the creak of old branches.