Permanence (Story #17)

Joseph Thompson loved the weeping willow that grew next to the town pond.  He had come across it for the first time as a child walking back from school.  He and his mom had just moved to the small town where he would spend the rest of his life, and where he would find out for sure what he’d already sensed about himself: he didn’t fit in.  But after he saw the giant tree, that didn’t matter.  Nothing much mattered. While the other kids played with each other, Joseph sat underneath the willow’s canopy and spent all his spare time wondering at its roots, following them to their convergence at the tree’s heart at the center of its trunk.

With time, though he never said it to anyone else, he came to believe the tree understood him, could answer his questions, could be his friend, even.  He would devise ways to listen to the tree, ask for its wisdom in matters that would come up for him.  In the seventh grade, he asked the tree if he should kiss Jenny Fitton, a skinny, shy girl who he made friends with, but who would later tire of him.  Later, when offered a chance to study at a college in another part of the state, he asked the tree if he should stay.

To understand what the tree wanted from him, and knowing the tree could not possibly answer for itself in words, he devised a code.  If something fell from the tree when he asked it questions, he’d take the answer to be yes, if nothing fell, then Joseph knew that the tree was clearly saying no.

On the day the tree told him he should get a job in town and stay with his mother, he realized that he’d been selfish with his friend.  He realized that all those years, he’d never asked once how the tree was doing, whether the tree was lonely.  He only asked questions about himself.  So Joseph decided to ask the tree if it was happy.  When nothing fell, Joseph became sad himself, and then asked if his friend was lonely.  To which the tree answered by dropping a stack of leaves onto his head.

The idea that his friend felt lonely kept Joseph up at night, made him not want to leave his friend—not even for a moment.  He would’ve slept next to the tree at night, but there were laws that the townspeople strictly held to prohibiting people from sleeping in the park.  “That was for the homeless, the unwanted, the strange,” they told him.  His mother, though supportive of her shy boy’s love of nature, also did not want her son out in a park over night.  “You need to make friends.  People are nice, Joe.  They can be, at least.”

But Joseph wouldn’t hear of it.  He’d get up as soon as the sun rose and go to the tree before work and then he’d come back bringing his dinner with him until it was time for him to leave again.  And for its part, the tree listened to all of Joseph’s questions and ideas and dreams.   Sometimes it dropped its leaves; other times, it didn’t even let a twig fall to the ground.  But then, as always, the night would come and he would have to leave, which made Joseph worry that his friend would be lonely without him.  Joseph tried to think of a way around this and kept asking the tree for help.  But the tree could only answer Joseph’s questions in yes’s and no’s, in leaves or no leaves.  Joseph became agitated as he asked his friend for help, and the lack of sleep from anxious nights made him absent-minded and clumsy.  So much so that as he paced around the tree one morning, he lost his footing and fell into the pond.

For most, the story would not end here—some embarrassment perhaps, some wet clothes that would need to be dried the next day on a clothesline, but Joseph never learned to swim, and he sank to the bottom of the deep pond with only a goodbye to his mother in the language of silent bubbles shooting to the surface.

After his mother complained that she had lost her son, the diver who discovered his body was unable to retrieve it.  Experts from all over came and tried different things, but it was no use.  Joseph Thompson, or what was left of him, had finally found a home at the bottom of the pond, cradled by the roots of the tree he loved so much.  And nothing or no one could separate them.


Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at and Tumbls at

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2 Comments on “Permanence (Story #17)”

  1. November 5, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Wonderful story! I’ll subscribe y ahora, que no te cabreas conmigo!


  1. The Famous Willow. « Ralphie´s Portal - November 5, 2011

    […] Permanence (Story #17) ( 36.539004 -4.624353 LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_bg", "f7f3ee"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_border", "e9e0d1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_text", "333333"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_link", "5e191a"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_url", "dac490"); LD_AddCustomAttr("LangId", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "books"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "entertainment"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "music"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "poetryor-poe-try"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "friendship"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "happy-thoughts"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "joy"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "poem"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "pond"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "weeping-willow"); LD_AddSlot("wpcom_below_post"); LD_GetBids(); Rate this: Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreStumbleUponLinkedInRedditDiggEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Poetry(or poe-try). and tagged friendship, happy thoughts, joy, poem, pond, weeping willow. […]

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