~ disclaimer: genres merge below. ~
Old bitter man — an intellectual who scoffs at emotion and has never experienced love.
Tree — the embodiment of Buddha, speaks to those who listen.
The boy — old bitter man’s grandson, whom he happens to be watching for the afternoon.
Somewhere random, at a park, where it is not yet summer but close. It is evening and the sun is still shining above.
~ * ~
Tree: It’s in the bird’s tweet tweet. It’s in the cat’s meow. It’s in the dog’s moon-chasing bark.
Old bitter man (exasperated but desperate for wisdom): What are you talking about?
Tree: All that we need to know about living life.
Old bitter man: That doesn’t make sense.
Tree: It does, it does. The simplicity of communication. The absence of pretension. Look. See how they are. Humans obscure their existence with theory, philosophy, all that grand nonsense that just imprisons the mind in a labyrinth of its own creation. But for these simple creatures, the labyrinth isn’t there. So they can actually breathe.
Old bitter man watches, a scowl on his face. The bird sweeps through the park, wings like lace stretched taut. A cat saunters by, meowing and wrapping herself around his legs. A dog bounds by, barking at the sky where the moon would be.
Old bitter man: This is a bunch of crap. I don’t buy it.
Tree: Don’t say I didn’t tell you so when you finally get it.
Old bitter man grows quiet, sits down on the grass. He pulls at blades of grass with his gnarled fingers. All his life he’s been invested in the philosophical exploration of existence, but it’s gotten him nowhere. In fact, he’s further than he’s ever been from where he’s always wanted to be: Home. Not a physical home, he already has one of those. But a home inside of himself where he can feel a little bit of peace.
He’s still deep in thought with a little boy runs up to him, tugs on his hand. Alright, alright, old bitter man grumbles. He gets up to his feet and lets the boy lead him. The boy takes him to the creek, where the water glimmers in the sun. The boy whispers in his ear, asks him if they can take their shoes off and wade in the creek. Old bitter man begins to shake his head. But then he pauses, looks behind him at the tree. He finds himself nodding, grumbling about it at the same time.
Off they go, the boy chatting about his day at school. As soon as old bitter man walks into the creek with his bare feet, he relaxes, in spite of himself. The water is just right — somewhere between cool and warm. His grandson’s hand feels small and trusting in his. They let go of each other’s hands and splash each other with their feet. For a moment, old bitter man feels like a little boy again, playing with his best friend.
His heart lurches, and he tenses, thinking it’s a heart attack — he’s taken it too far. Then he realizes his heart isn’t collapsing; it’s pumping blood just fine, better than fine. It’s like his heart can breathe for the first time since he was young. Instead of trying to hold onto this moment, he lets the moment hold him.
Okay, okay, that’s enough, old bitter man says after a few moments. He walks the boy over to a bench and they put their shoes back on.
The boy: Grandpa?
Old bitter man: Yes?
The boy: You don’t usually play with me.
Old bitter man: I don’t?
The boy: No, you don’t. But I like it. I hope we do it again.
They both fall silent, then old bitter man holds his hand out. The boy takes it and they begin their walk home. On their way, they pass the tree.
Old man: I hope we play again, too.
The boy: Tomorrow, tomorrow. Please?
Old bitter man: Let’s plan on that.
They’ve passed the tree and are well on their way home when old bitter man pauses for a moment, makes a point of stopping so he can look behind him at the tree. He nods at the tree, ever so slightly.
Then they keep walking towards the descending sun, the sky the color of a sunkissed peach.