Winston looked up at the old tree towering above him. It was a large tree, he couldn’t deny, with a massive trunk and a myriad of branches sticking out in all directions like bony old fingers, although from everything he had heard about it he had expected it to be even bigger still. He had no idea what species of tree it was, but that meant nothing as he hardly knew of any species of trees to begin with. ‘The old tree down by the edge of the water of the pond by the old windmill’. That’s how he had always known it and that’s how he had found it.
Driving up he had been increasingly worried that he wouldn’t be able to find it there at all, as almost all of the trees in the entire area had been cut down in the last decade or so, but a little patch of woodland had been left around the old windmill as an island of nature in a sea of suburban sprawl, stretching as far as you could see in any direction. Coming down by the little footpath zick zacking down the hill from the windmill there had been no doubt in his mind which tree it was, without him even having to look for it. It had just stood there, majestic and somehow sort of obviously present. It was one of those old trees that at first glance appear to be dead but that you half expect to start bleeding if cut into, and it must have been an old tree indeed because his grandmother had distinctively referred to it as old already in the tales of her youth.
‘Fourth thick branch from the bottom Winnie. Fourth thick branch.’
Echoed her voice in his mind and he couldn’t help but smile. Oh how he had always hated being called that. He had punched friends in the face over it, but he had never had it in him to tell his grandmother that and now that she was gone he kind of missed it along with her. With the tree now in front of him he tried to work out which branch was the fourth from the bottom, which turned out to be harder than it sounds with the branches pointing out in all directions and the thicker of them all being covered in thinner ones, but after circulating the tree a few times, crouched in different positions to see from new angles, he was quite sure.
Towards the end that one phrase had been all she had said about it all, over and over again, and he hadn’t heard the rest of the story for at least a few years, but he was confident he remembered most of it, despite having never really believed a word as she was telling it. This had mainly been thanks to his father, who’s attitude towards his mother’s storytelling had served as the template for Winston forming his own.
‘What are you on about now again?’
He had used to cut his mother off by saying.
‘Don’t listen to her Win. I don’t know where she has gotten all this. She talks as if she used to be an actual pirate or something.’
His grandmother had always laughed in response to this and Winston had laughed along with her, but as he grew older he had increasingly found himself wondering what she was actually thinking and what that laugh of hers actually meant. He had also silently made a mental note every time his father had told of how he in fact knew almost nothing at all about his mother’s youth, finally coming to terms with the idea that his father didn’t know where all her tales came from because he actually didn’t really know anything about her, period. Unfortunately, by the time Winston had reached this conclusion his grandmother’s mind had already been steadily on its path along a downward spiral and he had never really gotten the chance to ask any follow up questions to begin making sense of her scattered, and somewhat erratic, web of tales.
Deciding, however, to make an effort to investigate some of the things she had told of to see if he could establish if there was any truth to them, that phrase about the fourth branch from the bottom, that was the one that she had seemed to cling on to all the way to the very end, had appeared to him as the best place to start. It had also been a quite natural point of departure for his investigations for the fact that he was already familiar with the old windmill. It stood merely a few stone throws away from where his grandmother had lived when Winston was little and he remembered the whole family taking a guided tour of it, along with its historical surroundings.
‘Imagine if somebody had known we had it! Just think what could have happened!’
His grandmother had used to say, referring to a note that she, along with a mysterious old friend of hers, was supposed to have hidden in a crack in one of the thicker branches of the old tree by the edge of the pond by the old windmill. The fourth one from the bottom to be exact.
This is the first part of a story that I plan to serialize exclusively here on my blog, posting new parts mainly on mondays I’m thinking, to somewhat mitigate the boredom of this most brutal of days. I literally just wrote this first chapter and I have but a vague idea of the directions in which this tale might take off, so you’ll practically get to come along on this journey right along with me, seeing it unfold as I am.
Until next time.