Solid as an Oak

20140104-201909He hadn’t done it because he wanted to be famous, nor because, as he sat contemplating his fate from his deathbed, it seemed able to lend some small manner of immortality. He had buried the treasure because the only big thing that he hadn’t gotten a chance to cross off his bucket list was a real treasure hunt. He had decided that designing one was the next best thing.

Sure, treasures had been buried, some of them for similar reasons even: yet there weren’t very many, and none of them seemed to be something that he could accomplish, so he had made one of his own. It was a puzzle that he could have figured out, given the time. The prize at the end wasn’t much: a couple thousand dollars worth of gold (which amounted to a few ounces), an old pocket watch, and a copy of a novel he had written and never published with a document signing the rights over to whoever found the chest. He hadn’t published that novel because he hated the story; it had been his first book and was about vampires, but perhaps, with his death, it would be worth a little money for whoever found it. That, though, wasn’t likely.

As he lay in his bed, he could feel the life draining from him: it would happen any moment. He was a little afraid, but he tried not to think about that; instead he focused on his treasure hunt. Most of the hints were strewn through the poorly received pages of his novels, but there was a piece of the puzzle hidden in his favorite tree out in the backyard. It was a gnarled old oak tree. He loved that tree. Its twisting, curving, gnarled limbs perfectly captured the dichotomy of static and turbulent. He thought of it as a symbol of his life, and most good lives, for that matter. He had never particularly enjoyed excitement, but had relished in the sedentary moments of reflection after an adventure. It was reminiscing about the adventures after they happened that made life worth living. A life had to be a balance of chaos and stillness to be a content one; the tree reminded him of that.

He looked to his side, where his wife was looking down at him. She was still beautiful in her old age; the spark of youth shined in her eyes when she smiled, but she didn’t smile much anymore. He figured that was probably his own fault for up and dying on her. He grinned at her, hoping she would smile back. He wanted to see that sparkle one last time. She didn’t smile, though.

He tried to explain to her that it was all going to be okay. “You know,” he started, finding that it was difficult to talk and that it took him a long time to speak, “that old oak tree in the yard?” he asked.

“Don’t worry, Honey,” she said sweetly, trying to save him the effort of speaking, “I know it’s a fire hazard.”

Panic started to rise in his chest. He tried to speak, but nothing came out. It was finally happening: he was dying.

“There’s a tree trimmer coming to take the ugly old thing down next week,” she assured him, placing her hand on his shoulder.

He struggled to speak, but the struggle was internal; he could no longer move, and breathing no longer seemed to be doing anything. The panic subsided to terror. All that work would be for nothing if that oak tree no longer stood in the yard.

“Don’t worry, Love, try to get some rest,” she said, smiling down at him, her eyes twinkling.

 Edit: I uploaded the wrong version initially… there were a bunch of typos, my bad.


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