My Furious Fiction December 2021 didn’t make the cut, but I had so much fun with it that I’ve made a few tweaks and am posting it here. The word limit was 500 words and the prompts were:
- Your story must include a tree.
- Your story must include something being taped.
- Your story must include the words DANCE, SEARCH and CHANGE.
The shocking news hit Grandview Road on a cold spring morning.
Cherry at number four spread the word. ‘They’re taking Rose out.’
‘No!’ Her neighbour Myrtle flounced her scandalous pink cloak. ‘Why?
‘They said she’s too prickly, not productive enough.’
‘It’s Gummy’s fault,’ Myrtle said. ‘That greedy evergreen overshadows us and sucks all the water from the soil. No wonder Rose never flowers.’
‘You’ve had it in for Gummy ever since he dropped that branch on you, but remember, he was here first.’ Cherry had a soft spot for the old eucalypt. Their limbs intertwined, so when no one was paying attention and the breeze was up, they shared a quiet dance.
Gummy had put down roots before Grandview Road existed, before the houses and shops had littered the neighbourhood. Cherry loved his stories about floods and fires spanning back to when the land was all bush. He’d seen most of his brothers and sisters felled for farmland, survived a lightning strike and the urban sprawl. So much change.
‘We need to do something,’ Cherry said.
Twigs trembling, she whispered a warning to Rose and instructions for Gummy to stop hogging the water.
A week later, when Cherry peered down the driveway and saw the gardener park his van, her sap turned cold. She couldn’t bear to watch.
The first bees of the season had arrived, so she focussed on the gentle buzz they gave her by brushing their back legs against her pollen. Normally, they sent a delightful shiver down her trunk, but today, they only added to her trepidation. There were fewer bees now than when she’d first been germinated – more suffering at the hands of humans.
As humans went, hers weren’t bad. They kept her fed, pruned and watered, unlike the ones at number eight, who let black rot fester, thrip go untreated and weeds run riot. Their neglect placed all the plants at risk.
The gardener searched in his van and pulled out his ancient loppers. The handgrip had split, so he taped it back together.
As he stepped towards Rose, Cherry shook so hard her blossom dropped, sending the bees into flight. They swarmed the gardener, who swiped at them, muttering under his breath.
Cherry had avoided Rose’s gaze all week, so her surprise mirrored the gardener’s when he gaped at Rose. Her buds had unfurled into glorious crimson flowers.
The whole garden held its breath as the gardener hesitated, loppers poised.
As he made his first cut, Cherry turned away. She stopped photosynthesizing.
When the gardener had finished, Gummy said, ‘Look.’
Cherry gasped as the gardener tucked a severely-pruned Rose into the van, saying, ‘She’s too beautiful to lose. I’ll plant her at home.’
Cherry and Myrtle exchanged a smile, Gummy creaked in the wind, and Rose lived to bloom another day.