by Brooke Reynolds
Mary’s mother tells Mary to cut down her flowering tree, for it is barren and refuses to bear fruit. Mary tells her mother it is a flowering tree, with other purposes besides bearing fruit. Once a month, these flowering trees open seductive flowers, their crimson petals giving off an odor so pungent it attracts bees from afar. But Mary’s tree is broken.
Mary’s mother asks Mary why she doesn’t want her tree to produce fruit. Mary tells her mother that she has a career and success and can’t be bothered with trees and fruit. The crimson petals from the trees of the other girls attract the bees, causing the petals to curl into a bulb that transforms into the most succulent fruit. The fruit, its skin pink and peach fuzzed, with flesh as sweet as the ripest mango that drips its sticky nectar down onto chins, provides enough nourishment to make one’s life complete.
What Mary’s mother doesn’t know is that Mary made a choice long ago. She traveled long and far to visit a sorceress, who gave her a potion for her to drink. The potion made her tree grow protective thorns that wrap around the tree and pierce the crimson flowers after the bees visit, causing the flowers to wilt and drip with the moon, until Mary is ready to care for her tree and its fruit.
Mary’s mother tells Mary that other girls Mary’s age already have trees that bear fruit. Mary tells her mother that there is still time. What Mary’s mother doesn’t realize is that Mary craves the fruit her friends grow from their trees. She wishes to pick her own, to rub the fuzzy skin against her cheek.
Now Mary is ready. She has dug an irrigation ditch to nourish her tree. She has planted wildflowers around the tree’s base, their sweet scents meant to attract more bees. She has cut down larger trees that robbed her flowering tree from warm rays of sun. She visits the sorceress and is given another potion to stop the thorns. She waits. Still, her tree bears no fruit.
Instead, disease snakes its way into old wounds made by the thorns, into the leaves, the roots, and the bark, invading the vascular system and suffocating the tree. The flowers no longer bloom and the leaves blacken, crisping their edges, causing them to fall to the ground. Now the tree stands empty with its branches absent of leaves and flowers, the trunk cracked from drought. Mary knows its time.
Mary takes a saw in her hand and pulls it back and forth over the trees base, the bark splitting and ripping. Mary expects there to be an ooze of red sap that pours out of her cuts. Instead, it is dry, as dry as the soil, leaving dust to fall at its base. She saws and rips until, at last, the tree falls. Mary knows her mother was right and that there is no longer a use for her flowering tree that bears no fruit.
Brooke Reynolds is a veterinarian from Charlotte, North Carolina. When she isn’t saving animals, she enjoys reading and writing fiction. Recently her short story “Dr. Google” won 2nd place in the 2016 Channillo Short Story Contest. Her work has also appeared at The Scarlet Leaf Review and The Story Shack. Her latest story “Extraction” is scheduled to appear in Massacre Magazine at the end of June. Typically her writing style includes horror, neo-noir, and transgressive satire with a literary bent.