by Santino Prinzi

 

These Are the Rules of Our Canopy Shyness and Life

 

When my parents were saplings, my grandparents taught them the rules of canopy shyness:

  1. Do not let your leaves touch the leaves of another tree.
  2. Do not let your leaves touch the leaves of another tree.
  3. Do not let your leaves touch the leaves of another tree. No exceptions.

 

And when we were saplings, my parents passed down to us the rules of canopy shyness too:

  1. Do not let your leaves touch the leaves of another tree.
  2. Do not let your leaves touch the leaves of another tree. No exceptions.
  3. Seriously, do not let your fucking leaves touch the leaves of another fucking tree.

 

Those were the rules, spoken between rustling leaves, from tree to sapling. Vital for our protection from the hungry larvae that will kill us. You know how in zombie movies there’s the infected undead and, when they bite someone who isn’t infected, all of the actors are like “oh-no-we-are-going-to-have-to-kill-them-or-let-them-die-or-something” and then they kill the infected person or leave them to die or something? The larvae are like that, except we’re rooted and cannot run. I know this to be true because I’ve seen you shoot those movies here all the time. You can’t get enough.

 

When I grew up, I taught the saplings the rules of canopy shyness, as per our tradition/obligation:

  1. Do not let your leaves touch the leaves of another tree.
  2. If your leaves touch, and that tree has zombie-larvae, the zombie-larvae will devour your brains.
  3. If the zombie-larvae devour your brains, you’ll die.

 

Rebecca is the most stunning tree in the forest, as far as I can see.

Once, while you were shooting another zombie film, one of you stared up at us and say, Don’t those gaps between the trees make them look so beautiful?

I can never touch the woman I love. Beautifully fucking tragic is what it is.

 

Sometimes, when we know the other trees can’t hear us, we whisper to one another.

“I love you, Rebecca.”

“Fuck off, Wes, they’ll hear you.”

This was our thing. This was how we communicated our love.

“Can’t I kiss you?”

“No, it’s against the rules.”

“Rules are meant to be broken, baby.”

“You’ve listened to too many of those shit zombie movies being filmed down there.”

Then I see them. Tiny. The zombie-larvae crawling across her leaves.

“You’re infected!”

“Keep your voice down!”

She’s slowly being devoured. Soon she’ll turn.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, but you know how this ends.”

“I do.”

 

Because there are other rules to live your life by, other rules that they don’t tell you about, and they’re all contradictory so the real moral is to just do whatever the fuck you want.

 

  1. If you really love something, let it go.
  2. If you really love something, never let it go.
  3. If you really love something…

 

Fuck it. Our leaves touch.

 

*

 

Santino Prinzi is the Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK, a Senior Editor for New Flash Fiction Review, an Associate Editor for Vestal Review, and the Flash Fiction Editor of Firefly Magazine. His debut flash fiction collection, Dots and other flashes of perception, is available from The Nottingham Review Press. To find out more follow him on Twitter (@tinoprinzi) or visit his website: https://tinoprinzi.wordpress.com

 

 

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