Our Big Old Chestnut by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is a story about a tree of (any type of) significance that is cut or falls down.

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. Last December, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon.

Our Big Old Chestnut

By Phil Yeats

I checked the caller ID after my phone chirped. “Hey Sis, what’s up?”

“Damn tree, it’s broken another window.”

I sighed, unsurprised by the abrupt announcement without as much as a hello, how are you. That’s how our minimally communicative family behaved.

“The old chestnut, I suppose.”

She snorted. “What else. It’s old, rotting, and too damned close to the house. A bloody limb broke off, but Mum won’t let us cut it down.”

I checked my appointment calendar. “Two meetings this morning that I can’t avoid. I’ll head out as soon as I’m clear.”

“Here between five and six?”

“Looks like it.”

At one, I left the city that had been my home for two decades to the town where I lived as a teenager. My formative years hadn’t been easy ones. We lived in an isolated off-the-grid house that complicated most activities, but the real problem was my father’s strange beliefs.

He’d sit for hours reading his bible but didn’t attend church. We didn’t belong to any known Christian congregation, but he based his life on the insights he gained from his readings.

He never tried to influence me, or expect us to follow his example, but it made us different, outcasts from society. I followed my own muse until my eighteenth birthday. On that morning, my almost non-existent father announced that his bible reading taught him it was my duty as his son to leave home and never return. He didn’t just kick me out. He provided a substantial nest egg that would, in his view, provide for the college education I needed to find my calling.

And what about my mother, you might ask? She was an enigma, seen but seldom heard, and never known to express an opinion. And my little sister? She was only twelve when I left.

Ten years later, I returned to the family home. My father had died, and I thought my mother and sister, now twenty-three and living at home, would need me.

My first homecoming was a strange event. Mother didn’t acknowledge my presence and my sister appeared incapable of dealing with the bizarre situation. But we made contact, and she eventually learned to approach me when dealing with our mother become too difficult.

This time, I bought a new window pane at the nearest glass shop the evening I arrived. In the morning, I climbed the tree and removed the broken limb. I discovered our chestnut was beyond hope, so soft a screwdriver sunk in to its hilt.

After installing the window pane, I found my sister tidying the already spotless kitchen. “You’re right about the tree. It’s unsafe, it must go.”

“But Mum won’t agree. It’s her house, she pays for everything and well, she makes all the decisions.”

I sighed, dreading the confrontation I couldn’t avoid. I’d been home two or three times a year in the decade since my initial return after my father died. During those trips, she never appeared. If I needed to discuss something, I visited her private sitting room. The meetings never went well.

“Come in, Jacob,” she said when I knocked on her door. I was taken aback because she didn’t bark in her normal fashion. In fact, she sounded almost pleased to welcome me. “Come stand by the window,” she added when I hesitated inside the door. “I watched you trying to repair our old chestnut. You’re here to tell me it must go.”

I nodded, and she continued before I said anything. “I remember watching with trepidation as you climbed into the highest branches, and Margaret with her dolls in the shade below. She was so timid, afraid to climb to the lowest branch. They’re among my few fond memories.” She abandoned the window and strode to the door. “I assume you and Margaret will dine before you return to the city. Tell her I’ll join you.”

I stepped through the door. “And she should contact the arborist before that sickly old tree does any additional damage.”


The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com/
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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