Issue #77

Winter 2021

The Cherry Tree

by Liam Cooper

(Based on Japanese rakugo)

Silvery moonlight reflects off the water's still surface. Blue, blue beyond blue, was the grass by the lake. A hand swats someone kneeling beneath a dark tree. This is now the seventh day in a row that some trespasser has awoken me in the middle of the night, disturbing my slumber, by wandering around after curfew on the lush waterfront on top of my cranium.

They say do not swallow seeds, but I am a frugal man — I do not like to waste anything. When a friendly neighbor gave me a basketful of ripe cherries they had picked from the forest on the edge of town, I eagerly ate them: stems, pits, skin, flesh and all. Little did I know, however, that I would awake the following day to find a small leaf germinating atop my forehead.

At first, I just plucked out the pestering plant every morning in the bathroom mirror. After a while of this fruitless endeavor, I gave up the constant pruning and decided to let it be. Soon, a small sapling was sprouting from my brow, which brought me unwanted attention when awkwardly traversing the public transportation system; yet over time, once the novelty wore off and those in my town had become accustomed to the grotesque sight, I was just another face in the crowd.

When the slender cherry tree started to hinder my ability to enter doorways, I decided that it was time to finally seek professional help. A local arborist charged a hefty fee to uproot the pesky tree; an uncomfortable operation which left a noticeable dent in my balding pate. Over the following weeks, my divoted skull and I were quite content.

The seasons changed and I was greeted with an unfortunate surprise when the indentation atop my skull filled with rainwater. No matter, I would just pour the puddle out. But when a leak in my roof started to drip incessantly, directly onto my pillow, soaking into the topsoil, I awoke to find that my head had turned into a small oasis: a grove of cherry trees. As I had overslept my alarm, I had no time to manicure the orchard. The morning had been usual, despite the otherwise intrusive inconvenience growing from my pate. But by mid-afternoon, a new problem had arisen: the peaceful serenity of the luscious grove of cherry trees attracted overworked business workers seeking a brief respite, like bees to pollen or moths to candlelight. I would try shaking them out of my hair (what was left of it, anyways), yet they always came back, and multiplied vociferously, bringing along new batches of co-workers to what quickly became the most secluded, solitary, and sought-after place to relax in the city. There were even rumors of bidding wars among real estate developers seeking to expand their demesne. . .

Eventually, I had to seek legal recourse and brought a claim against the tortious public, which came before the local city council. Much to my dismay, I discovered that several of the judiciary council members were the very same upper-class loafers who had been lazing about in the orchard! Not only were they not sympathetic to my plight, they in fact deemed my infestation a national park – which forbade me from further plucking out any of the cherry trees, or emptying the lake, lest I be thrown in jail on federal charges of ecological terrorism. For months, I was more-or-less immobile and forced to sit absolutely still, for a flock of endangered cranes had sought refuge in my cephalic reservoir. Only when winter came, and I could not bear the freezing temperatures as snow began to accumulate in drifts along my temples, did I decide to end my misery.

I exited my small apartment cramped with newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and medical journal exposés on my condition which I had collected out of a grotesque sense of pride, and started to walk alone along the empty streets at midnight. I walked to the edge of town and started to make my way through the sea of trees. It was dark and I found myself descending through the forest toward the bank of a small pond the livid color of untarnished lead. Kneeling beneath a dark-boughed cherry tree, I immersed my head in despair. Silvery moonlight reflected off the water’s still surface. Blue, blue beyond blue, was the grass by the lake.

Author Bio

fallen leaf

Liam Cooper is an author who infrequently refers to himself in the third-person and evidently prefers cyclical structures. They have just finished their debut novel, Carrus Navalis, and are currently writing a metaphysical detective novel, Sous Rature. Two of his stories appeared in Issue #69 of The Cafe Irreal.