Issue #69

Winter 2019

The Crotchety Old Oak in the Park

by James Gallant

   surprises Smart, paused in his walk: "I was here long before you came along, and I'll be here long after you're gone."

Smart notes the ambiguity, interprets: "Your immobility is impressive."

"Where are your roots, Spindle-shanks?"

Smart hasn't come to the park looking for an argument. He points across the street at the school. "I expect that building will be standing there when both you and I are gone."

"I'm not going anywhere."

"I was referring to death," Smart says.

The tree is silent. "You people talk a lot about that. I don't get it."

"Well, you are a tree."

A wave of hostility radiates from the wooden interlocutor.

Smart wishes he hadn't said that. He's placatory: "We don't really understand it either."

"I thought you were the great intelligences of the animal world?"

"Relatively speaking."

"Relative to trees."

"I didn't say that."

"You know what I think?"

"I really don't," Smart confesses.

"I think you people made up this damned 'death' thing."

A civil conversation is impossible, the tree is nuts. Smart continues on his walk.

"My relatives know things yours never will," the oak calls after him.

Smart shrugs.

"Well, have a happy death--whatever the hell that is!" the tree bellows.

"You, too!" Smart shouts over his shoulder.

A bough cracks angrily, hits the ground with a thud.

Author Bio

Twentieth Anniversary Issue

James Gallant's e-novel, Whatever Happened to Ohio? from Vagabondage Press, and a print collection of his essays and short fiction, Verisimilitude: essays and approximations, published by Fortnightly Review press (UK), appeared in 2018. (He has been an online columnist for Fortnightly Review since 2015.) Grace Paley's Glad Day Books published his first novel, The Big Bust at Tyrone's Rooming House: a Novel of Atlanta. His fiction and essays have appeared in The Georgia Review, Epoch, Massachusetts Review, Story Quarterly, Mississippi Review, Exquisite Corpse, North American Review, Raritan, Witness, and The Chattahoochee Review, among other magazines.