The tree fell on our mother. A neighbor identified it as a lodgepole pine. He was an expert, so he claimed, said he once worked as an arborist. He wore coveralls and a leather tool belt; his workman boots were dull and scuffed. He stood next to the tree and scratched his thick beard. Our mother was silent; only a stiff hand visible. The neighbor axed off the branches, sawed the trunk into neat circles. Wafer-thin slices he sold as flying discs, replacements for vinyl. He hawked pine needles as mementos of our mother. She wouldn’t have minded, the neighbor told us, she was always fond of that tree. For as long as we could remember, our mother had never mentioned the lodgepole pine. She seldom left the house or chatted with strangers. Still, it was a fine tree. We helped the neighbor carve a casket from the heartwood. Together we lowered her body into the smooth vessel. We applied layers of black varnish, a final waterproof lacquer. The neighbor said it resembled a torpedo. We felt honored. Our father had been a Marine. We knew little else about him. Years before the tree incident, our mother just liked to tell us he had been at sea. A sailor, a Lance Corporal, a machine-gunner—the story changed, yet somehow remained the same. The neighbor listened to our stories as we launched the casket into the river. Our mother floated away, back toward the ocean. We called after her, our mother, as loud as we could, let the people know she was coming.
Christopher Linforth has recently published fiction in Grain, Fiction International, Notre Dame Review, Day One, and Descant, among other magazines. He has been awarded fellowships and scholarships to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.