The tree is older than I am.
Most of the apples that fall from it are bitter, and Elder, as the tree is known, enjoys that.
I can remember being so young that my father would carry me most days out to the orchard, and there, in the shade of Elder’s wide boughs, I would listen as man and tree conversed. As I grew, I soon took to speaking with Elder on my own. More so after my father vanished into the Hollow.
One day stands out more than most, and I made note of it. I’d returned from the South, the war of the rebellion having ended and President Lincoln being dead.
The trees had whispered to one another as I walked along the trail toward the orchard. Some of the younger apple trees greeted me, and I responded to their pleasantries with my own. Soon, I came to the far end of the orchard, where Elder alone stood and waited.
“You’re alive, Duncan,” Elder greeted, his limbs shaking with mirth and knocking a few of the apples on his boughs loose.
“I am,” I answered, sitting down in the grass. I took my pipe out, packed the bowl and lit it.
“You like to fight, don’t you,” the tree observed.
“I do,” I admitted. I leaned back on my elbows and looked up at the tree.
“I shall tell you a story,” the tree stated. “When I was a sapling, there were a great many of us. We grew our fruit, and the Abenaki would come and offer up their thanks. When your father arrived, my own parent and he spoke. The conversation was congenial, and they struck up a friendship. A few nights later, though, Englishmen from another colony assaulted the farm and sought to drive out your father. They burned my kin, and only I survived. Your father, Duncan, went out after the raiders.”
“What did he do?” I asked.
“What would you do?”
“Kill them all.”
The tree chuckled. “And so he did. The man who led the raid, his bones are nestled deep within my roots. Your father put him in the hole alive and made sure the man could breathe while he put me in upon the man.”
The tree shook a few apples loose and sighed. “It took the man some time to die.”
“But did you eat well?” I asked.
“Between you and your father, Duncan,” Elder replied. “I always eat well.”