by Jake McAuliffe
He was a tree, the only tree in the blue grass field, and in that field and underneath the tree, the couple with the oily crow coats, feathers puffing here and there, argued about the time of day, based on the sun’s shadow cast by the tree, the only tree. It is three o’clock and I am sure because the shadow is long and creeping, as if it wants to unbutton the world itself. No-no-no, it is the opposite, it is three o’clock because there is no shadow, it is a trick of the light, we are bathed in night. The tree, if they had asked him, would have told them the time can never be known because as soon as the clock hand moves to the second, that second has already gone—and they, too, should go as he needed to rest. They did not ask and would not have heard him anyway, past the age where they could believe such a thing. He, being an old tree, found his way to sleep, despite the beaky bickering beneath, and woke some years later with the couple nested in his head and the scraw of a baby, no, more, three babies, a murder, disturbing him. The babies wanted everything which could be wanted, the mother and father who could not agree on the time made do, and the tree remembered his own children, the young saplings not very far away that did not survive very long in the blue grass, but they had lived in the breeze and under the sky, and what else was there to want, really, and so he whispered to the crow babies, the scrawmakers, and they understood him and made themselves neat, so the tree, the only tree in the field, could rest, dream.
Jake McAuliffe is a cancer biologist from Cork, Ireland. His first ever story was about talking foxes and to this day most of his writing features talking animals. He lives in Galway with his partner and chatty cat. Nominated for Best Microfiction 2021. Twitter: @JakeMcAwful