“So you finally set yourself to it?” His neighbors voice rumbled. He was a big fellow, with a large beard. He was the kind that roared when he laughed or when he downed too many beers at the pub down the road.
James looked up and took in the solid shape that loomed over the two of them. The last leaves, showing a myriad colors, floated down, released by the wind. One caressed his nose and then continued its way to the mossy ground.
He smelled wet grass and earth. He remembered a rope swing hanging from lowest the big branch. He recalled the laughter of children and a picnic in August in the cool comfort of the shades.
James patted the old worn surface. Felt the irregularities. The deep groves. Parts of the bark had fallen off, more were giving way under the pressure of his touch. One piece showed the fading shape of a heart. Two names one each side, unreadable, but he knew them anyway.
“It is dead now..” His voice trembled.
“And one day it will topple over. A storm will come and then it falls. It is a danger now..”
“A danger.. I guess it is.”
“I could get my chain saw. It will be easier.”.
“You could,” James nodded. He fingered the lenght of wood in his hand. It felt sturdy, new, and strong. The heavy metal at the end would be unrelenting, “but i want to do it like this.”
“It will take you forever..”
“It is the least I can do…”
The other one peered at him and smiled. “Like burying a loved one, huh?
“Something like that…”
“It is just a piece of wood now, you know. Dead wood.”
James grabbed the handle of the axe with both hands. He felt the weight of the head pulling itself to the ground. He practised a swing.
“It feels sturdy.”
“Better get started then, before you grow roots and someone comes along and cuts down the both of you. “
James took a step forward, braced himself and started the first of his many swings.
The tree did not cry out, but he felt a pain nevertheless.