Chapter 1 - The Birds and the Bees (1)
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   If you are the one and only, overly-sheltered individual on this planet that believes that saplings simply appear overnight through the magic of moonbeams and pixie dust then even the beginning of my story may come as quite a shock to you. Later revelations will definitely be far too much. It's best to walk away now. Cover your sweet, virgin eyes. Put the corpse of my ground up brethren on which this tale has been printed in the nearest trash receptacle or recycle bin. Then wander back into your innocent life as if you never glimpsed the tattooed, pulpy flesh of its cover. Or, for those of you siphoning the scorched souls of long-dead flora and fauna through your wall outlets to power those e-readers, simply hit delete and go back to tamer fare. Far be it from me to ruin your worldview no matter how silly and sentimental it might be.

   The rest of you can sort yourselves out as we move along. Just know that I make no apologies. I'm a thing of Nature and She just doesn't give two hoots about your sensitives – or mine for that matter. Trust me on that one. But that's a whole rabbit warren of cause and effect to get lost in. I'm only dealing with my tiny branch of Mama N.'s crazy.

   So, let's start where it all starts: The Birds and the Bees. Those little bastards are responsible for more mayhem on this planet than you humans could ever hope to conjure up. They've been so prolific with their shenanigans that they've made it onto the gold medal podium of your euphemisms. Even rodents don't get as much of a spotlight when it comes to the doing of the deed all species must do. Nope. Birds and bees. They are always the beginning - especially when you're talking about my kind.

   Like all Dryads, I am by my very nature a tree with an attitude so big it can manifest. We tend to choose human forms because thumbs are so handy but there are a few eccentric cousins who prefer other shapes. The strangest in my particular family forest is Uncle Selwick. He prefers to incorporate as a fungus growing up his own trunk. It's rather scandalous seeing as in truth, said fungus is a type of parasite so Uncle Selwick is standing there under Mother's blue sky doing unmentionable things to himself in front of all the new seedlings in the area. We would all prune him from the line if only we could find a way. As it is, he leads a charmed life. As I said, Mother Nature has a mind of her own and a rather wicked sense of humor.

   Speaking of that sense of humor, did I mention that I, along with all of those of my kind, remember our own conception? And, as if that is not reason enough to seak a good therapist, I can also pull up the specifics and highlights of all of the lives of my ancestors if I concentrate hard enough. It's a blessing and a curse, folks. Please underline the word "curse" in that sentence. It's the important word there.

   I mean, on the one hand, I know that my great-great-great grandmamma was worshiped in secret by a whole village of women who believed that the fruit from her branches was the single most important ingredient in their love potions and fertility elixirs. We'll overlook the fact that the combination of horny humans and peach wine doesn't require magic to produce results and focus on the rest. The worship of your tree is something all dryads aspire to receive. Sadly, in this enlightened age, the few who get it are also typically peed on regularly by drunk humans who then carve initials into their flesh. Reality so rarely lives up to fantasy, don't you think?

   As for the curse aspect, I also have to live with the memory that my mother and father were planted as a grouping in the little cemetery of my sprouting. Their roots were so tangled that it was nearly impossible for them to know where one ended and the other began. On top of that, their trunks were twisted and trained until they formed a spiral around each other, intertwining their branches and leaving them no individuality. Who wants to think about their parents all wrapped up together during their conception? Hmmm? Isn't that the number one discussion topic foisted on therapists the world over?

   To add to that lovely mental image, the particular bee who was scrounging around in Dad's stamens had a heart attack when a particularly peckish robin decided to forgo the search for worms and take a snap at a more conveniently located breakfast. It missed. Don't judge. Birds don't have optometrists to handle their vision issues. Dead bees also don't have ambulances or morticians and just fall where they may. This one happened to plummet right up in Mom's pistol business.

   The pollen did what pollen does, and suddenly I wasn't just a mix of everyone else's memories. I was growing my very own. I was a Dryad unto least the spark of one. How absolutely cool is that?

   To be honest? Not very...Remember that thing I said about reality and fantasy?

   It didn't take my newly formed consciousness long to realize I was trapped; tethered to the tiny white seed at the core of the womb of my fruit that was months away from ripening and separating me from the prison of my Mother's branch.

   Without eyes of my own, I couldn't tell if Mom and Dad confined their arguments to the structure of their trees or if they manifested and paced the perimeter of their circumference allowed them by the pesky tether that holds all of my kind to our trees. Either way, their disgruntlement was the song of my days and the lullaby of my nights through the months as my fruit ripened and my seed became the hard stone necessary to carry me to freedom.

   "I'm allergic to peaches," Mom declared before the first petal of my blossom even fell to Earth.

   "You say that every year. How can you be allergic to peaches?" Dad demanded. "We are peach trees. You aren't allergic to yourself, are you?"

   "Don't you take that tone with me, Mister!" Mom shrieked. "I'm in a delicate condition!"

   "Stop being a drama queen," Dad said. "You are not the only tree in the forest to bear fruit, you know. It's been going on for centuries and not a single Dryad has died from it yet."


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