The Dead Forest
Bev Vines-Haines

Ozzie Miller and his brood lived deep in the Appalachian wilderness.  He grew up in a shack up there and he knew for certain his daddy and his granddaddy did as well.  According to his grandmother the Millers had lived on that mountain for seven generations.  Maybe longer.  Fact was, he needed to add to that count, his children and theirs.

It was a tradition for the Millers to plant a tree when a family member passed.  Not just a tree.  A willow tree.  There was a song the women sang about the graves, hard sorrow and those old weeping willows.  Didn’t matter if it was an old man or a newborn, a boy or a girl, a mother or a grandmother.  They always planted a tree.

Ozzie could walk the Miller land and remember the solemn funerals, the crying and the songs from far back in his childhood.  His daddy.  And his own little son.  One night he walked the tree lines and saw how far they stretched.  Generation to generation.  Life to life.  Heart to heart.  It was all pretty hopeless, he decided, sitting on a log to rest his aching knees.

Stars came out, twinkling above that willow forest and he wondered if eventually Miller willows would become as vast as those stars.  He wondered if perhaps another people far out in the universe tossed a star into the sky when their loves died. 

Just another dead forest as far as his eyes could see.

First published: May, 2014
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