I’ve come to love the silence. I built my house, most of it with my own hands, in this Oregonian forest. I chopped down 37 trees and used most of it to build the floors and siding. One last tree remained to remove. Every time I tried to cut it down, something went wrong. I took my time dealing with it. I had other, more pressing issues.
I missed something in my new home. I missed the sound of a lover’s glance, the sound of her touching my cheek. I needed more than silence, I needed a woman’s touch.
Trent’s Inn, 10 miles down Forest Road, provided no respite. At least Robert Winterbird was an amusing conversationalist. One day he said, “Why don’t you try online dating? It’s actually working out for some folks.”
“Isn’t that for losers?”
“Used to be, but not any more.”
We drank a little more. As I was leaving, he said, “…And if you see Ha’Upenita. Run!”
Though I avoided modern cities, I couldn’t live without internet. So I decided to try Robert’s suggestion. I registered at a few dating sites. After a number of awkward encounters, I finally found someone interesting. She was pleasingly, unabashedly, entirely normal, to my great relief. We chatted for hours each day. She wasn’t ready for webcams, but that’s alright. It didn’t matter just then.
I know you should be honest when dating online, but I wasn’t ready to explain I lived alone in the middle of nowhere. So online, I became a technical writer, working remotely in a small town twenty miles away. Describing my day to Vivian required a certain amount of…translation. For instance, I bought a new axe, to chop down the last tree (three chainsaws having failed to do the job). On the first swing, the axehead flew off. I put the axehead back and hammered some nails in to make a tighter fit. While hammering the second nail, the whole handle broke. Chatting with Vivi, this story became:
Bought a new shredder today. The cutters immediately broke. I tried to replace them, and while doing that, the frame collapsed. So frustrating!
Vivian’s reply was this:
I heard that! I had a bad day too. This guy in the neighboring cube in trying to cut me off at the knees. Can you believe it?
As much as I enjoyed chatting with Vivi, I still craved a physical human presence. While chuckling over some beers at Trent’s, Robert said, “Have you seen Ha’Upenita yet?”
“What is that?”
“A spirit. She has to stay within a couple miles of her tree. If her tree dies, she dies. So she’ll defend it with powerful magic.”
“Same thing. You still cutting down trees?”
“Nah.” A small lie.
I called in a contractor to remove that last tree. He showed up with a backhoe, but when he tried to start the tractor, it ran out of gas. That night, I wrote:
Called a guy to handle my documents. His industrial-sized shredder ran out of fuel. Unbelievable!
Vivi wrote back:
That sucks. That guy trying to cut my job? I proved to management his words were empty. Ha!
There was something odd about our conversations; not sure what, though. I didn’t want to bother Vivi about it. I had realized I was falling for her, and I wanted to meet her so much, but she kept refusing to meet. I went outside to think. Looking up at that last tree, I noticed something I’d missed. A satellite dish!
A tree needs internet?
It all became clear…
I knocked on the tree for a while before an invisible door opened. Vivi and I looked at each other at last.
“Cutting you off at the knees?” I accused.
“Shredding documents?” Vivi rebutted.
I muttered, “Ha’Upenita?”
“Yep. Tree killer?”
I nodded. “But not anymore.”
I looked into her leaf-green eyes. “Why?”
“Maybe I’m a spirit, but I’m still female. It’s hard to get a date close to my tree, and then there’s this little flaw.”
She held out her hand. It had a distinctive wood grain. I held it. Her flesh was soft and supple despite it’s appearance. I looked at her face, more beautiful than I could imagine, and knew I still loved her anyway. Our different natures meant nothing to me. Who would let a little thing like that get in the way of good love?
I can hear the groaning now. I do apologize for the pun, but I just can’t resist them. Don’t hit me, I’m joining PA tomorrow. “Hi, my name is Eric, and I love puns.”
Chinook is a native-American tribe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinookan_peoples
VIVIAN: English, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish. From the Latin name Vivianus which was derived from Latin vivus “alive” http://www.behindthename.com/names/letter/v/2
Each week, The Speakeasy offers a writing challenge for up to 750 words of flash fiction. This week, the story must START with: “I’ve come to love the silence.”
The media prompt is below. Look here for more stories written for the prompt: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/the-speakeasy-at-yeah-write-179-is-open/