Sophia and the girls went walking in the park every day. To identify that pack of post-retirement, near-Septuagenarians as “girls” was a kindness; only a few managed the daily traversing of grassy knolls without assistance from walking sticks and the occasional hand-to-elbow. Nonetheless, all six of them stood motionless as they contemplated a disturbing scene.
Ana had first noticed the breech, having stumbled up the usually horizontal place; “Ah!” she gasped as she and her Irish walking stick (it had actually come from Virginia but no one had the heart to tell her) lilted to the right. Catrina and Dolores grabbed her just as she shuffle-hopped off the angular piece of sidewalk into the freshly cut grass. Ana extricated herself from the arthritic grips of her two rescuers and said, “What’s going on here?”
Having witnessed the near catastrophe, Sophia, Gladys, and Martha had wisely stepped off the sidewalk before reaching the spot that had halted Ana. Sophia squinted and announced, “It’s a Southern Magnolia.”
The others swiveled in her direction, full of curiosity. Dolores spoke first. “So? What does that have to do with anything? Who cares what kind of tree it is?” Her words were drowned out by a sudden gust of wind that set the tree’s branches to rattle; the sound was nearly deafening as the tree swayed back and forth over the heads of the women. As it quieted, Dolores continued. “Look at what this thing,” she gestured toward the trunk of the tree, “has done to our walking path.”
Sophia sighed with impatience. “You better watch your manners, Dolores, or this tree might get up and grab you. As slow as you are, I am sure it would catch you without any problems.” Another soft breeze caused a leaf from the tree to land, lovingly, on Sophia’s shoulder as she spoke. “Don’t you know anything?” She rolled her eyes, opened her cane-chair, and after choosing an appropriately flat spot, sat. The others who had similar devices did likewise; Dolores, who prided herself on not using a walker, cane, or other assisting device (although she surely needed it, being one of the older members of the group), stood shakily and hoped the Sophia’s story wouldn’t take too long. After a pause, Sophia began. “Trees are our guardians, even though we have, in just about every country on the planet where they grow, abused them. Take the mighty Southern Magnolia, for example.” She punctuated her introduction of the tree with a sweeping hand. “In the late 1800s and early 1900s, men used to drain it and grind it down to make a balm that was sold to women as a beauty aid. How’d you think that made the trees feel?!” The women unconsciously touched their own faces, remembering the days of their youth spent trying out different cleansers, foundations, and make-up items. “Yeah, you got it; it made them angry. How’d you like it if somebody came along and destroyed you–a beautiful creature!–to make someone or something else beautiful? Wouldn’t you want revenge?” Her audience nodded in mute agreement. “Of course you would. And the trees figured out how to get some.”
Catrina always took longest to get the point. “Get some what?”
Sophia pursed her lips as the others giggled quietly; another light breeze seemed to make the tree join in. “Revenge, Catrina; revenge!” Catrina’s eyes got large as understanding flooded her face. Sophia leaned in, speaking conspiratorially. “It is said that the trees are rising up, removing themselves from their places planted, to wander the earth in search of victims upon whom to enact their vengeance. The first step in a place like the city here is to get their feet, er, roots out from under all that cement. And when they do, notice what happens.” She paused for effect. “People trip, people fall down. Old folks, little kids, jogging mothers; it doesn’t matter–if we fall, we come away with scars. Get it? The trees have figured out a way to ruin our beauty in pay-back for all the stuff we’ve done to them!”
Gladys snorted laughter. Martha sighed loudly and gathered herself up out of her walker seat; “Well, enough of this nonsense. Who’d ever believe such tripe! Moving trees. Really, Sophia; you must stop reading those papers at the grocery check-out line and watching those programs on late-night television. They’ve spoiled you!” And with that pronouncement, the women began to carefully move off, each lost in her own thoughts on the matter. As she turned to resume their walk, Martha’s walker wheel caught on an exposed piece of root; suddenly finding herself about to topple, she squealed as her friends attempted to come to her aid. Catrina, Gladys, Martha, Dolores, and Ana all landed with a thud, having in the course of rescue entangled themselves terribly. Sophia did her best not to look at the tree as she attempted to help her friends, convinced that the piece of root that had caused this most recent turn of events had not been above-ground a moment before.
Written for today’s prompt, Schadenfreude. In this case, both Sophia and the tree have displayed a bit of it…