Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Family Tree

Collaboration proved inevitable, the warring neighbors would have to succumb to the pressures of the circumstances and cease their century-old feud to rectify the situation. One of the children – of the family with the slightly larger family crest on their front gate – was stuck in the maple tree. But, not ‘stuck’ as in their foot was wedged between two branches, or their fear of heights rendered them motionless, no, they were ‘stuck’ to one of the children of the other family – the family with the more brightly colored silos; the larger silos.

The maple tree was off limits, had been for over a century. The trunk of the mighty maple lay on the dividing line of the properties of the two factions: The Maxons and the Supners. The feud began – it is told – sometime around a hundred years ago when the families agreed, during a period of drought, that neither would divert a nearby stream that runs along the back of their properties. But, for the last century that stream has caused innumerable skirmishes, and the occasional fistfight, between sons and wives, fathers and daughters.

But today, Martha Maxon and Stewart Supner were up in the tree, their braces locked together, tied to each other while trying to secretly settle the centuries old standoff. A rather large group of Maxons and Supners had gathered to see the scene. There were shouts of ‘treason’ and ‘traitor’, and even a murmur of a ‘hangin’.

Each family lined up along the property line, except for Martha and Stewart who were up in the tree, stretching their necks to see what would happen below. Then, just as is seemed like the battle to end all battles was to begin, Mark Maxon confessed his undying love for Sarah Supner. He told of their midnight rendezvous in the Supner silos. Mark and Sarah took each other’s hands and climbed into the tree to join Martha and Stewart. A hush fell over the crowd. There was hardly a sound, except for the breeze through the maple leaves and the slightest sound of lips smacking coming from the tree.

Martin Maxon was standing across the line from Samantha Supner - she had the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. She had put her hair back – expecting a fight – and her cheeks glistened in the sun. Her boots were covered in manure and sweat ran down her neck. He remembered the time when they were eight that she called him a snot-nosed sow on the school bus. Or the time, twelve summers ago during the Solstice Skirmish when, at nine years old, they met in the Supner barn and wrestled in the hay for three hours until they were exhausted and fell asleep. Martin awoke with the sun at six a.m. and watched Sarah sleep for what seemed like an hour. He rose without waking her, blew a kiss to her cheek, and left dreaming of the day he would ask her to marry him.

As Martin looked into Samantha’s eyes and thought of all this, behind his back he was making a ring out a piece of hay. He knelt, one knee on the dividing line, and said, “Samantha Supner, I have always loved you. Will you marry me?”

Samantha put the shit covered sole of her boot on Martin’s shoulder, kicked him onto his back, jumped on top of him and said, “Hell yes, Martin! What took you so long? Ya damn fool!” They jumped to their feet, kissed, and scampered up the tree.

Two by two, the Maxons and the Supners confessed their taboo love, skipped off, and climbed up the tree. Even Great Grandma Supner and Great Grandpa Maxon – now both widowed and reaching a century in age themselves – finally divulged their deepest secrets: how they had always loved each other, how they could never tell their families, how, for years, they stood amongst the fields of shorn corn stalks in autumn, an acre apart, and looked into each other’s souls wondering if ever the day would come when they could be in each other’s arms. Never a word passed between them. Yet, every autumn for ninety-five years they met after the harvest and stared into each other’s eyes. They watched the maple grow from sapling, to shade tree, to the enormous, strong tree it is today. Grandma and Grandpa stepped to the base of the mighty maple and were helped up by all that had come after them; all that had gone before them, into the tree. They sat on the lowest branch, holding hands, remembering the first autumn they saw the other, feeling like it was just yesterday.

The great maple held four generations of Supners and Maxons it its boughs, and there were a few of the young ladies with the fifth generation growing inside them.

Mr. Maxon and Mr. Supner, the reluctant patriarchs whose duty it was to keep the feud fueled, looked at their wives is dismay, then looked back at each other and growled. Simultaneously, Mrs. Maxon and Mrs. Supner slapped their husbands across the cheek, then ran, hand in hand like giddy schoolgirls, to the base of the tree and disappeared up into the leaves.

The two men stood in awe of their blindness. The maple, usually amass with squawking crows, was now afire with smacking lips. The men shuffled over the trunk and looked to up, in disbelief, to see the most beautiful family tree.

By Christopher M. Bohan

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