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M. James Lloyd

There was once a forest in which a young squirrel lived. He moved from place to place and dug holes to store his rich supply of walnuts. One such place was under a large oak tree. He dug urgently, knowing that winter was fast arriving. While the squirrel dug, the Oak Tree watched complacently. For him, there were no times of urgency, only the slow and progressive change of the seasons. Soon, the squirrel was finished with his work, and moved on.

Winter passed, and then spring and summer, but the squirrel didn’t return. Then another winter, and yet the squirrel didn’t return. The Oak Tree laughed to himself every time he thought of the little rodent digging in the dirt (there isn’t much else for a tree to do). As spring came, he noticed that there was a small tree growing where the squirrel had been, but such a small tree was no concern of his. There were thousands of saplings like this.

And so five whole years passed with the little Walnut Tree growing under the Oak Tree. The Oak Tree had begun to grow worried that maybe this one was not going away.

“Walnut Tree,” he demanded one day in the low roar that trees often use when they speak to one another, “why do you grow under me?”

“What do you mean?” Walnut Tree replied innocently.

“You know that no other Walnuts grow here, so why do you?”

“Well, I was planted here, my friend, I had no choice,” Walnut Tree replied timidly.

“Nonsense! You are a liar, Walnut Tree. You have encroached on my land,” Oak Tree shouted in anger at the startled little tree.

“I’m sorry, my friend, there is nothing that I can do.”

With that Oak Tree decided that he had had enough. And as winter approached he decided that next spring he would ruin the little tree. All winter he developed the plan. He would stretch out his branches and create such a massive canopy that Walnut Tree couldn’t possibly get any sunlight. He laughed to himself as he turned it over in his mind endlessly. Spring came early that year, and Oak Tree quickly put his plan into action. He stretched out as far as he could, grew the biggest leaves, and desperately sought to block out the sun for the poor little Walnut Tree, but it didn’t have any effect, Oak Tree waited impatiently for him to die, but he only grew stronger. Furious, Oak Tree demanded an explanation.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to die, my friend,” the Walnut Tree explained timidly.

Soon, it was winter again. Oak Tree glared at the little walnut tree with a scorn like none he had known before. “How can I kill him?” he asked himself. A thousand ideas passed over his mind, only to be discarded on some trivial detail. Oak Tree was thoroughly despondent. Then, suddenly, in a rare moment of brilliance, the solution dawned on him. He would drop a branch and crush the Walnut Tree. He was delirious with excitement as the next spring approached.

Again the spring arrived early, and Oak Tree immediately put his plan into action. He picked a branch that hung directly over his foe, and let it fall. Things looked hopeful until suddenly the wind picked up and blew it off course. The errant branch fell harmlessly to the ground a few feet from Walnut Tree. Oak Tree’s frustration knew no limits. He was now sure that some evil spirit protected Walnut Tree.

“Is it true,” he inquired of the undaunted little tree, “that some evil spirit is protecting you from me?”

“What do you mean, my friend? No evil spirit protects me,” Walnut Tree replied.

“You scoundrel! You liar! Why!?! AAAHHHHHHH!!!”

Oak Tree thought all the rest of the summer and fall, while Walnut Tree grew taller and stronger. Soon, it was winter, and Oak Tree had developed an infallible scheme. All through the dark months he sat in perfect silence, meditating. At last spring came, and soon he was ready to finish Walnut Tree.

Oak Tree began stretching his roots. He tapped into the roots of other trees and stole their minerals. The forest was in an uproar, no one was allowed to tap the roots of another tree, but there was no reasoning with Oak Tree. He was bent on destroying that little tree, by any means necessary. He wrapped his roots around Walnut Tree’s and began to choke the life out of him. In a few days the little tree’s leaves wilted and fell; he was dying. There was no way for him to fight with a tree the size of Oak Tree, and it was soon over.

But, it wasn’t enough for Oak Tree. The other trees pleaded with him to stop, to be reasonable, but he would hear none of it. He tapped into other trees and soon they would die. There was no way to stop him, and the stronger he grew the more he wanted. By the middle of the summer, all the trees around him were dead or dying, but he kept expanding. He basked in his newfound glory. He mocked the other trees as they fell, for he was the greatest there had ever been, and he had done it so easily. By the end of the summer the forest was dead, and he was in control of everything.

Again, the winter brought its snow. Oak Tree didn’t really notice just how alone he was, besides, he was too tall now to see anything but himself and the sky. He simply marveled at his own excellence and laughed at his old companions.

It wasn’t long before spring arrived again, which is usually the favorite time of the year for a tree. Oak Tree only regretted that there was no one to see his glorious new leaves. He began to think of his old neighbors, and even the annoying little Walnut Tree. They weren’t so bad, he decided. In fact, he sort of missed them. But, they were all gone.

As summer began Oak Tree began to experience something that he had never felt before, thirst. He couldn’t stretch his roots any farther. The soil was hard from the lack of water. He had consumed everything. His leaves began to wilt. More time passed, and his leaves were gone. Oak Tree refused to believe what was happening, but soon he too would meet the end that he had brought to so many. Barren desert and rotting logs were all that remained of the once great forest.

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